Friday, December 21, 2007

Our Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas
the Millers!

I hope you’re having a wonderful Christmas, enjoying your family and celebrating the birth of The King. We’ve had such a busy year that I’m really soaking up the peacefulness of this season - staying up to stare at the Christmas tree is my new favorite pastime:)
Most of you know we were blessed to enlarge our home again this year…by another two feet! Christian is such a joy; we can’t remember what we did without him. He seemed pretty serious those first few weeks, wondering what he’d gotten himself into no doubt, but now he’s settled right in and made himself at home.

Jack has really grown this year. He started the year on the small side due to reflux, but once we got that under control he started eating like a champ! He’s kind of the court jester around here - he loves nothing better than to make one of us laugh.

Brenna turned three this summer - she had a princess party and that still sums up her personality pretty well. I took her to see The Nutcracker last week and we had the best time. She’s asking for ballet classes already so that may be something that we start this year…well, we’ll see:)

Levi started kindergarten at our little homeschool this year. He was a little annoyed at the beginning of the year that his friends had to go to “all the time school” and weren’t quite as available to play, but now that we’ve met some other home schooling families with boys his age, I think we’re over that hurdle. We took our first field trip with the local home school group to the fire station and, when you’re a five year old boy, it just doesn’t get any better than that:) His big news though is that he learned to read this year! We celebrated by getting him his very own library card.

My baby sister, Bethany, started college this year - I can’t believe it either. She’s studying to become a missionary and going on her first foreign missions trip this winter. I’m so glad I begged for a baby sister for all those years:)
My brother had a big year, too. He enlisted in the Army after leaving the Navy and is serving in Iraq. We all wish he could be home for Christmas, but hopefully he will get leave soon and get to come for a visit. I am so unbelievably proud of him - please keep him in your prayers.

Casey and I haven’t changed much from last year so you’ll have to just remember what we look like. Apparently we’re always behind the camera! He’s still working hard and being the best husband I could ever ask for (and a pretty incredible dad, too!). And I manage to keep busy:) Really though I feel like I’m doing exactly what God made me to do and that’s a great feeling (notice I didn’t say I was always doing it well, but I guess I’ll work more on that next year).
I hope all of y’all have an amazing Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
All our love,
Casey, Shannon,
Levi, Brenna, Jack, and Christian

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This brought tears to me eyes

Most of y'all probably know my baby brother is in Iraq. I miss him something fierce and I sure would love it if y'all would pray for him. This movie just made my heart swell today. Military men and women sacrifice every day - they're away from their home, their family. My brother misses things like grits and koolaid. Can you imagine missing grits and koolaid?
It doesn't matter where you stand on the war or what your personal politics are - it just matters that we owe these men and women and their families our gratitude. Be on the look out for a soldier or a seamen you can thank this holiday...if nothing else bake your local recruiter some cookies! They have a pretty tough job these days.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The end is in sight

The end of the Christmas projects that is. I'm working on denim quilts for the boys' new bunkbeds and fancy pillows for Brenna's princess bed. Also we're having a lot of company on Sunday after Christian's dedication (cause I like to do everything all at one time) so I decided to finish Brenna's doll furniture, too. And I'm making a gift or two - one down, two or three to go in that department. Plus the cooking! I've got quite a bit of that planned as well. My parents and my sister will be here on Saturday so they can help with the after dedication buffet food, but I'd like to have the goodies for Christmas Eve done before they get here. I'm so excited about making the fudge for my grandma's house this year! Levi asked her for her "secret recipe" a year or two ago and he's finally going to get to really help me make it. I'm not sure why he thought it was a secret - she uses the recipe on the back of the marshmallow fluff jar:)
We're also making baklava, oreo truffles, saltine toffee, divinity and nuts:) I can hardly wait! The menu for the buffet is still in the works. I bought a spiral sliced ham when it was on sale and I've decided on dessert (the only hard part is narrowing it down!) - pecan tassies, flourless brownies, and lemon squares. Yum! I might as well make the desserts for Christmas Day at my sis-in-law's while I'm at it - Red Velvet Cake (without nuts per my nephew's request) and Lemonade pie (another of my Grandma's specialties).
With this much to do it seems like I'd be all stressed out doesn't it? But actually it's been fun:) I've taken a brief leave from housekeeping for a day or two, but it always gets picked up before hubby sees it anyway (well, almost always!). And we're officially on Christmas break from homeschool, although he's still reading books and helping me cook and doing lots of science experiments with his fabulous new science kit. It's just so good to be a little creative, a little hospitable after almost a year of trying to keep my head above water. That's a mighty nice Christmas gift for me:)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Decking the Halls (and doors!)

