May 9, 2012

Family Favorites


Our family is ALL about family night–we call it pizza pajama night.  When the holidays roll around, we spend days on end working puzzles, playing games and reading books aloud.  It is what we do!

Perhaps in your home, with your family or even in singleness, you find that these kinds of events never happen.  Well I can guarantee you, invite some from the youth group over or your neighbors or even a family at church. It is something that is well worth the few extra steps it takes to do it. Then just do it!

If you are of the mind that games, read-alouds and puzzles are things you despise, then I might question your joy-o-meter!  But I would suggest, too, that you give it another try and give the experience a NEW and FRESH place to grow.

There are few things that match what laughter and a bit of  shallowness can provide in the way of whole-health and wellness.  Oswald Chambers warns, “Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow concerns of life are not ordained of God; they are as much of God as the profound. To be shallow is not a sign of being wicked, nor is shallowness a sign that there are no deeps: the ocean has a shore. Our safeguard is in shallow things. Determinedly take no one serious but God.”

So do laughter.  Enjoy some shallow. It is life handed out to others and health and joy welling up in yourself. Stop taking yourself so seriously!

Here are my top picks for some great holiday family games, puzzles and reads (not an exhaustive list or I would exhaust you.).


  1. Settlers of Catan (If you have more than four, get the expansion pack)
  2. UNO Spin (My family LOVES this game, though it is not my favorite.)
  3. Whodunit (Find it on Ebay.  It is a great game of logic and clues–more challenging than just regular Clue.)
  4. Monopoly (If you have a long time to play…)
  5. Farkle (Easy peasy dice game)
  6. Pictionary (We found one on the Wii that is really fun, too!)
  7. Sorry! (Simple for 5 and up)
  8. Cranium (Fun and lots of laughter)
  9. Apples to Apples (For older kids, but they LOVE it!)
  10. Sequence, Mexican Dominoes and Pit (Couldn’t decide which one, so added all games! Pit gets pretty loud, just to let you know.)


  1. Times Square
  2. Night Before Christmas (Can You See What I see?)
  3. Trump’s General Store
  4. On the Porch
  5. A Joyful Celebration
  6. Moonlight Funning
  7. Sunday Evening Sleigh Ride (Holiday Hidden Messages)
  8. Keepsakes on Santa’s Desk
  9. No Room at the Inn
  10. Wet Your Whistle and Warm Your Toes


  1. The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. Chronicles of Narnia series C.S. Lewis
  3. The City of Ember Jeanne Duprau
  4. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Rick Riordan
  5. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz L Frank Baum
  6. Henry Higgins Beverly Cleary
  7. Trixie Belden #1: The Secret of the Mansion Julie Campbell
  8. Betsy Tacy Maud Hart Lovelace
  9. Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery
  10. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain

How about you?

Do you have any recommendations for games, puzzles and read-alouds that we should check out?

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Creamy Pumpkin Soup

A shot of pumpkins on the farm

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans or 29 oz. freshly made chicken broth
2 c. russet potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 1/2 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sour cream
2 T. butter
2 c. cooked or canned pumpkin
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. pepper
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped
3 bacon strips, cooked, drained and crumbled

In a large stock pot, sauté onion in melted butter on medium heat until tender. Add the broth, potatoes and pumpkin. Cook on medium high until the potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and cool. Purée the whole mixture until smooth.

Cook the mixture in the stock pot on medium low heat and slowly add, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper until all is heated through. Meanwhile, combine parsley with sour cream in a separate bowl.

Spoon soup into bowls; top each with a dollop of the sour cream mixture and sprinkle with bacon. Makes 6 servings. For a group, can serve this soup from a hollowed out and top cut out pumpkin–very festive!

From a fellow Bible study sister, Ellen S. They always make it for the holidays, she said.  Hope you enjoy it, friends!

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Heart Prompt #11


“The holidays” has lost its true meaning of holy days. Gifts, decorations, frantic preparations, and too many obligations often overshadow the Prince of Peace. What can you and others in your family do to make sure the true meaning of Christmas isn’t lost?

Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth. If you praise him in the private language of tongues, God understands you but no one else does, for you are sharing intimacies just between you and him. But when you proclaim his truth in everyday speech, you’re letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience his presence with you. 1 Corinthians 14:1 The Message

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“Putting God Back in the Holidays” Giveaway

Putting God Back into the Holidays

We have two copies of Putting God Back in the Holidays by Bill & Penny Thrasher* to give away!

