Home for the Holidays, by Thomas Kincaid

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Organizing for The New Year

Dear Friends and Visitors,

With the New Year fast approaching and many hearts and minds focused towards goals and plans for 2011, I would like to share some helpful links that I am currently using to help me achieve a more organized life.

Donna Young Printables

Need a new planner for 2011, but hate the prices? Customize a homemade planner with print outs from Donna Young. She has many options for work, homemaking and home schooling. And the best part is that, except for the price of the paper, this options is f.r.e.e.

I actually own a Day Runner, but hate to spend the money to update and customize this book every year. Donna Young has many sized planner page options and even one that will fit my 8" x 11" size notebook.

I'm An Organizing Junkie

Some of my regular readers may recognize this link, because it is Laura, at Organizing Junkie, who hosts the Menu Planning Monday that I often join. However, her site offers so much more that this. There are downloads for printed charts, umpteen posts on various organizing solutions. However, my favorite resource at this link is HERE, where Laura explains what she calls the Process, which is her method for organizing anything. She even has a section that tells how to organize for one's own personality type. How great is that?

Organizing Mind Over Matter

Vicky Winterton's incredible resource for home, office, home office, any and everything. Check this out! It is a fabulous site.


So who hasn't heard of FlyLady? This site is responsible for thousands of "Side-Tracked Home Executives" becoming much more effective and diligent in all of their many roles in life. This site offers printables, suggestions, methods, and even MENTORING for free! If you have never visited FlyLady, click on the link today. It could change your life!

Check out these sites and see what tools you can use to begin your most organized and exceptional New Years ever!

God Bless,

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Simple Woman's Daybook, December 29th, 2010

Outside my window...is gray and rainy. Temperatures are cooling and soon we will have snow - the snow that eluded us during Christmas will blanket everything by New Years.

I am thinking...about how to bring to spirit of Christmas - the attention to the Savior and the kindness and sharing - into the New Years.

I am thankful for... a warm home and plenty of food to eat, for loved ones both far and near. It is a blessing to be loved.

From the kitchen...we have plumbers, working to stop a leak. Later, there will be cupcakes baking for the new children I will be teaching this Sunday.

I am wearing...A warm, cotton sweater, nice jeans and the new fabulously comfy slippers my dauther gave me for Christmas.

I am creating...a new schedule and some do-able goals for the New Year which will help me be more productive with my time and allow for greater creativity in my life.

I am going...to do some cleaning and nesting later today. For now, I am enjoying quiet and stillness in my morning.

I am reading...Confessions of an Organized Homemaker, but Deniece Schofield.

I am hoping... for so many things in the future...to publish a book I am currently writing, to get my act together a little more, to be diligent and more effective in life.

I am hearing... sweet silence. How I love quiet. It fills up my heart and soul with prayerful feelings.

Around the house... the plumbers are finished and I need to begin my chores.

One of my favorite things... a cold, gray day without, a warm, softly lit house within.

A few plans for the rest of the week: blessing my home (cleaning), baking for my Sunday School (Primary) children, preparing finger foods for New Years Eve, more planning for 2011.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...
The picture of the madonna and child, above, is from The Cathedral of the Madaleine in Salt Lake City, where I attended a Christmas Eve concert with my family...The vaulted ceilings are adorned with beautiful murals of angels...

The concert was performed by children from their choir school...Such clear and innocent voices.
I hope that you are still savoring the joys of this holiday season.

God Bless,

Friday, December 24, 2010

But When He Knocks

If I had been a shepherd
In far-off Bethlehem,
Would I have seen that glorious light,
Brighter than diadem?

If I had been the keeper
Of Bethlehem's crowded inn,
Woudl I have known my manger housed
The One Who saves from sin?

Or had I been a wise man,
Across the desert far,
Would I have brought my richest gifts
And followed that bright star?

No sheep have I, no manger bed,
No costly gift, nor rare,
But when He knocks at my heart's door,
I'll bid Him welcome there.
~ Grace Robinson

Wishing each and every one of you a happy, thoughtful, wonderful Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Crazy Christmas Dream

So, last night, while I was innocently sleeping, I dreamed that I was lying in bed using my computer, as I have done many times. I was visiting blogs and happened upon one of my favorite ones, Dawn's blog The Feathered Nest. I dreamed while I was visiting this blog and enjoying the posts somehow I was instantly transferred to Dawn's home. Right in the middle of her Christmas festivities I appeared in my crazy pink, Nick & Nora Christmas Monkey jammies. All her guests turned to look at me and I, faltering at this strange turn of events, could find nothing else to say than, "Ah...hi."

