Monday, December 28, 2015

On the first day of Christmas... A few days late.

1st day of Christmas... Yes we are talking about the big birthday party for baby Jesus. 

Celebrate Christ. 

It is the day we honor his birth, which helps us to reflect on His life, His mission and His influence in our own lives. This is the season to truly emulate His hands and extend a helping hand, a cheerful heart or a shoulder to lean on. 

Christmas time has always been a joyous season for me. Some of my most memorable experiences were far far away, in a foreign country, celebrating the life of Christ while serving as a missionary. The commercialism of Christmas was less of an emphasis. Love and peace abounded within the homes of strangers and friends we met, because of their attitudes of gratitude. 

This year, John and I were overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude. The love we felt for the savior expanded, as did our love for each other, for our families and most especially for our sweet little babe, Jack. We were showered with gifts of love, gifts for each other and gifts for our Jack. The greatest gift of this season is what this day is all about - the gift of the Savior. He promises us happiness, joy and peace as we follow His example with exactness and steadfastness... What a beautiful promise. 

Merry Christmas. From our family to yours, we wish you good tidings of great joy and the peace of the Savior throughout the year. 

Merry Merry. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

On the 7th-2nd day of Christmas

Yes, yes I may be including a few days into one post, but the weekend was full of too many good things, and I was very present in all of them. And when I say weekend, I mean to say Christmas Break, because we are on the brink of Thursday morning here on the West Coast, and we are all in vacation mode. Nonetheless, let us carry on with the 12 Days. 

Day 7: 

"The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is to sing loudly for all to hear" 

I recently sang in a guest choir for the Columbia Chorale's Christmas concert and the spirit in that hall was filled with joy, love and peace. Songs about the Savior's birth and this holiday season ring with cheer. Although my group met briefly during November, we made beautiful music. 

Music enlivens the Christmas season. 

Day 6: Family First. 

Family. I realize not all family relationships are perfect, in fact none are. However, the differences and quarks within a family are what make your surname individual. This is a great time of year to refreshen, strengthen and reconsider your relationship with those you call your kin. Let the Christmas season fill your heart with love, acceptance and forgiveness. 

Day 5: Photos for the ages. 

Every year I feel like my mom says, "I wish I would've taken more photos to remember that..." I do love being present in the moment and activity, but try to snap a few more pictures than usual, because it's a great way to remember this year from the next, and keeps those humorous, encouraging andsurreal moments alive for many many years. This photo below was snapped on Sunday and I can't get over Jack and his smile or outfit. It was Christmas Sunday at church for us (we don't have a Christmas Day worship - we celebrate our Christmas program on the Sunday before Christmas instead) and Jack was lookin' his best. I will cherish this photo forever. 

Day 4: Let Christmas be fun. 

I remember thinking before I had Jack, that I wanted to be a fun mom and experience life with my children. I know that experience will come in all shapes, styles and forms, and this year sledding was the form. It's snowed quite a bit around here, and the snow is great for sledding. So... We went sledding and played until Baby Jack had enough. When you play and create these integrated activities with mom/dad/child and others, the spirit of Christmas enhances and strengthen those family ties. 

Day 3: Wish others a Merry Christmas. 

Drop the last syllable of Christmas and we have the word, Christ. The words Merry Christmas highlight and emphasize the joy of this season as his birth, life and ministry are all to add merriment and joy of this season. So generously shout these words to the rooftops. 


DAY 2: Christmas-ing. 

It's one of my favorite things about Christmas, delivering goodies and gifts to dear friends and sometimes families who need a boost during this time of year. We felt the spirit of Christ while making the rounds today. It was lovely. Nothing was too extravagant or crazy, but we felt gratitude for our Savior, for all that we have and for our friends and family nearby.  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

On the 8th day of Christmas...

Day 8: Christmas calls for cards. 

I love checking our mailbox this time of year because of all the family photos and Christmas greetings I find. Whether you communicate through words or photos, everyone needs a Christmas note or two. These cards are full of cheer and happiness. Though every year has its challenges, I've found that Christmas notes/photos offer more hope and enthusiasm for the coming year and gratitude for the season that envelops us. 

Rifle paper company has some of my favorite designs. In fact, one of her Christmas postcards is framed in my living room right now of the nativity. 

Sometimes that extra thought or few sentences printed in pen are the perfect gift for both friends and strangers. And the photos of smiling (and sometimes not smiling) faces are the perfect decorations every home needs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On the 10th day...

Day 10: Believe. 

Tonight a friend mentioned how Christmas is so much more fun with children. Although Jack is just a wee babe, everything we've done this year to add Christmas cheer has been more fun with Jack's company. From Christmas tree hunting to Santa photos, we are instilling BELIEF in this season - that it can change hearts, encourage us to become better and express gratitude for Baby Jesus. 

So if you're looking for a way to add more cheer to this blessed time of year, might I suggest to Believe with enthusiasm. 

Believe in the good that comes from Christmas. 
Believe in the spirit of giving. 
Believe in the Savior and His incredible life. 

On the 9th day of Christmas.

Day 9: 

Give the gift of service. 

I realize commercialism is sensationalized during this time of year, but it's also a condensed period where a lot of good happens - empty bellies are fed, spontaneous Christmas gifts appear, and helping hands come together to build and uplift communities.

A few weeks ago, three of my girls from youth group planned an activity to give the gift of service. A local organization was looking for some help for the basics... And I mean basics (soap and washcloths being at the top of the list). With some local donations and organization, we rounded up materials for basic hygiene kits and materials to make blankets. We know it wasn't much, but we realize that service in all shapes and forms can personally influence and affect an individual in a powerful way. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

11th Day of Christmas - Bake, then serve.

Day 11 || Bake, then serve.

