December 22, 2014

Merry Mondays: Erin from Blue Eyed Bride!


It's Monday again! Can you believe it's Christmas week!?! I've invited another friend over for some festive fun!


Erin is so cute and fun! I love seeing what her cute little family is up to! She and her husband Todd have two ADORABLE boys, Hudson and Hayes. And they are expecting another little guy - James Walker!! I'm telling you, I know so many people who are due with precious little ones in the spring!


Erin's blog is such a good mix of things: life as a family with young children, planning fun parties, recipes, decorating, and Erin's faith. I LOVED two of the series that she's done on her blog about White Space and Hospitality. I feel like Erin and I have a lot of the same things on our minds often. :)



If you don't read Erin's blog (I'm sure most of you do!), then I know you will enjoy it! She is a great mix of a deep thinker and fun person. :) Thanks for over to visit me, Erin!



"This is a link to my chocolate pie recipe. It's amazing and my favorite favorite favorite Christmas dessert!"



Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This is the all-time best chocolate pie that has been passed down and eaten at every Thanksgiving and Christmas family dinner.
Author: 
Recipe type: dessert
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons of cocoa
  • 5 Tablespoons of flour
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 large can Pet Milk
  • 1 cup of milk
  • ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 square of bittersweet chocolate
  • Pie crust, browned (refrigerated or from scratch)
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Confectioners sugar (for sweetening whipped cream)
Instructions
  1. Make whipped cream with heavy whipping cream and confectioners sugar.
  2. Refrigerate whipped cream while making pie filling.
  3. Combine sugar. cocoa, and flour in medium sauce pan.
  4. Add enough of the milk to make a paste.
  5. Stir in beaten egg yolks.
  6. Begin cooking over medium heat.
  7. Add remaining milk and canned milk.
  8. Cook until thick.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and chocolate square until melted.
  10. Pour into pie crust.
  11. Top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.
  12. Serve

What scent makes you think of Christmas?
The Thymes "Frasier Fir" candle smells so good! It's the freshest Christmas tree smell and I burn it year-round because it's just so yummy!

What’s your favorite childhood Christmas memory?
the Christmas that Santa brought our puppy, Gretel was pretty special. I was 5 and my brother was 2 and I know that memory is so sweet for my parents now, too.

What’s the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
The first Christmas that Todd and I were dating was really special. The gifts weren't extravagant, but we gave each other such similar things. He gave me a Vineyard Vines tote bag with the acorn print and I gave him a Vineyard Vines tie in the acorn print. He gave me a few seasons of Friends on DVD and I gave him a few seasons of Seinfeld on DVD. We had recently visited the zoo together and he gave me a stuffed hippo (because of the song "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas") and I gave him a stuffed koala because he loved the koala exhibit at the zoo. It was just a special time in our lives and I think we'll always remember those first gifts.

What are your Christmas Eve traditions?
We go to our church and Todd helps serve the Lord's Supper and I sing in the choir. My parents are there and Todd's parents are there. After church, we come back to our house and eat gumbo and French bread!

Describe your perfect holiday party (a certain theme, certain kind of food, decorations, etc.)!
I really just love a low key party. We have lots of gatherings with friends this time of year and most of them are pot-luck style or cookie exchanges with the kids. But they're always super laid back with people just visiting!

Share an idea or two of how your family ministers to others during the holiday season.
We love to fill a couple of Operation Christmas Child boxes every year. Each of our boys are responsible for choosing the items for one box and they always choose to give a box to another boy. We also participate in the Angel Tree giving. It's just a lot of fun. Last year, we went to a local men's shelter and threw them a Christmas party and brought wrapped gifts for them to exchange with each other. Talking to the men and hearing about their hopes for rebuilding their futures was really memorable for us.

Other than your own home or a relative’s home, where would you enjoy spending Christmas? A different state? Another country? Somewhere tropical?
One year, we rented a house in Tennessee with my parents and my in-laws. But I think if we could go anywhere, we'd go visit my brother in Vail and rent a big house there. 

Do you own an “ugly” Christmas sweater?
Haha I don't, but I should probably get one... just in case! Ha!

If you could step into the world of any Christmas movie, what would you choose?
As wild and crazy as it is, I love the family from The Family Stone. I just love the big family and all the kids running around and all the noise. And that house just screams, "home!"

Describe a favorite ornament from your tree.
Ah! There are so many. We collect ornaments when we travel or when we have big family milestones. I have the Story of Luke set of ornaments that tell the whole Christmas story. I love those. It's hard to choose just one ornament. 

What are some special activities at your church during the holiday season?
I sing in the choir at our church and we do an annual Singing Christmas Tree. It's a huge production and it is just fantastic! This year, Todd is in it as a wise man and Hudson is singing in it in the kindergarten choir. It's a really special event!

What was a highlight from 2014?
We took the boys to Disney World in January of 2014 and it goes down as our all time favorite family memory. We can't wait to go back someday!

What have you learned this year?
I've learned that to have sweet community with friends, I have to be willing to let go of perfection and just open my doors to the people I love. 