Dawn was gracious as I always imagined her to be, but I was just a little mortified and was running around her house looking for my laptop so that I could somehow be transported back to my bed and get the heck out there!

Fortunately, I did finally find the thing, hooked myself up to the Internet and was back in my bed before any of Dawn's stunned guests, or Dawn for that matter, could guess the identity of this loony, pajama clad party crasher. That's when I woke up and realized that...

Have a great one!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent, Week 4

One Blinding Moment

by Max Ellerbusch

I was in my instrument repair shop, working feverishly so that I could have all the Christmas holiday at home with my family. Then the phone rang and a voice was saying that our five-year-old Craig had been hit by a car.

There was a crowd standing around him by the time I got there, but they stepped back for me. Craig was lying in the middle of the road; his curly blond hair was not even rumpled.

He died at Children's Hospital that afternoon.

There were many witnesses. It had happened at the school-crossing. They told us that Craig had waited on the curb until the safety-patrol boy signaled him to cross. Craig, how well you remembered. How often your mother called after you as you started off for kindergarten, "Don't cross till you get the signal." You didn't forget.

The signal came, Craig stepped into the street. The car came so fast no one had seen it. The patrol boy shouted, waved, had to jump for his own life. The car never stopped.

Grace and I drove home from the hospital through the Christmas-lighted streets, not believing what had happened to us. It wasn't until night, passing the unused bed, that I knew. Suddenly I was crying, not just for that empty bed but for the emptiness, the senselessness of life itself. All night long, with Grace awake beside me, I searched what I knew of life for some hint of a loving God at work in it, and found none.

As a child I certainly had been led to expect none. My father used to say that in all his childhood he did not experience one act of charity or Christian kindness. Father was an orphan, growing up in 19th century Germany, a supposedly Christian land. Orphans were rented out to farmers as machines are rented today, and treated with far less consideration. He grew into a stern, brooding man who looked upon life as an unassisted journey to the grave.

He married another orphan and, as their own children started to come, they decided to emigrate to America. Father got a job aboard a ship; in New York harbor he went ashore and simply kept going. He stopped in Cincinnati where so many Germans were then settling. He took every job he could find, and in a year and a half had saved enough money to send for his family.

On the boat coming over, two of my sisters contracted scarlet fever; they died on Ellis Island. Something in Mother died with them, for from that day on she showed no affection for any living being. I grew up in a silent house, without laughter, without faith.

Later, in my own married life. I was determined not to allow those grim shadows to fall on our own children. Grace and I had four: Diane, Michael, Craig and Ruth Carol. It was Craig, even more than the others, who seemed to lay low my childhood pessimism to tell me that the world was a wonderful and purposeful place.

As a baby he would smile so delightedly at everyone he was with that there was always a little group around his carriage. When we went visiting it was Craig, three years old, who would run to the hostess and say, "You have a lovely house." If he received a gift he was touched to tears, and then gave it away to the first child who envied it. Sunday morning when Grace dressed to sing in the choir, it was Craig who never forgot to say, "You're beautiful."

And if such a child can die, I thought as I fought my bed that Friday night, if such a life can be snuffed out in a minute, then life is meaningless and faith in God is self-delusion. By morning my hopelessness and helplessness had found a target, a blinding hatred for the person who had done this to us. That morning police picked him up in Tennessee: George Williams. Fifteen years old.

He came from a broken home, police learned. His mother worked a night shift and slept during the day. Friday he had skipped school, taken her car keys while she was asleep, sped down a street....All my rage at a senseless universe seemed to focus on the name George Williams. I phoned our lawyer and begged him to prosecute Williams to the limit. "Get him tried as an adult, juvenile court is not tough enough."

So this was my frame of mind when the thing occurred which changed my life. I cannot explain it, I can only describe it.

It happened in the space of time that it takes to walk two steps. It was late Saturday night. I was pacing the hall outside our bedroom, my head in my hands. I felt sick and dizzy, and tired, so tired. "Oh God," I prayed, "Show me why."

