Fare thee well, see you on the flip side

This blog started in April 2007 as a co-blog between me and DB. Before here, I blogged for two years on a Blogger site that I called, “musings from malicious”. Four and 1/2 years of blogging. It’s been a wild ride.

I often get the itch to change things up a bit. Rearrange, redecorate, reinvent. Lucky for me, reinventing yourself on the Internet is quite easy. And the end of 2009, with 2010 looming ahead, has me itching for a new start, a new direction, a new focus.

As  you may have noticed, DB stopped his posting here quite awhile ago. As I’ve continued on here though, it hasn’t quite felt right to me. Just me, posting on a blog meant for two. So if it was going to continue being “just Malia”…then Just Malia it will be.

I hope you like the new site. Even though I’ve been contemplating this move for at least six months (I bought the domain name back in June), I only got around to throwing some graphics together today to get a site up. You are all quite familiar with my procrastination habits by now! My hope is that I will be a bit more consistent in my new space. That I will establish a pattern of posting beyond the whimsy that defined 2009.

This site will stay here. I’m not shutting it down, I just won’t post here anymore. Thank you for reading! And if you decide to follow me to my home, I’ll welcome you with open arms!

P.S. The address of the new site is supposed to be http://www.justmalia.com, however, I’m having issues getting it to redirect. I’ll update here when I get it working.

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Christmas Smiles

I went through my photos from Christmas day, picked out my favorite smile pictures, and made this collage. It says it all!

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And the last box has been opened…

On December 1st, we embarked on a new activity at our house, the Advent Calendar.

It’s been a fun 3+ weeks with lots of crafting and doing and going and seeing. Overall, the calendar/wreath has been well received. The kids really looked forward to opening the box each day. Some days they were a bit disappointed by the the contents of the box and other days they were thrilled. I do have it on good authority, though, that this should become a regular tradition!

By far, the activity they enjoyed the most was yesterday’s “scavenger hunt“. On Tuesday evening, after the children were snug in their beds, I removed the calendar/wreath from it’s place of honor and hid it. In it’s place was a clue that led to another clue and so on. They found clues in stockings, in the oven, in the freezer, on a bed, etc, etc until it led them to my car where the calendar/wreath was safe and sound in the back seat.

When the box was opened it contained one last clue that let them to early Christmas presents! The calendar/wreath really kept me on my toes and I’m savoring the memories it has made. I’m already thinking about next year’s activities and hunt!

One Christmas tradition, however, has been pushed aside and given “well, maybe next year” status – the sending of the yearly Christmas cards. Last year, I kept putting it off until I decided to skip it all together. This year, the cost of cards and postage was prohibitive yet I didn’t want to go another year without sending a Christmas greeting to friends and family.

Being the “environmentally friendly” family that we strive to be, we* decided to save paper and do something a bit different this year. You can view our virtual Christmas card on Whrrl! We hope you enjoy it.

Merry Christmas!

*And by “we”, I mean, “I”!

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Signature Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are a year ’round favorite but at Christmastime, I fancy them up a bit.

It took a few years to get this recipe just right. We first tried it by crushing up candy canes but found them to be too hard to eat. Nothing like biting into a cookie and hoping you don’t break a tooth! Plus, the peppermint flavor we were hoping for wasn’t there. Next we tried crushing King Leo soft peppermints. We hit on the right candy texture but again, the peppermint flavor was lacking. Finally, it dawned on us to add peppermint extract to the cookie dough. Ta-da! Now that’s what we were aiming for!

Of all the cookies I make at Christmas, these are my favorite. I like the comfort of the chocolate chip cookie accompanied by the festiveness of the peppermint.

This is my standard chocolate chip cookie recipe that was given to me by my friend, Katie with the peppermint additions noted.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure peppermint extract (substitute pure vanilla extract to make regular chocolate chip cookies)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup crushed King Leo soft peppermints (omit if making regular chocolate chip cookies)

Directions

  • Cream together the butter, Crisco and sugars. In a separate bowl, beat the egg & extract together. Add egg mixture to butter/sugar mixture and cream together.
  • Mix in the salt and baking soda. Then mix in the flour. Stir in chocolate chips and crushed peppermints.
  • Bake @ 350 for 12 minutes.

Enjoy!