What’s a book you would recommend reading in 2015?
My favorite book that I read last year was What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.

What part of the Christmas Story really impacts you? Is there a certain person (Mary, Joseph, shepherds, etc.) that you relate to?
I don't know that I necessarily relate to Mary, but my heart just always aches for her. She was so faithful and so trusting and she knew all along who Jesus was and who He was going to be. Her obedience to the Father mixed with a mother's love for her child always completely overwhelms me. And being pregnant this time of year makes me even more emotional as I think about what Mary went through. 

Share a special or meaningful Bible verse.
Luke 2:19
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 

I love hearing all of these answers from my friends! Merry Christmas, Erin

December 19, 2014

2014 Christmas Card and Letter


Merry Christmas from our family! Above is our Christmas card for this year, and I'll also share the other photos from that photography session - I loved them!








And here's our Christmas letter for this year:

Merry Christmas from the Lancaster Family!

I say this every year, but how has another year gone by?! When I sit down to write our letter each year, I just can’t believe how our family has grown and all that we have experienced together. With three little ones, I know these are precious years that will only continue to fly by, so I’m trying to cherish all that I can with our little family!

When we sent out our Christmas cards last year we had recently moved out to our new home in the country, and we still LOVE it! We’ve been making the house our “home” and the kids have absolutely loved their big back yard - there is always something to explore!

Evy is almost 6 years old (in February) and is in Kindergarten this year! We are homeschooling and it has been, hands down, the best decision for us! I love being Evy’s teacher and we have settled into a great routine. She is learning to read and the highlight of her day is showing Daddy her schoolwork when he gets home! Our favorite thing is watching and hearing Evy (and Liam!) recite their Scripture memory verses that we learn together. We make up hand motions and it has helped me and Kurt even more than it has our kids! Evy still enjoys dressing up and our favorite thing to do together is watch the Duggars’ show (more on that in a minute!)! We also really enjoy planning “theme” dinners for our family. Evy has the best ideas and it’s so fun to do things together. We are so proud of our sweet, tender-hearted little girl!

Liam is 4 and still has the brightest, biggest smile you’ve ever seen! He has such a sweet little heart. He is always so sweet about thanking Mommy or whoever has done something like cooking or doing something for him. Liam enjoys listening to “Sissy” while she does school and is so helpful to play with Lynley while we work. He also enjoys dressing up, and I try to take pictures every time he and Evy come up with a new dynamic duo. They love watching classic Batman episodes and it makes us smile to see how happily they play together. Liam LOVES LEGOS and – bragging Mom moment – he is incredibly adept at putting them together! He doesn’t use instructions but comes up with the most complex, detailed creations we’ve ever seen! We can’t wait to see more of his gifts emerge. He is excelling in his language skills and talks our ears off – which is something we prayed for 3 years ago when we brought him home! It’s hard to believe it’s only been 3 years; we can’t imagine our lives without Liam! He is our precious, happy little guy and we love him so much!

Our little Lynley Adele is 1 ½ and such a little joy! She finally decided at 17 months that walking might be a good idea. She keeps me on my toes – MUCH more than her brother or sister! Scaling staircases, emptying pantries, helping herself to applesauce – this girl does it all! J Lynley has the cutest little personality and Kurt and I are constantly saying to each other how adorable she is. She knows how to make people laugh and she loves to tilt her head and give you the brightest, biggest smile until you look at her! Her absolute favorite thing right now is Praise Baby DVD’s. She will hear the opening bars to the music and look at me, flashing a HUGE grin. We love that she is hearing about Jesus through music. Lynley is convinced she’s at least Evy and Liam’s age, and does a pretty impressive job of keeping up with them! She loves for her daddy to sing songs to her before bed and has started saying MANY words including “Uh oh,” “Daddy,” “Good!” (when I ask how her sleep was – ha!), “Juice,” “Star,” and of course Mommy’s favorite – “Princess” when she sees anything Disney Princess! J We are so thankful God gave us our Lynley Adele – she fills our hearts with joy!

Kurt and I are still busy at church, work and home. I’m still coordinating women’s ministry events and blogging. I grew so much spiritually this year, attending the DotMom conference in Nashville and also hearing Beth Moore speak at her Living Proof Live event in Memphis. It was an incredible, life-changing experience! I’m very excited about some ministry opportunities in 2015! Kurt is still enjoying his work and loves teaching our adult LifeGroup at church. He is an incredibly gifted teacher (if I say so myself) and has recently found a love of listening to the biographies of our founding fathers, as well as Dietrich Bonheoffer. We have seen our LifeGroup grow so much this past year, and God has given us rich friendships through the class, which we are so thankful for. We are definitely in the season of “young children” and sometimes feel like we are being pulled in many directions, but God has given us a deep passion and desire to disciple our children and link arms with other parents who are raising their families to follow Christ.