The silk flower wreath I got the year I got married has been past its prime for quite some time. I don't think I've even hung it since we've been in this house. So I tore it all apart this afternoon and. remembering Meredith's post about reworking artificial wreaths with fresh greenery, set out to make it presentable again. Only one problem, our puny fake tree didn't offer up any trimmings. But, hey, Middle Georgia is known for its pine trees so off I went into the woods behind the house. One pine tree y'all. One pine tree with anything green on it at all. This drought is nasty when the pine trees give up. But I hacked off enough sprigs to fill in the wreath and added my favorite ornament - the Nativity - it's too heavy for the fake tree. Maybe it will give our visitors something to think about while they wait for me to shovel a path, uh, I mean walk to the door.
I totally spaced on posting the updated laundry pictures (for before pictures see here). My camera is taking very fuzzy pictures and it's been in my bag to ask my friend the camera expert about. I still need a rolling cart or something to corral the detergent so I can use the top of the dryer, but I am so happy with the coverup! I've had this beautiful valence in my closet forever. I loved the Waverly pattern, but it just didn't quite fit anywhere in the house. Now it's making me happy every time I do laundry!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Praise Baby (which we love!) is giving away free stuff so naturally I'm taking advantage! Go here to try to get some free stuff of your own:)

Monday, December 10, 2007

My birthday boy!

Levi turned six today! I'm going to replace this picture tomorrow (edited to remove a precious picture of other people's children) with his official "on the steps" birthday picture, but some good friends (they must be good friends - I let them in my house even though it looked like a tornado hit it!) stopped by and this is the motley crew we wound up with on the steps. That's the birthday boy down front. I don't know where Jack's other sock went.
Levi had a boy's day with his friend Ryan on Saturday. We picked him up for a picnic at the park. Little did they know they'd find themselves on a secret mission! After playing for awhile and eating lunch they found a mysterious envelope addressed to Secret Agents Levi and Ryan (actually I used their last names, but I don't want to do that here). The note inside said that there was a birthday surprise waiting for them if they followed the clues. The next note led them to the pet store where we visited with all the animals while a very helpful salesgirl hid the next clue for me...that one led us to the library where we looked at all of Levi's favorite books until we found the next clue which led us to this fabulous little ice cream parlor where double scoops were waiting for them. I had actually planned a few other stops, but I didn't want to rush them and we were on a schedule so I cut a few things. I think it was long enough to hold their attention with out getting (as Brenna is wont to say) bwa-wing. They had a ball! What amused me the most about the whole thing is that it never crossed their minds that I might be behind the whole thing! They went through a list of every person they'd ever met trying to guess who the other "secret agent" might be and my name was never even mentioned! So, I'm either a truly gifted actress, or (more likely) so completely uncool that I'm not "secret agent" material.
I just simply can't believe that my baby is six already. When I started this blog he was just barely three, freshly out of pullups. Now he's all about Transformers and science kits. He promises he's never getting married - never going to leave me, but I have a feeling I won't be able to hold him to that.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Busy day!

