Home for the Holidays, by Thomas Kincaid

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Beginning of Anticipation

Welcome, dear Friends and Neighbors,

It was an old tradition in my family while I was growing up to comemorate the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. This old tradition is often known as Advent and has everything to do with preparing hearts and minds for not just the celebration of Christ's First Coming, but also anticipates the Lord's Second Coming. We had an Advent Wreath, which is a centerpiece containing 5 candles. On each Sunday leading up to Christmas, we'd light a new candle and read from the Bible. That accounts for 4 candles, the fifth is lit on Christmas Eve.

Each candle symbolizes something different. For instance, the first candle is called the Prophets Candle and represents Hope, the hope that Christ would come to fulfill the ancient prophecies. The second candle is called the Bethlehem Candle and honors the place prepared for Christ's birth. The third or Shepherd's Candle represents the humble in heart who would receive Him. The Fourth candle is the Angels Candle, symbolizing the angels who proclaimed Christ's birth. The fifth and final candle, often located in the middle of the wreath, is lit on Christmas Eve to celebrate Christ's birth. What I love most about the wreath is that on each succeeding Sunday, as more candles are lit, the wreath gives off greater and greater light until the night we celebrate the birth of the true Light of the World.

There are many Christmas traditions throughout the world. I am sure we all have many different ways of celebrating, depending on our heritage and spiritual believes. I am especially drawn to those that celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, our Savior.

In honor of the first Sunday of Advent today, I am sharing a Christmas story which reflects the meaning of the first candle - HOPE.


Hope in a Box

An inexplicable reminder of God's love helped me face my first Christmas without my parents...

By Melissa Anderson, White Bear Lake, Minnesota (Printed in Guideposts Magazine)

The large cardboard box sat on the floor, untouched. It was the day after Thanksgiving, when I usually decorate the house for Christmas, but I wasn’t in the holiday spirit. It would be my first Christmas without Mom. She passed away a few months earlier after a long battle with breast cancer. And my beloved stepfather died just two years before her. Losing them both was harder than anything I’d ever gone through. Opening that box—filled with their favorite holiday decorations—would be another reminder that they were no longer with me.

The Nativity! I’ll start with that, I thought, pulling it down from the attic. The porcelain Hummel Nativity scene, a gift from my brother-in-law and his wife, was my favorite decoration. Each year they gave my husband, Peter, and I a new piece until the set was complete. There were stately wise men, shepherds, Mary, Joseph and a sleeping baby Jesus along with a donkey, cow and baby lamb. Maybe it sounds strange, but I’d always felt like it was missing something, I just couldn’t imagine what.

An hour later, I’d covered the tree in lights and tinsel, framed the doors in garland, and hung the stockings. I guess I can’t put this off much longer, I thought, opening the box of Mom and Dad’s decorations.

Inside lay homemade and hand-blown glass ornaments, wooden toy soldiers—dozens of decorations from my childhood, each one a memory of happier times. Oh, how I missed my parents! Lord, help me to know they are still with me.

After I’d finished decorating, I reached back inside the box to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. What’s that? I thought, feeling another, smaller, box way down at the bottom. I pulled it out, opened the top and unfolded the faded yellow tissue paper. There, in the palm of my hand, sat two porcelain angels I’d never seen before. Hummel figurines meant to go with a set. I put the angels in the Nativity scene. Now it was complete. The angels were a perfect match, and a heaven-sent gift from Mom and Dad.


(For more inspiring stories, please visit Guideposts)

Have a lovely Sabbath!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Friends and Visitors,

I am sure we are all busily preparing for our wonderful dinners for tomorrow. However, it is my prayer that we, with our families, will take a few moments between now and then to count our blessings and to express our thanks to the One from whom all blessings flow.

With that in mind, I share with you the following short video. Enjoy!

Have a blessed holiday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Awaiting the White

Hello, Friends and Visitors!