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The Lunch Deception

I always had to bring my lunch to school. The cost of school lunches was too costly for our family budget. I went to a private school and I guess my parents figured that if they were already paying for my education, they didn’t need to also pay for my lunch.

A lot of kids in my school also brought their lunches but it was the ones who bought lunch that I envied. My school was part of a local university and the lunches were brought in from the cafeteria on campus, just a few blocks away. Long table were set up with chaffing dishes. Students would walk down the line with a plate, just like at a buffet. Those hot, delicious smelling lunches made my simple ones from home seem so…uninteresting.

I devised a plan to “forget” my lunch one day so that I would have to buy it. I got into the car that fateful morning with my school bag carefully positioned by my side furthest from my mom. It felt flat and empty against my leg. And then she asked. She asked if I had my lunch and I…lied. That’s how much I wanted to buy lunch at school. I wanted it enough to lie to my mom. I’m embarrassed to admit even now.

But I’m pretty sure she was wise to dishonesty. She said nothing else and off we went.

Later at school, during roll call, we were to indicate whether or not we were buying lunch. I continued the charade and told my teacher than I had “forgotten” my lunch that morning. And that was it. I was buying lunch that day. Or rather, I was eating lunch from the campus cafeteria on the promise that the funds would be paid the next day.

At this point in a story like this I should either be telling you how awful I felt about lying and that I couldn’t even taste my lunch, that it felt like cardboard in my mouth. Or, that karma stepped in and as the smells of lunch wafted down the hallway I knew I had picked the wrong day to be sneaky; turkey hot dogs and vegetable medley.

Oddly enough, I don’t remember much about my ill gotten lunch. I don’t remember what was on the menu that day. I don’t remember whether or not I liked it. I remember more about the lunch deception than the actual lunch.

My mom was not happy with me but I think she understood why I did what I did. We ended up coming to an agreement about lunches. I would take my lunch on a regular basis but a couple times of year, I would be allowed to purchase my lunch.

I wish I could tell you that I never lied about anything again, but that itself, would be a lie.

Today’s post is my answer to a writing challenge at {W}rite-of-Passage, “The Lunch Box”

photo credit: Clip Art from Microsoft Office Online

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Hope is Powerful

Over the summer I had a rather embarrassing, smelly clothing problem. The underarm area of most of my shirts and bras had collected a build-up of deodorant that was harboring body order. I tried everything to get the smell out. I scrubbed and soaked and scrubbed and soaked. In the mean time, I had to go and buy a couple new shirts and bras. It was, in my opinion, an unneeded expense on an already strained budget. And if I couldn’t get the smell out, I would have to get more. I was devastated and really stressed out.

Then as I searched the internet one more time for yet another way to eradicate the odors, I read something in a blurb somewhere that suggested using powdered dishwasher detergent. I pulled out my dishwasher detergent and set to work, scrubbing and soaking.

And it worked.

I had hope.

It seems really silly to be hopeful about such a thing but I learned something about the power of hope. I had been so worried and upset and forlorn about the possibility of not being able to remedy my stinky situation. When I finally found something that would work, the relief, the joy, the hope I felt was utterly indescribable. My entire outlook changed.

Hope, no matter what it’s about or where it comes from, is like dawn breaking through the darkness and making your whole world light and functional again.

Hope is powerful.

Hope heals.

It’s ironic that my simple story of hope revolves around laundry. The folks at Tide have a program called Loads of Hope. The Tide Loads of Hope trucks travel all over the country loaded with washers and dryers and laundry soap. They go to areas affected by natural disasters, hurricanes, floods, weather torn areas where electricity hasn’t been restored; and they let people do laundry.

It’s so simple yet so profound. When you’re having to deal with what nature has handed you, the last thing you want to worry about is how to get  your laundry done and yet there is, stinking up your already stinky situation. Sometimes, people just have the clothes they were wearing left and we all know how long each of can go in one set of clothes before we can’t even stand to smell ourselves!

Life feels much more hopeful when you can put on clean, non smelly clothes. I’m glad Tide knows that.

This week, my friends Megan, Deb and Mishelle are heading down to New Orleans to assist the Tide Loads of Hope people as they set up, once again, in an area that is still recovering from natural disaster. You can join in by posting your story about hope and linking it on the Loads of Hope blog carnival hosted by Blog Nosh and by following the stories on Twitter (follow @TideLoadsofHope and the #loadsofhope hashtag, they will be live updating tomorrow, 12/13 and Monday, 12/14). You can also click on the banner below to find other ways to help out.