I finally got the batteries in my camera recharged so I can post pictures soon. Right now I'm getting ready for Levi's birthday surprise. He turns six on Monday (I'm pretty sure someone had accelerated the earth's rotation since he was born!) and since we only do parties on odd years, I wanted to come up with something just a little different for him to do this year. We'll have a family dinner (pizza - his favorite!) and cake on Monday, but today...well, I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Ever since I saw this post over at Meredith's the other day, I've been thinking about making some jars of spiced nuts for gifts (or to beef up another gift). My grandma always makes sugared pecans at Christmas and they are so good. But she also has a yard full of pecan trees. Nuts are not especially cheap - especially the yummy ones like pecans and cashews and macadamias! Since I didn't go down to Grandma's to pick up pecans from the yard this fall (but somebody remind me to next year - I can put Levi and Brenna to work!), I thought I was going to have to table the idea for this year. But yesterday when we headed out to buy groceries I got brave enough to venture in Big Lots first (it takes a lot of gumption to take four kids on more than one errand in a day!). Big Lots had nuts everywhere! I bought several 9 oz cans of Cashew Lovers Mix (cashews, almonds and macadamias) for $3 each. Then Kroger had roasted peanuts on sale 12 oz cans for $1. If I mix the two, two cans of the mix to every 1 can of peanuts (much better than the standard can of mixed nuts which advertises that it's no more than 50% peanuts), that comes out to six 10 oz jars for $1.40 each. Unless my math is fuzzy. Or I can't find the canning jars that I know I stored somewhere. Or I eat too many of them while I'm cooking them (you know, to make sure they're good).
By the way, pictures are coming of the laundry room in all it's new glory. I didn't get everything done that I wanted to (yet!) but it looks so much better!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Crystal's Challenge

I have been dying to take part in Crystal's Challenge this week to make our homes a haven. But I'd already missed the first day and I knew I'd be busy this week and might miss more days...and if I can't do it just right, I don't do it at all...and that's why some places in my house still look like we just moved in, even though we've been here almost four years! So I figured something is better than nothing and decided to get busy in the laundry room. And, gracious, it needed some work.
This is the first thing hubby sees when he gets home since he enters from the garage. Sad, huh? Also, in all honesty, I have to tell y'all that this is not all the laundry. There were three baskets on the couch waiting to be put away. The actual laundry room is behind folding doors and it's not so pretty. The grocery sack for trash - ick. The piles of handwashables waiting forever to be hand washed. I don't just love looking at the outlet and water pipe thingies behind the washer. What to do...what to do?
And, to show you how often I clean off the top of the dryer...

That's my mom's diet coke. She was here before Halloween. Sigh
I probably won't get after pictures up until tomorrow...but I promise it'll look better today!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I love a real tree. The smell and finding just the right one and, did I mention?, the smell. But the biggest reason I love a real tree is that I hate (yes, I said the "h" word) putting together the artificial tree. Ugh! All that work and it itches your arms and you still haven't even started decorating! But we just didn't have the time to go looking for a real tree this year once we discovered we'd also have to buy a new stand. So we hauled out the fake one and I plastered a smile on my face. And that's when the very first miracle of my Christmas season happened. Y'all, Levi and Brenna put that tree up by themselves. And they were happy to do it. That blessed day that all the other moms of many have been promising me (the day when the oldest kids will finally start to really be some help!) has arrived!
We had a tree trimming party - just the six of us - with sugar cookies and cider and eggnog (for me - no one else likes it)and Christmas music. I let the kids hang the ornaments so my tree looks like this...
But, tonight, sitting here with my new baby and smelling his milky breath while my "big kids" are all nestled snug in their feels like this...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Caramel Cake recipe

This is a really good cake and if you don't tell anyone that you used a cake mix, they'll never know:)

1 pkg white cake mix
1 c milk (try to use whole, it makes a difference)
1 stick of melted butter
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick butter (I said good, not good for you!)
1 c brown sugar (you can make it with light or dark, but it's best with half of each)
1/4 c milk
2 c confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Bake up the cake in two layers and let them cool. When they're cool, make the frosting. Mix the butter and sugar in a saucepan. Stir over med-high until it boils. Add the milk and bring it back to a rolling boil. Then take it off the heat. Add the confectioner's sugar and the vanilla and beat by hand (or use a spoon, haha) until smooth and thick. Frost fast because this stuff will harden up. If it gets crunchy before you're done, heat it up slowly while stirring and it should smooth back out. It makes a pretty and yummy cake! Let me know how you like it, Dawn!