How are you this wonderful Tuesday before Thanksgiving? Are you busy preparing for the big cook off? Any chopping and fixing ahead of time? I sure am.

Guess what? Those of us here in the Intermountain West are expecting a blizzard here tonight. Yes, a blizzard! The winds are already picking up outside. By late afternoon, the temperature is suppose to plummet. Then, we will have blowing snow, zero visibility and life threatening conditions (I'm quoting the local weather report).

First, I have been praying that people will stay off the roads!

Second, what is a mother to do when her family is forced inside by a blizzard???.....Why, make hot chocolate, of course! While many people down at the local grocery store are scrambling to stock up on TP and basics (we already have those in our storage), we went down and bought everything we need to make ourselves homemade hot chocolate.

Here is a wonderful recipe I found on Allrecipes.com:

Creamy Hot Cocoa


1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half cream


Combine the cocoa, sugar and pinch of salt in a saucepan. Blend in the boiling water. Bring this mixture to an easy boil while you stir. Simmer and stir for about 2 minutes. Watch that it doesn't scorch. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of milk and heat until very hot, but do not boil! Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide between 4 mugs. Add the cream to the mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature.

Or...if you aren't up to making it for yourself, there are all sorts of gourmet ready mixes out there. My favorite is Stephens Gourmet.
So, if you are in line for our blizzard, or enjoying a milder clime, snuggle up with some wonderful hot chocolate and enjoy the day (or evening!).


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Menu Plan

We woke up to a foot of snow this Sunday and are expecting much more before it is all over right before Thanksgiving. We are being hit with three storms and the last one, which should be on Tuesday, is set to be a doozy! Blizzard conditions in some areas of the state are expected.

Soooooo....the question is, is anyone else as excited about the holidays as I am? I am thrilled. Thanksgiving is wonderful and Christmas is my favorite.

Unfortunately, my children have no grandparents' houses to visit for holiday meals. We are sort of the Lone Rangers, especially now that there is only one living grandparent and he's an adventurer living in Arizona, so we don't see him much. But we are as festive as we can be and try to spread cheer throughout our neighborhood, where we have lived for most of the 12 years we have been out here.

Today, for Menu Planning Monday, I'm only sharing what I plan to make for Thanksgiving.

Carmelized Brussel Sprouts with Lemon

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Simple Stuffin

The Perfect Turkey...I am using Martha Stewart's idea of brining the turkey for 24 hours before cooking HERE. Then, I will stuff a mixture of softened butter and chopped fresh sage (from my garden) under the breast skin. In the body cavity, I add salt, pepper and about 8 sprigs of fresh thyme (also from my garden!). Then, I will drape about 8 slices of raw bacon over the top of the breast, finishing off by basting with a mix of slightly watered down maple syrup. I will put it in the oven with a foil canopy.

That's my Thanksgiving Dinner plans, give or take a few h'or deuvres.

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

Have a great one!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Outdoor Wednesday, November 17, Saying Good-bye to Grandma's Neighborhood

While we were in California for the funeral and memorial service of my mother-in-law, my son and I took a long walk in her beautiful neighborhood in the Encino hills of Los Angeles. With Mother now gone, the house will be sold and so this was our chance have a last walk and take some pictures.

I've decided not to share the front of house for privacy, security reasons. However, below are some of Mother's roses.
I followed my son through the lush vegetation along the sidewalk.

What I love most about the neighborhood is all the lovely gardens.
My camera can't really do the flowers justice.
Mother lives up the street and over one from the Jackson compound (as in Michael Jackson). In fact, my younger sister-in-law went to school with Janet Jackson.
Here is one of my favorite houses...
It looks so cozy.
There are so many different types of roses in the neighborhood.
Aren't these lovely?
Another handsome home.

The view from Mom and Dad's back deck is very lovely.
Here are my two nieces and a nephew-in-law following the memorial service.
A look over into the backyard of Mother's next door neighbor.