{I wanted to end this post with Zane Williams‘s song “Hope is a Flame” but I can’t find a way to post it here. Oh, well.}

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Advent

For several years now I’ve wanted to do an Advent Calendar with my kids. The problem was, I never remembered until maybe the last day of November or a couple of days into December. Sure, I could have started it a little later but I tended to just shrug my shoulders and plan to do it the next year.

Last year, I saw a neat Advent Calendar/Wreath at Target that I really liked. Unfortunately the only one that was left at my Target was missing a piece. And frankly, I wasn’t interested in driving all over Nashville to various Targets to see if they had one that was whole. So once again, I shelved the idea. Then much to my delight, while we were with my parents for Christmas, I came across one at a Target in their city AND it had all it’s parts AND it was on clearance! So I snatched it up, brought it home and put it away with the Christmas decorations.

Fast forward to yesterday.

I spent a good part of the day taking down and putting away my Autumn and Thanksgiving items and pulling out and setting up my Christmas items. And there was the Calendar/Wreath, taunting me. I was so unprepared. It was the day before December. We had just returned on Sunday from being out of town for 10 days. I had so much to do. But I just couldn’t put off for another year, not when I had the calendar right there in front of me.

Which is why I was up until midnight last night coming up with our advent activities and setting up the calendar/wreath. And because I couldn’t come up with 24 specific things to do and because I know how, um, well, lazy, I can be, I fudged it a bit and there are three candy days. That means when they open that day, there will be two pieces of candy waiting for them instead of an activity. There are also two present days. They will be told to go look in a certain place to see what’s there.

{And as I wrote this, GMan was beside himself with anticipation about the first box. I told them this morning we would open it when JBelle got home from school.}

Here’s what we are doing for the next 24 days:

  1. Go outside and look at the moon & stars before bedtime. Remember the star that the wise men followed. (I thought it was going to be clear tonight! It wasn’t. We stepped outside and looked at the blurry moon though and we read the book The Greatest Gift about an angel that becomes the star that points the way to Jesus and I tried to put “glow in the dark stars” up in GMan’s room, but they kept falling off the ceiling. Tomorrow should be easier…I hope!)
  2. Shop for Y.E.S. gift
  3. Decorate bedroom doors
  4. {candy}
  5. Watch a Christmas movie
  6. Bake cookies with Mommy
  7. What’s in the red basket above the TV? (it’ll be Christmas socks)
  8. Make paper snowflakes
  9. {candy}
  10. Take Christmas goodies to a shut-in member from our church
  11. Make a Christmas card for friend
  12. Build a fort from blankets & pillows. Read a Christmas book in the fort.
  13. Have hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows or whipped cream.
  14. Donate food to Second Harvest Food Bank
  15. {candy}
  16. Make shrinky-dink ornaments or magnets
  17. Go see TN State Christmas Tree & Nashville Christmas Tree
  18. Eat dessert first (brownies with peppermint ice cream)
  19. What’s in the cookie jar? (it won’t be cookies! it will be an, as of yet undetermined, treat)
  20. Drive around and look at Christmas lights in our pajamas
  21. Count all the Santas in the house
  22. Make paper toys (http://www.thetoymaker.com)
  23. Go on a Christmas scavenger hunt (I may regret this! Remember, I already admitted to being lazy!)
  24. Read Christmas story from the Bible and open Christmas Eve present from Mommy & Daddy (it’s always pjs)

Some of these I came up with on my own, several of them I “borrowed” from Kristen of We are THAT Family. A few others I found on the web (this is a neat list).

{JBelle arrived home as I was working on this post and we opened the first box. Unfortunately, GMan was quite disappointed. Of course, he’s five and doesn’t quite get the whole concept. JBelle, on the other hand, was impressed and is looking forward to our first activity. I think once we get to Day 4, GMan will be on board!}

Do you do an Advent Calendar? What is in yours?

Another excellent idea is The Twelve Days of Christmas. My friend, Sarah, is doing this for one of her blog readers (her sweet husband does this for her every year.) I’m going to do this, too…next year. Sorry to make you wait but after putting that Advent Calendar together, I’m plumb out of ideas.

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