Here’s what the publisher, Moody Publishers, has to say about this book:

Instead of the joy-filled celebrations that we build up in our minds, the holidays (pick one, any one) can often become stress-filled, money-draining, joy-less days of the year that we just “want to get through.” And it is by our own volition that we have refused too many times to allow our holiday celebrations to be the spiritual experience they are meant to be.

This book has been conceived and designed over 30 years as Dr. Bill Thrasher has spoken to thousands of people, helping them realize the spiritual battle that surrounds their celebration of the holidays. Littered with practical thoughts, ideas, experiences, and stories, Putting God Back in the Holidays will help you and your family celebrate holidays and birthdays with biblical truth in mind.

Putting God Back in the Holidays covers more than just Thanksgiving and Christmas. Included are ideas for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Arbor Day and quite a few others.

If you would like to be entered into the drawing to win one of our two copies of Putting God Back in the Holidays, please send an email to admin at a martha heart dot com (replacing at with @, dot with . and taking out all of the spaces, of course), with the subject line reading PGBH Giveaway. The giveaway is open to residents of the 50 United States as well as residents of Canada. Entries will be accepted until 11:59pm Wednesday, November 17, 2010.

Two names will be randomly chosen Thursday, November 18, 2010. The winners will be announced that day on A Martha Heart!

This book can also be found in A Martha Heart’s Bookstore for purchase here.

*Thank you to Whitney Cornett at Moody Publishers for providing 3 free copies of Putting God Back in the Holidays (one for review and two for this giveaway).


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The Holiday Planner


I love autumn. The leaves changing to gorgeous colors, all the pumpkins and gourds, haystacks and scarecrow decorations, cool weather ~ I love wearing sweatshirts, long johns, hats and scarves, tromping through pumpkin farms and corn mazes, hay rides, hot apple cider, and the briskness in the air. And pumpkin spice candles ~ let’s not forget the pumpkin spice candles! Autumn is absolutely my favorite season. My Camelot would have a long and enjoyable autumn every year.

Now that we’re into October, it’s time to start planning for the upcoming holidays. Each year we try to keep our focus on God and His goodness, which includes providing the food we need to live healthy lives, and His Son as our Savior so we can spend eternity in heaven with Him. When my children were younger, my desire was to also establish some family traditions during the holidays which would carry into their adulthood and their own families some day. It’s not an easy thing to do in today’s commercialized world where Christmas items and decorations begin appearing in stores just after Labor Day, and we so easily find ourselves distracted by the busy-ness of this time of year.

Several years ago I purchased The 12-Week Holiday Planner for the Christian Family *. This ebook has been an enormous help for me. It keeps me organized and keeps all my thoughts, ideas, and recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas together in one place. Since it’s a downloadable ebook stored on my computer’s hard drive, all I need to do each year is print out the exact pages I need**.

Throughout the planner are helpful tips, and each week begins with focusing on an aspect of Jesus’ nature and character. There are activities for the kids, plenty of lists, checklists, areas for notes, recipes, recipe cards, journaling spots, craft ideas…….and so many other goodies!

I’m a little behind in getting started this year, but that’s okay. This planner is flexible, and there’s no pressure to make sure I’ve covered every single item on every single list. The idea behind this planner is not to burden you with an abundance of details that must be carried out over the 12 weeks leading up to Christmas. Quite the opposite, actually. All of the items in the planner are meant for you to use as you wish ~ you use it, it doesn’t use you. You are in charge and in control of every single aspect; some years I use all of the lists and check lists, and other years I only use some of them. It is a useful tool for keeping all of the details in one place, and a wonderful reminder that our focus during the holiday season is to be upon Jesus, His birth and the Good News behind it all.

We’ve had guests in our home for the holidays the past several years. I really enjoy having extended family and friends join us in celebrating God’s goodness and the birth of His Son. The 12-Week Holiday Planner for the Christian Family has been a brain-saver and sanity-saver for me. I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.

The countdown has begun: there are just over 6 weeks left until Thanksgiving, and about 10 weeks until Christmas. That puts into perspective, doesn’t it?! I’d better get going on those Christmas gift lists…

* Help support A Martha Heart! This article contains an affiliate link to The 12-Week Holiday Planner for the Christian Family by Sheri Graham & Marilyn Moll. 100% of the revenue earned through this affiliate link will be used to continue and further the ministry of AMH.
** Thank you to Sheri Graham and Graham Family Ministries for providing me with a copy of the newly released, updated version of The 12-Week Holiday Planner for the Christian Family for the purposes of this article.


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