This is the FOURTH interview and I am having a BLAST!!
Today's guest blogger is Rachel from finding joy. The thing is I have never actually met Rachel, but I read her blog. I started reading her daughter Hannah's blog and then I found her blog. The wife of a cancer survivor and the mother of seven children . . . well let's just say, "You had me from the first post." not to mention the beautiful snow pictures of Minnesota.
(Sorry I had to throw this one in . . . SEVEN kids.)
First Question . . . the question everyone always asks me . . .
MC: Why is you blog called "finding joy"?
RACHEL: My blog had gone through a series of names until I settled on finding joy. I started blogging when my husband was going through treatment for cancer. Gradually, as life went on I realized that joy can be found in so many venues -- in the good times and the hard times. Joy is a gift. It's okay to feel joy even when things are crumbling. Throughout the years I've tried to keep my eyes open to the gifts in the everyday -- in homeschooling, being a wife, and a mom, and a friend. When I blog I try to keep the idea of joy in my posts. Maybe not obviously, but as a subtle undertone.
MC: How long has your husband been cancer free?
RACHEL: My husband, Todd, will be cancer free this March 2011. That will be our five year mark. He has to see his oncologist every year for the rest of his life, but hitting the five year mark is a huge milestone. We are praising God for his healing.
MC: That is so amazing! Praise the Lord!
MC: The food is always amazing during the holidays. There are pot luck dinners and parties galore. Someone always has something at Santa's workshop to sample.
So what is your specialty to cook/make/bake at Christmas?
RACHEL: I love to bake my grandmother's gingerbread cookies frosted with Royal Icing. Two reasons -- first they're delicious and second they bring back so many wonderful memories. The dough for these cookies sits in the freezer for two weeks before you roll it out. After my grandmother died I inherited her old cookie cutters (at least 50) and now my kids and I keep up the tradition rolling out and decorating gingerbread cookies.
MC: They look delicious!!! Would you be willing to share your gingerbread recipe?
RACHEL: As far as the recipe -- I don't have it. My mother has the copy, and we go to her house to make up the dough! I've found some similar ones -- you just need to search gingerbread cookies in the freezer.
MC: For Christmas dinner do you have ham or turkey, (or something totally different)?
RACHEL: We celebrate with my husband's parents where they have prime rib. Then at my parent's my mother always makes several pans of homemade lasagna. Lasagna? Yep. It started when I was a child and in Christmas shows for our church on Christmas Eve and she needed something to be ready when we arrived home. The tradition stuck. It wouldn't be Christmas Day without a big portion of lasagna!
MC: Lasagna? That is different. But we have had lot of different traditions come out of these interviews.
I guess my favorite thing I have done this year is help my sister-in-law decorate her dining room for Christmas. What is your absolute favorite Christmas tradition . . . the one where if you could only have / do this one tradition it would be enough for you to have a wonderful Christmas?
RACHEL: We do an Advent Calendar with the kids. It's really a highlight of December for them. We do have to write out the list of who opens on what days -- with seven kids it can get overwhelming otherwise!
MC: Do you send Christmas cards? Why or why not?
RACHEL: Yes. Sometimes it's every other year. Lately, it's been every year. My oldest daughter, Hannah, designs the cards and then I get them printed. I typically write a short (and I mean short) note to go along with it. I love getting Christmas cards, and there is something festive about sending them!
MC: What is the typical holiday routine at your house? You know, Christmas Eve at home, Christmas morning at your mom's . . . what do you guys do?
RACHEL: We do Christmas Eve Morning at our home, Christmas Eve Night at my in-laws, and then Christmas Day at my parents. It was even more complicated then that when both sets of my grandparents were still living. Even though it's busy, I feel incredibly blessed to have a wonderful family on both sides.
MC: What is one Christmas tradition that you used to do (maybe when you were a child) that you don't do now?
RACHEL: My dad would read us "The Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve underneath the tree lights. We'd all scoot on the ground and he'd put the book under the tree with only the Christmas lights on. It was magical.
MC: What are you doing this year that you haven't done for past Christmases (if there is something new or different)?