Right then, between that step and the next, my life was changed. The breath went out of me in a great sigh--and with it all the sickness. In its place was a feeling of love and joy so strong it was almost pain.

Other men have called it "the presence of Christ." I'd known the phrase, of course, but I'd thought it was some abstract, theological idea. I never dreamed it was someone, an actual Person, filling that narrow hall with love.

It was the suddenness of it that dazed me. It was like a lightning stroke that turned out to be the dawn. I stood blinking in an unfamiliar light. Vengeance, grief, hate, anger--it was not that I struggled to be ride of them--like goblins imagined in the dark, in morning's light they simply were not there.

And all the while I had the extraordinary feeling that I was two people. I had another self, a self that was millions of miles from that hall, learning things men don't yet have words to express. I have tried so often to remember the things I knew then, but the learning seemed to take place in a mind apart from the one I ordinarily think with, as though the answer to my question was too vast for my small intellect.

But, in that mind beyond logic, that question was answered. In that instant I knew why Craig had to leave us. Though I had no visual sensation, I knew afterward that I had met him, and he was wiser than I, so that I was the little boy and he the man. And he was so busy. Craig had so much to do, unimaginable important things into which I must not inquire. My concerns were still on earth.

In the clarity of that moment it came to me: this life is a simple thing. I remember the very words in which the thought came. "Life is a grade in school' in this grade we must learn only one lesson: we must establish relationships of love."

"Oh, Craig," I thought. "Little Craig, in your five short years how fast you learned, how quickly you progressed, how soon you graduated."

I don't know how long I stood there in the hall. Perhaps it was no time at all as we ordinarily measure things. Grace was sitting up in bed when I reached the door of our room...Not reading, not doing anything, just looking straight ahead of her as she had much of the time since Friday afternoon.

Even my appearance must have changed because as she turned her eyes slowly to me she gave a little gasp and sat up straighter. I started to talk, words tumbling over each other, laughing, eager, trying to say that the world was not an accident, that life meant something, that earthly tragedy was not the end, that all around our incompleteness was a universe of purpose, that the purpose was good beyond our furthest hopes.

"Tonight," I told her, "Craig is beyond needing us. Someone else needs us; George Williams. It's almost Christmas. Maybe at the Juvenile Detention Home, there will be no Christmas gift for him unless we send it."

Grace listened, silent, unmoving, staring at me. Suddenly she burst into tears. "Yes," she said, "That's right, that's right. It's the first thing that's been right since Craig died."

And it has been right. George turned out to be an intelligent, confused, desperately lonely boy, needing a father as much as I needed a son. He got his gift, Christmas Day, and his mother got a box of Grace's good Christmas cookies. We asked for and got his release a few days later, and this house became his second home. He works with me in the shop after school, joins for meals around the kitchen table, is a big brother for Diane and Michael and Ruth Carol.

But more was changed, in that moment when I met Christ then just my feeling about George. That meeting has affected every phase of my life, my approach to business, to friends, to strangers. I don't mean I've been able to sustain the ecstasy of that moment; I doubt that the human body could contain such joy for every many days.

But I now know with infinite sureness that no matter what life does to us in the future, I will never again touch the rock bottom of despair. No matter how ultimate the blow seems, I glimpsed an even more ultimate joy that blinding moment when the door swung wide.

I am a little late posting this story for the fourth Sunday of Advent. Hope it is as meaningful for you as it is for me.

Have a wonderful day!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Show and Tell Friday, December 17th

Hello, Friends and Visitors -

I haven't done a Show and Tell for awhile and today I'd like to show you and wonderful thrift store find that I discovered several years ago.

A wonderful Snow Man painting that I display this time of the year...

This original painting has been done on an old cabinet door.

Aren't the individual snowmen precious?

Very festive fellows!

This painting, which covers much of my dining room wall, was $5!

For more Show and Tell Friday Posts, please visit Cindy at My Romantic Home!


Fabulous Give Away!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don't miss this fabulous Give Away! Cottage Hill is giving away these beautiful Christmas Stockings. Click HERE and go to the bottom of the post for all of the Give Away information.
Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cinnamon Ornaments, A Great Holiday Craft

The first time I ever heard of cinnamon ornaments was through Laura at Our Scented Cottage (thank you for picture!). Ever since then I have wanted to make them.