When the 11th day before Christmas rolled around, a beautifully crafted cinnamon roll Christmas tree baked in the oven for my family's delight.

Since there are only two souls in this home who can consume solid foods, John and I will wait on baking this traditional tree. Instead, we've made our own "nice list" and are excited to become Santa's elves with treats in hand this week.

This vintage cookie cutter was the infamous holiday sugar cookie from Grandma Peggy
If you're looking to add a twist to your sugar giving, here's an idea from my friend, Kim. She and her husband made a list of families/friends they hadn't seen in awhile - for whatever reason their paths no longer cross as frequently. Kim's family intends to stop by these friends with treats in hand to share Christmas cheer. Often times, Christmas is a time to give gifts to those we are closest to, (which I love to do) but I also think Kim is wise in rekindling friendships and expressing gratitude for people we may not see as often, but we still appreciate and love.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Twelve Days: Gather & Laugh

It is the best time of year. The Christmas lights on nearby houses illuminate the streets beautifully, while the light from Jesus Christ fills our homes with hope, our hearts with service and our days with peace. Since today marks the beginning of the "12 Days of Christmas" experience, we thought we would share some sweet ways we, as a family, make this holiday season special and spirit-filled. 

Day 12. 
Gather, and share laughter. The holiday season is a great time for family gatherings. Tonight we had our "2nd annual Christmas Second Sunday Dinner" (I know that's a mouth full) at my parents. Thirty or so cousins, aunts, uncles and loved ones prepared food and fun for a delightful evening. Though most of our backgrounds and interests vary, the family-friendly Christmas games my mom organized made for a great memory. In fact, it was the sweetest 20 minutes of the night. When happy laughter is shared by all, hearts grow together.
I watched the spirit of Christmas in full force tonight. 

  The boys were a little exhausted from all the fun. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

We all missed each other like crazy.

This month we spent a week apart, while John John was attending a conference on the East Coast. It was his first experience away from Jack too, and my first week long experience with the babe alone. 

While dad was away we kept ourselves busy and on the go. Swings, parks, shopping... we did it all.

We all survived. We all were very productive. We all missed each other like crazy. 

It was an interesting phenomenon though. When John John passed through the security point, my heart immediately ached for his safe return, but my love for him grew x 10 at the same time.  I don't feel like I take our relationship for granted. 

I feel like true love magnifies when your environment and routine change. 

Our routines completely changed and there were millions of cities in between us. So, we made every effort to continue our progression as a family - millions of Jack photos were sent - prayers were spoken over the phone - Facetime was initiated - and kind words were the focus of our conversations. 
Though we were over 2000 mile apart, we figured out a way to actively participate and appreciate the other all week long, and in the end we were even happier to be the Donaghy Duo with our babe, Jack.

Cheeks for dayz.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Donaghy Duo and their babe in Utah.

We ventured to Utah a few weeks ago for a wedding and fun as the Donaghy clan, party of three. Jack was quite the traveler, cooperating with us on our flights, car time and wedding shenanigans. Our vacation was beyond fun and rejuvenating. Breathing air beyond your own city limits is a wise practice. We recommend it.

Alaska Airlines... we love your new planes. Thank you for adding more leg room.  

Our trip had some sweet elements with the introduction to the newest member of our extended family, James. He and Jack are only 6 weeks apart, so needless to say we talked about babies and all their funny quarks frequently.

Utah held the Winter Olympics many years ago, and Park City continues to share those landmarks with tourists. We were intrigued with the Alpine Olympic Park, its activities and history. Snow is the "White Gold" for the state of Utah.

Our initial plan to fly down to Utah was to celebrate our dear friends wedding, Briggs and Becca. They are two of our favorite people. Since they were married in the Salt Lake City Temple, we were able to see our beloved missionary, Carly, and introduce her to Jack. He's a new addition to our family since her departure, and the pictures capture a fraction of the sweet surprise he was to her. You could say he had her at hello ( : tears and all. 

 We may not have convinced Jack that this whole traveling thing is for his own good, but we hope he'll learn that supporting people you love and making efforts to celebrate with them on grand moments like their wedding day bind your friendships even more and create lasting memories.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A world with fish.

My goal is to record our family's experiences more often. Some posts may be long, while others like this one are short.

Jack encountered fish for the first time yesterday. We was quite intrigued to say the least. He followed their movements and brightly colored scales as they fluttered around in the water.

We are seeing the world with new, fresh eyes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Caramel Divine.

Every Wednesday night our church holds youth group (also known as mutual). I'm over the 16-18 year-old girls and they are quite possibly the most fun group of teenage girls. Our activities extend from service projects to cooking nights. About a month ago, we learned about two important products,

Caramel + Chocolate. 

The caramel recipe was divine, one I've used multiple times in the past couple weeks. It's perfect for homemade caramels, dipping, eating, and anything else caramel can be paired with. Many have requested the recipe, so I've made it quite simple for you to have. Below is the recipe, photos from my recent caramel experiences, and tips for caramel apples! Enjoy!

I used these products when I made the caramel.
Your caramel will be reminiscent of this rich color.

Photos from our Youth Group Activity

Caramel Apples Round 1

Round 2

Caramel Apple Tips:
1. Let the caramel cool for a minute or so, then dip.
2. Dip the bottom of the apple in sugar before placing on the silicone mat
3. If you choose to dip the apples in chocolate or toppings, it's wise to let them dry on a raised cooling rack. I raised mine with a couple of glasses so that would hang more easily.
4. Wait an hour or so before putting them in a bag. You can even put them in the refrigerator to cool fully. 

 ** The first night I dipped caramel apples with friends, we dipped about 20 apples. The second round (the next day), I made around 15 apples and dipped a bag of pretzel rods.