RACHEL: We're buying our tree. For five years we've been gifted a tree from our realtor. This year? We're off to purchase one. A live one. :)
MC: Really? That is unusual.
RACHEL: Yeah, this is a tradition that my realtor has as a way to say thanks to clients. Originally it was only for one year, but my parents and my sister have used the same realtor -- and she just enjoyed seeing us every Christmas and kept giving us free trees. We'd go to the office, pick out a tree, get some cookies and cider, and then get a family picture with Santa It was fun!
MC: Gifts are so great, but I love to give gifts more than receive gifts. I love to watch people's faces light up when they open a gift.
What is the most sentimental gift you have either received or given?
RACHEL: My Father-in-law loves Door County, Wisconsin. Several years ago we bought him a print of his favorite restaurant (Wilsons) in Door County. It's an old ice-cream parlor, and so much fun to visit. Anyways, we had the print framed and then on the back we all wrote wonderful memories that we have had with him. He absolutely loved it.
MC: What was the biggest dud gift you have ever given someone? You know that one gift that just didn't go over like you thought it would.
RACHEL: I only give perfect gifts. Ha! Actually, it might have been a chef's hat that I got for my brother who loves to cook. We thought it would be hilarious, and yet it was met with, shall we say, not much enthusiasm? The mortar and pestle went over much better.
MC: What is the best toy or gift you received as a child (that you remember most fondly)?
RACHEL: I remember getting this awesome Lego set. Anything Lego was our favorite.
MC: What is the best surprise you EVER received on Christmas?
RACHEL: I can't think of a surprise on Christmas. Does that make me boring?
MC: Maybe you would you just rather be the surprisER instead of the surprisEE on Chrismas morning?
RACHEL: I love to surprise others. Although, now that I've realized that I haven't had a Christmas "surprise" I'm thinking it might be fun to get one!
MC: Fall is MY absolute favorite season, I love Christmas, but here in beautiful Magnolia, AR it's usually fall weather at Christmas.
Where you live is winter the season when Christmas comes?
RACHEL: The gorgeous state of Minnesota. And it is a full-fledged White Christmas here. Most years. Otherwise it's just cold.
MC: Do you want snow at Christmas? Why or why not?
RACHEL: Absolutely. Some of my favorite Christmas memories are the years where it's lightly snowing on Christmas. It really sets the mood and makes everything festive!
MC: I would love to have snow here. . . but alas, living in the TROPICAL RAIN FOREST . . . I doubt it will happen.
Santa's little helpers are all grown up, but when they were smaller Santa and I had a lot of fun playing Santa . . . well you know what I mean.
MC: Do you play Santa for your children? Why or why not?
RACHEL: Not really. We have gifts from "Santa" but we don't really emphasize it. We'll put out a plate of cookies and milk just for fun.
MC: I really enjoy blogging. Just a few questions about YOUR blog and then we're finished. How long have you been blogging and why do you do it?
RACHEL: I've been blogging for almost five years. My blog started off as a caringbridge site for my husband when he was going through cancer treatments. I started realizing how I enjoyed writing and kept it up. Originally I blogged over on homeschoolblogger. After a couple years -- with sporadic postings and bursts of posts -- I stopped for a six months. Then, after much prayer and thought, I started blogging again on blogger. I kept the title "finding joy" and started writing. And, now, eight months later I can't imagine not blogging.
Blogging is such a tool for me. I process life. I write about faith, and hope, and joy -- even when life is challenging. I journal my kids lives. I write about being a mother of seven, and a wife of a cancer survivor. Blogging has blessed me greatly.
MC: How many posts do you typically do per week?
RACHEL: I typically write 4-6 post a week. Some are serious. And others are just fun.
MC: Do you advertise on your blog? Why or why not?
RACHEL: I'm a part of Blogher. I've enjoyed my relationship with them. Other than that I have no paid advertisements.
MC: Do you have anything special you want to share with readers?
RACHEL: I have enjoyed getting to know so many awesome and amazing people. God has blessed me with new friendships -- ones that I truly cherish. To all of you thank you!
MC: Thanks so much for doing this interview. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed doing it. Don't forget to check out Rachel's blog, I know you won't be disappointed.