I went searching around on the Internet and found a fabulously aromatic recipe which is as follows:

Applesauce/Cinnamon Ornaments

1 c. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. applesauce

Mix dry ingredients. Add applesauce a little at a time. Mixture should have consistency of playdough. If too dry, add 1-2 tablespoons applesauce. Roll 1/4 inch thick on ungreased surface. If too sticky, sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on level surface to dry 4-5 days. Insert fine wire at top of ornament before drying. Tie with ribbon. Yield 2 dozen.

I made these today and they are still drying...So, I will show them to you in few days when they are all dry.

Hope they are finished by the time we have our G Family Dinner, Sunday night! :)

Have a great one!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Tender Christmas Eve

Well, Sweet Friends and Visitors,

I have had nothing but trouble with my computer recently. A few days ago, a huge virus hit and I cannot access the Internet. So...another trip to the Geek Squad. I am now using the library computer for my posts, but it means few links and no pictures. This is seriously de-railing my plans for the Christmas countdown.

Therefore, I am having to rely more heavily on stories to bring a Christmas Spirit to this blog.

Today, I would like to share a personal story, which I hope will be uplifting for you.


When I was single and living on my own in Los Angeles, most of my Christmases were spent by myself. My friends would leave for home and hearth, but my family was across the U.S. My vacations home, when I could get there, were usually in the Springtime. So, I was generally on my own for the holidays. I didn't feel alone at all. I had celebrations at work and with some friends who were local, but I loved having Christmas to myself, because I could really focus on the Savior and feel communion with Him. It also gave me wonderful opportunities to go out into the community to serve.

My most precious Christmas memory in Los Angeles, though, happened with a sweet friend, who I will refer to as M.

I first met M. and her mother, L., through my church. I was assigned with my roommate, C., to visit them monthly to see to their needs and to bring a spiritual message. L. was an elderly single parent, caring for her daughter, M., who was wheelchair bound. Years before I met them, M. had suffered through a terrible attack, where she was raped and beaten about the head so badly that she began to have epileptic seisures and lost the use of her legs. She and her mother were both ailing, destitute and had lived for a time on the streets. Now, they were in a tiny house, windows nailed shut by the landlord (is that legal?), living amidst refuse, stacks of horded materials of various kinds, and their beloved pets.

The first time I walked through their door, I was hit with a stench that is difficult to describe. They were doing the best they could, but the mother was decrepit and unable to keep the place clean. Sometimes trips to the bathroom weren't made in time and so there was some excrement on the floors that L. could not see to clean up. They had no family support and, frankly, so many people were put off by the filth in the house, that even church members had a hard time coming to visit or help. This is the world that we stepped into when C. and I first went to visit.

During the first visit, I found that after awhile my senses became habituated to the environment and didn't bother me so much. Then, I could focus on this sweet woman and her daughter. They were so grateful for any little kindness sent their way and would adopt into their family anyone at all who showed caring for them. Their circumstances frankly both broke my heart and humbled my spirit, because I had so much more in health and resources than did these two and yet they refused to give up, to hold grudges or to lose faith that life would get better.

Over the first few years that I knew them, C. and I made big plans on how to change their lives and help M. and L. live better. Most of these plans, required L. and M. to change in certain ways that they could not find the strength or understanding to do. This was the point at which many of their friends in the past left them in frustration. I arrived at that point one Sunday as I sat outside their home visiting with them. It was then that I felt the voice of the Lord in my heart asking me if I could just love them. I realized that it is easier to come in and try to resolve problems than it is to just accept someone as they are and then LOVE. But that day, I felt the Lord ask me if I could do just that and I found myself answering that I would, that I could.

Over the ensuing years, even after my church assignment to care for them was over, our relationship with M. and L. continued. C. and I would take M. to church with us (the mother had too many accidents to go out of her home much). We took M. to movies and out to dinner. We helped out some with cleaning or giving M. baths. We became a sort of family.