We had many high points in 2014: a wonderful Disney trip, quality time with our extended families, hosting the Duggar family at our church and spending time with them (they are an AMAZING family!), ministry opportunities, and beginning our homeschooling journey to name a few. But of course there have been challenging times and moments when we have struggled. God is the same, faithful God regardless of what our circumstances or emotions tell us. We have seen His hand the most clearly when we have gone to His Word and chosen to simply trust Him.  It’s such a privilege and honor to celebrate the birth of the little Baby – the Savior of the world – who humbled Himself and came into the filth and mess of a stable. In the same way, He comes into the filth and mess of our lives and hearts and we are forever changed!

With love this Christmas,

Kurt, Ashley, Evy, Liam and Lynley

www.ourhappilyeverafters.com

December 18, 2014

FROZEN GAMES WINNER!!!!!

I'm very happy to announce that the WINNER of the two FROZEN GAMES is……….

Renae123!!!!!



Congratulations, Renae!!

Email me with your information to claim your prize! :)

December 17, 2014

Christmas Home Tour!

Welcome to our home! Even though we've lived in our current house a little over a year, we are still very much getting things how we would like to. :) I'm still working on some window treatments and such, but overall I'm VERY happy to have things settled!

Here is our living room!



We had a HUGE tree last year, but we decided to scale down this year. The big one was really pretty, but it was hard to decorate and we had to rearrange our whole living room. This one fits perfectly in the corner and we LOVE it! The kids are going to make our tree topper, so I'll post a picture once they finish that project. :)


My favorite plaid throw came from JC Penney last year, and the pillow is from Pottery Barn! I absolutely love it!


I LOVE having the best Present represented under our tree. This came from Wisteria last year.


We don't have a fireplace, so I treat this console table like my mantel! I used Mantel Clips (found them on Amazon), and they are safe for the kids! The lamps came from The Enchanted Home and the small porcelains came from Hobby Lobby. The mirror is from Horchow. My garland came from Ballard Designs two years ago and I stuck a few bits of greenery in. I also use small strips of ribbon in my garlands - MUCH easier to work with than one large strand of ribbon!






Still waiting on my sofa slipcover to arrive - it's due to get here this month! The red toile pillows came from Etsy about 3 years ago and the gold pillows are from Pottery Barn 3 years ago.


My treasured nativity that my Dad brought me from Israel (we are going in 2016 and I can't WAIT!!!!!).


My Korean nativity from an adoptive mom on Etsy (mysakuraprincess is her shop).



Love my little vintage-inspired trinkets from a local boutique (I always pick some up when they're 75% off after Christmas!).


A Christmas angel and Disney countdown!






Here is our entryway. The mirror came from Ballard Designs. The two boxwood topiaries came from The Enchanted Home and the center arrangement came from Hobby Lobby. I'm going to add in some Christmasy fruit I think - I'm into that look right now! The table came from Kurt's brother - he found it at an estate sale and Kurt's mom gave it to me!





The angel wings came from One King's Lane!






I love my kitchen garland - my grandmother gave it to me!


More little Christmas trinkets.




Love the Winter Village pattern from Pottery Barn this year!


I set up a hot chocolate and cider station this year! I love it! It was easy because I already had everything from our women's event at church. :)




Our Advent garland - I need to work ahead and get more activities in the pockets!








We've started our Jesse tree! Such a great activity!



Of course everyone wanted to show off their rooms!

Liam's tree features some Disney transportation ornaments and other Disney characters, along with his Mouse Ears as a topper.




Evy's tree is full of whatever makes her happy. :) Right now that means Disney Princesses and some other special ornaments that we've collected over the last couple of years for her.






Lynley Adele's tree is PRINCESS. She has just entered the Princess phase, where she just goes crazy over anything with Princesses on it and has started calling them by name. I perched some of her little dolls in her tree and she LOVED it! I'm going to wire them in next year, but it made for a cute picture!






Mid picture-taking, Liam added a garland to his tree. We want to be thorough in this tour, so I HAD to document the cute garland and even cuter little guy with it. :)


I also made a switch with my nativities downstairs. My new Heart and Home felt nativity arrived, so I put it on the coffee table so the kids can play with it. It's adorable and they LOVE it! I moved my Nativity from Israel to my other little table.




I snapped several photos of Lynley playing with the nativity, and I couldn't choose just one to share. These capture her little personality and the adorable age she is - "loving" and "hugging" the animals and just being precious. Christmas is meant to be EXPERIENCED, isn't it? :)







Just a little note - I've decided I should host giveaways more often (see my note below), because I have LOVED hearing from all of you! Seriously, it has made my week so bright hearing from people who read my blog! I know it's hard to get into a commenting routine sometimes, and it reminds me I need to stop and "say hello" on blogs I read. Comments really mean so much and I've so enjoyed reading about what you are all doing with your families. :)

Giveaway note: I am going to close the giveaway sooner than I thought because I want it to have plenty of time to go through the crazy mail and get to the winner! I am going to close the giveaway at 11:59pm on December 17!

Sending you love and wishing you a Merry Christmas!
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