One Christmas Eve, while C. was away in New York for the holidays, I went over to M. and L.'s to spread some Christmas cheer. I offered to take M. to a special neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley which is famous for the Christmas lights. As we drove through the beautiful neigborhood displays, with the radio playing Christmas music, the song "Silent Night" came on. There in the car, M. and I turned to each other and began to sing "Silent Night, Holy Night". Immediately, a very sweet spirit filled the car, a very sacred, holy feeling. I knew that M., due to her circumstances, had probably not sang Christmas songs in years and that this would be her only celebration. My heart literally brimmed over with love and thankfulness. I became acutely aware that moments like these are what make up a true Christmas. They are the whole reason.

Later I took M. home and went home myself. The sweet feeling from the car lasted all that night and into the next day, making that particular Christmas, when I was "alone", one of the most meaningful I have ever had in my life.

Shortly after that evening, M. suffered a grand mal seizure and lost the memory of our Christmas Eve together. It is my hope and prayer that one day in the Resurrection, when M. is restored to a healthy, whole body and mind, her memory of the tender evening we spent together will be restored.

So, my thoughts about this are that often we gauge how good a Christmas is by the amount or type of presents we receive, or are able to give to our children, or by the fun we have. Taken in moderation, these are fine things. But the real feeling of whether or not we have had a "good Christmas" is really by the caring that is shared. Because it is in the spreading of Christ's love among our family, friends, acquaintances and, yes, even strangers, that Christmas becomes a transformative experience and leaves us as better people, with a greater capacity to love.

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Keeping Christmas

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you...to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness - are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children, to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who aer growing old, to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough..., to try to understand what those who live in the same house as you really want, without waiting for them to tell you...are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world - stronger than hate, stronger thane vil, stronger than death - and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of Eternal Love? Then you cna keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?
~~ Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)


Hello, Friends and Visitors!

I wish that I could add pictures to my posts, but I cannot. My computer became infected with a virus yesterday, so I am doing all my posts on the library computer right now.

For Menu Planning Monday -

Monday - Orange Chicken, rice, Stir-Fry Broccoli and Stir Fry Spinac

It is too hard to provide links to everything for this week, because I can't copy of paste. So, I am using allrecipes.com to look for dinners that use small portions of meat and lots of veggies. Many of these are asian. Shrimp linguine is a definite this week.

Sunday - FAMILY CHRISTMAS DINNER and toooo many recipes to list here :)

For Menu Planning Monday posts, please visit Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Gift of Forgiveness - A Christmas Story

The Gift of Forgiveness

by John William Smith

Forgiveness at ChristmasThe Christmas of 1949 we didn’t have a tree.

My dad had as much pride as anybody, I suppose, so he wouldn’t just say that we couldn’t afford one.

When I mentioned it, my mother said that we weren’t going to have one this year, that we couldn’t afford one, and even if we could – it was stupid to clutter up your house with a dead tree.

I wanted a tree badly though, and I thought – in my na├»ve way – that if we had one, everybody would feel better.

Taking Matters into my Own Hands
About three days before Christmas, I was out collecting for my paper route.

It was fairly late – long after dark – it was snowing and very cold.

I went to the apartment building to try to catch a customer who hadn’t paid me for nearly two months – she owed me seven dollars.

Much to my surprise, she was home.

She invited me in and not only did she pay me, she gave me a dollar tip!

It was a windfall for me – I now had eight whole dollars.

What happened next was totally unplanned.

On the way home, I walked past a Christmas tree lot and the idea hit me.

The selection wasn’t very good because it was so close to the holiday, but there was this one real nice tree.

It had been a very expensive tree and no one had bought it; now it was so close to Christmas that the man was afraid no one would.

He wanted ten dollars for it, but when I – in my gullible innocence – told him I only had eight, he said he might sell it for that.

I really didn’t want to spend the whole eight dollars on the tree, but it was so pretty that I finally agreed.

I dragged it all the way home – about a mile, I think – and I tried hard not to damage it or break off any limbs.

The snow helped to cushion it, and it was still in pretty good shape when I got home.

You can’t imagine how proud and excited I was.

I propped it up against the railing on our front porch and went in.

My heart was bursting as I announced that I had a surprise.

I got Mom and Dad to come to the front door and then I switched on the porch light.

"Where did you get that tree?" my mother exclaimed.

But it wasn’t the kind of exclamation that indicates pleasure.

"I bought it up on Main Street. Isn’t it just the most perfect tree you ever saw?" I said, trying to maintain my enthusiasm.

"Where did you get the money?" Her tone was accusing and it began to dawn on me that this wasn’t going to turn out as I had planned.

"From my paper route." I explained about the customer who had paid me.

"And you spent the whole eight dollars on this tree?" she exclaimed.

She went into a tirade about how stupid it was to spend my money on a dumb tree that would be thrown out and burned in a few days.

She told me how irresponsible I was and how I was just like my dad with all those foolish, romantic, noble notions about fairy tales and happy endings and that it was about time I grew up and learned some sense about the realities of life and how to take care of money and spend it on things that were needed and not on silly things.

She said that I was going to end up in the poorhouse because I believe in stupid things like Christmas trees, things that didn’t amount to anything.

I Just Stood There
My mother had never talked to me like that before and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I felt awful and I began to cry.

Finally, she reached out and snapped off the porch light.

"Leave it there," she said. "Leave that tree there till it rots, so every time we see it, we’ll all be reminded of how stupid the men in this family are."

Then she stormed up the stairs to her bedroom and we didn’t see her until the next day.

Dad and I brought the tree in and we made a stand for it.

He got out the box of ornaments and we decorated it as best as we could; but men aren’t too good at things like that, and besides, it wasn’t the same without mom.

There were a few presents under it by Christmas day – although I can’t remember a single one of them – but Mom wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

It was the worst Christmas I ever had.

Fast Forward to Today
Judi and I married in August of 1963, and dad died on October 10 of that year. Over the next eight years, we lived in many places. Mom sort of divided up the year – either living with my sister Jary or with us.

In 1971 we were living in Wichita, Kansas – Lincoln was about seven, Brendan was three and Kristen was a baby. Mom was staying with us during the holidays. On Christmas Eve I stayed up very late. I was totally alone with my thoughts, alternating between joy and melancholy, and I got to thinking about my paper route, that tree, what my mother had said to me and how Dad had tried to make things better.

I heard a noise in the kitchen and discovered that it was mom. She couldn’t sleep either and had gotten up to make herself a cup of hot tea – which was her remedy for just about everything. As she waited for the water to boil, she walked into the living room and discovered me there. She saw my open Bible and asked me what I was reading. When I told her, she asked if I would read it to her and I did.

The Truth Comes Out
When the kettle began to whistle, she went and made her tea. She came back, and we started to visit. I told her how happy I was that she was with us for Christmas and how I wished that Dad could have lived to see his grandchildren and to enjoy this time because he always loved Christmas so. It got very quiet for a moment and then she said, "Do you remember that time on Twelve Mile Road when you bought that tree with your paper route money?"

"Yes," I said, "I’ve just been thinking about it you know."

She hesitated for a long moment, as though she were on the verge of something that was bottled up so deeply inside her soul that it might take surgery to get it out. Finally, great tears started down her face and she cried, "Oh, son, please forgive me."

"That time and that Christmas have been a burden on my heart for twenty-five years. I wish your dad were here so I could tell him how sorry I am for what I said. Your dad was a good man and it hurts me to know that he went to his grave without ever hearing me say that I was sorry for that night. Nothing will ever make what I said right, but you need to know that your dad never did have any money sense (which was all too true).

We were fighting all the time - though not in front of you - we were two months behind in our house payments, we had no money for groceries, your dad was talking about going back to Arkansas and that tree was the last straw. I took it all out on you. It doesn’t make what I did right, but I hoped that someday, when you were older, you would understand. I’ve wanted to say something for ever so long and I’m so glad it’s finally out."

Well, we both cried a little and held each other and I forgave her – it wasn’t hard, you know.

Then we talked for a long time, and I did understand; I saw what I had never seen and the bitterness and sadness that had gathered up in me for all those years gradually washed away.

It was marvelously simple.

The great gifts of this season – or any season – can’t be put under the tree; you can’t wear them or eat them or drive them or play with them. We spend so much time on the lesser gifts – toys, sweaters, jewelry, the mint, anise and dill of Christmas – and so little on the great gifts – understanding, grace, peace and forgiveness. It’s no wonder that the holiday leaves us empty, because when it’s over, the only reminders we have are the dirty dishes and the January bills.

The Great Gift
The great gifts are like the one gift – the gift that began it all back there in Bethlehem of Judea. You can’t buy them, and they’re not on anybody’s shopping list. They come as He came – quietly, freely, unexpectedly – and if you’re not careful, you’ll miss them entirely.


For more inspirational Christmas Stories, please visit Thoughts About God website.

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let Us Never Grow Too Old

Let Us Never Grow Too Old by Nancy Byrd Turner

Oh, Heart, let's never grow too old
To smile anew, when Christmas comes,
At tassels red and tinsel thread,
And tarlatan bags of sugarplums;

To catch that unforgotten scent,
Spicy and gay, without a name,
Of pungent orange peeling blent
With cedar scorched in candle flame;

To draw a well-beloved delight
From one dear melody unbound
While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
A glory shone around.

Let's never grow too old, my heart,
To thrill before the jaunty grace
Of stockings hung with careful art
Beside the chimney's homely face:

Above one rim, a lady doll;
Above the next, a woolly cat;
Topping the third, a rubber ball;
Each stoking knobby-toed and fat.

Pure stuff of magic in the sight,
And one sweet legend with them wound:
While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
A glory shone around.

Oh, heart, let's never be too old
To feel again the yule log's glow,
To catch the tinkle, keen and cold,
Of silver sleighbells through the snow.

Let's never fail to lean, a space,
Against the frosty window-bar
And mark aloft, in heaven's place,
One solemn, lovely, silent star.

The shadows fall, the dreams take flight,
But every year is Christmas-crowned
When shepherds watch their flocks by night,
And glory shines around!
Last night, was our neighborhood Christmas party. We gathered in a friendly home that was so bedazzled with Christmas fantasy it was a wonder for even the adults. Above you will see the Christmas town, equipped with running train runs half the length of one big wall.
Tiny homes and shops, all alight, as though peopled with tiny elves working late into the evening.
Above a ski-lift for fairy persons and a hill of angel hair for their downward sport.
A Tunnel for the little train that takes it into a hill and back again.
What to take to these lovely Christmas Get-Togethers that require a covered dish?

Artichoke Dip

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup minced red onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together mayonnaise, sour cream, Parmesan cheese and onion. Chop up artichoke hearts, then add them, the lemon juice, salt and pepper to mayonnaise/cheese mixture. Transfer mixture to a shallow baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until light brown on top.

That is basic recipe. I also like to add chopped jalapeno (I let some of my peppers ripen to a red color so it is a bright addition to any dish), and pimento.

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Give-Away Winner and Menu Planning Monday

Happy Monday, Friends and Visitors!

I hope everyone enjoyed a lovely weekend. We got our Christmas tree on Saturday and got the lights on it last night. Tonight, we have a fun neighborhood Christmas party attend, after which I'm going to coerce my daughter to help me decorate our tree. :)


Now, for the results of the Give-Away and who will be receiving a copy of "The Other Wise Man" by Henry Van Dyke. Drum roll please, and the winner is...Jamie, from What I Did Today!! Congratulations! I wish everyone could win. However, I will be having another Give Away in January, so keep checking back.


Now for my weekly menu...
Monday -Everything Salad (basic tossed salad with lots of additions to taste) and bread, Artichoke Dip (for neighborhood party)

Tuesday - Brussel Sprout Asian Salad (no link for this, found in "Steamy Kitchen" cookbook)
Shrimp Fried Rice

Wednesday - Chicken Burritos with Chicken Picante, Fruit Salad

Thursday - Pesto and Sun Dried Tomato Salad Sandwiches, Chips and Veggies

Friday - Spaghetti (using this Spaghetti Sauce), Salad and Garlic Bread

Saturday - Sesame Beef, Brown Rice and Fruit

Sunday - Pot Roast, Butternut Squash Soup, Creamed Spinach, Carrots and Mashed Potatoes

For more Menu Planning Monday, please visit Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Advent, Week 2

Hello Friends and Visitors!

Today is Week 2 of Advent, when we light the Bethlehem candle. Normally, in sharing a Christmas Story to honor the day I would look for one along the theme of the day. However, I stumbled upon one that I would like to share on the true nature of giving. I hope that you like it...

Christmas of 1881

— Author Unknown

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what..
Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. “I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?” You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what?
Yeah,” I said, “Why?”

“I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?” I asked. Shoes, they’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?”

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

“We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children – sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.
“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as
much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.
Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.
At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.

Author Unknown

Don't forget to enter my Give-Away, if you haven't already.

Have a wonderful Sabbath!

The Nutcracker Ballet, How It All Began

Last night, I went with my family to The Nutcracker Ballet performed by Utah's top ballet company, Ballet West (thank you to Emily and Isaac - niece and her husband for the tickets!). It was a wonderful, joyful experience.

For many families in America, seeing some version of the Nutcracker Ballet is an annual, Christmas tradition. Have you ever wondered how it all began?

In the late 1800's Marius Petipa, ballet's greatest choreographer, commissioned Tchaikovsky (see photo) to compose music for a ballet based on Hoffman's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". The ballet had its premier in St. Petersburg in 1892. Unfortunately, it wasn't all that successful.

The Nutcracker Ballet made its way to America in the 1930's. Two decades later, the great George Balanchine re-choreographed the dance (basing it on Petipa's original) and premiered this version with the New York City Ballet in 1954. This version has been performed by the company every year since.

My favorite version of The Nutcracker was the one choreographed by the incomparable Mikhail Baryshnikov in the 1970's for the American Ballet Theater. In this version, the role of Clara, usually performed by a child dancer, is performed by a young woman, crossing the line from child to woman as she falls in love with the Nutcracker in her Christmas Eve dreams. The choreography is inspired and when performed with the supreme athleticism and astonishing sensitivity of the great Baryshnikov, perfectly coupled here with prima ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, the production is blissful.

If you would like to see the 1977 PBS performance of Baryshnikov's The Nutcracker, it can be purchased HERE.

I have seen this version both on stage and on TV and have had the privilege of seeing Baryshnikov live on a number of occasions. He is considered one of the greatest dancers of the last century, right next to Nijinsky and Nureyev. It is rare to find such incredible strength and physical perfection as well as that depth of emotional expression in the same dancer. I wonder if I will ever see anything like him again in my lifetime.

Thank you for stopping by on this wonderful December Saturday. If you haven't entered my Give-Away, Click on the image in the right hand column and do it by Sunday at 11:59 p.m!

Stop back by for more Christmas countdown fun.

God bless,

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Traditions: Family Reading Time and a GIVE=AWAY!

Hello, Friends and Visitors!

I meant to do this post on December 1st, but life got away from me.

During the month of December I will be sharing Christmas stories, poems, traditions and recipes. So be sure to stop by frequently!

Today, I would like to share with you one of our family's favorite Christmas traditions. We love to bundle up together and read Christmas stories, preferably Christ-centered ones. Over the years, I have collected many books as well as some Christmas anthologies and we read from them every night as we count down the days to our favorite holiday. I believe reading to one's children is very important, even when they are older (mine are 13 and 15). Doing so, creates an intimate family atmosphere and wonderful shared experience. During the Christmas holidays, the reading of Christmas stories keeps the celebrations rooted in the True meaning and sweeps away the "give-me's". And if your family won't sit still for stories, ambush them and do it around the dinner table while everyone is eating. You might be pleasantly surprised by the reactions you get!

To kick off the Christmas countdown here at Home Musings, I am having a Give-Away of our favorite Christmas story, The Other Wise Man.

One reviewer wrote of this book:

This is the story of Artaban, a seeker of Truth. He is the other wise man who sought the 'great king foretold in ancient scripture and heralded by the 'star'. On his way to meet the three wise men, he is delayed. This sets him on a quest in search of the King. It leads him to many places and experiences. This book with its beautiful word pictures reminds us once again the importance of seeking Truth wherever we find it. It adds new meaning to the story of Christmas.

Henry Van Dyke wrote the original story. He claims that the idea came to him in a dream. He is a wonderful, gifted writer who brings this story alive with beauty and immediacy to the reader. The picture book which is the subject of the give-away is a slightly abridged version, perfect for all ages. In fact, when we were first married, my husband and I use to go around to families within our neighborhood and church congregation and present this book for special family nights during the Christmas holidays. Everyone loved it!

Okay, now for the Give-Away. To qualify, all you have to enter do is leave a comment on this post by Sunday, December 5th, 11:59 p.m. MST. AND, if you advertise this Give-away on your blog and link back to this post, I will enter your name twice! That's all you need to do.

Envision your family all sitting around the Christmas tree, reading this wonderful story together.

Have a wonderful, happy day!