I hope you have enjoyed a look at this Encino neighborhood. It is full of memories for all of us, but especially my sweet sister-in-law, who grew up here. We'd all love to keep the house, but it isn't practical. So, I'm glad my family had a chance to enjoy it all again..and to remember...

For more Outdoor Wednesday, please visit A Southern Daydreamer.

Have a great one!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Passing of a Great Lady, Jessma Hazel Gibson 1927-2010

Dear Friends and Visitors,

I have been absent from the blogging world for several weeks since the passing of my mother-in-law. Feelings have been tender in our home and I just haven't had the heart to blog.

Today, I'd like to share the thoughts of my beautiful niece, Emily, who wrote about her grandmother on her blog, Leaves of Our Lives.

And this is what I know . . . I know that she is comfortable and that for the last little while the pain was so great that her body was really just a shell . . . but part of me still can let go all the way. Her passing is the last part of the memories that were part of my world when I lived in California. I will never visit her perfectly manicured home again with all the treasures that I wanted to examine as a child, or smell the eucalyptusy air that can only be captured inside. I will not have reason to drive into the ivy covered hills of Encino that felt so far away from the busy city below.

I will not swim in her pool and have soda in styrofoam cups with two ice cubes, and the best ham sandwiches in the world. I will not have stale-ish cookies from the vintage bear jar, hard old time Christmas candies from the crystal ornate dish, or Dreyer's ice cream in one of her fluted ice cream bowls. I will not sit on her vintage plush orange couch and treasure the texture of the pillows. I will not take off my shoes and feel the familiar smooth green tiles in the hallway or pass the lava rocks. I will not sleep in the guest bedroom with the seventies television and exercise bike, or use the hall bathroom with the red lighting, and pass through into Pamela's room that has been preserved from her childhood and admire the bears, the prom crown, and the recessed chaise built into the wall.

I will never swim in her pool with my brothers, sisters, and cousins again, or walk across the splintery deck where I could look out into the vast city of Los Angeles. I will never take walks through the rose garden, or pass the lemon trees where I used to have grand notions of princessdom as a child due to the imagination provoking setting. I will never wonder at the magic of the self playing piano or the pretty perfume bottles in the bathrooms. I will never play with the little people schoolhouse, the life game, or Kanasta on the shag carpet. I will never see her again in her chic headwrap scarf, high waisted slacks, and demure blouse. I will never see her lovely handwriting in a card containing a check with $75 and her signature ending of "God Bless". I will never attend a fancy dinner party with perfectly dressed holiday tables, dressy clothes, and fantastically wrapped presents. I will never receive clothing gifted that I didn't have the taste to appreciate until now. I will never hear her lovely southern accent or see her beautiful smile adorned with bright red lipstick. I will never visit the only place in California that still feels like home.

And yet . . . I'll never again hear the pain in her voice or her lack of air when we speak on the phone. I'll never have to hear that she is in the hospital again because of her lungs or terrible back. I'll never visit again and watch her sit uncomfortably and struggle for breath, or strain to embrace. I'll never feel sad that she is lonely and struggling to maintain the life she had with Grandpa.

I know she is in a better place. I know she is happy. I know she is comfortable and youthful.

. . . and still. I will miss her more. I will miss her more because with her passing, their legacy is over and the memories will only be preserved in photos and on paper . . . and in a grassy expanse with stones engraved with names and dates of so many that are gone. It's sad to me.

Emily's words perfectly describe how we all feel.

I will miss the sheer force of my mother-in-law's personality. She wasn't a quitter, no matter how bad life became. She would soldier on in the face of any adversity. She was/is so many things that I struggle to be. She was/is one of the last of a dying breed of woman - a very great Lady.

God bless and keep you, Mom. You are dearly loved and missed. Watch over us, your family, with the same tenacity you showed in this life when faced with every challenge. Help us along the path until we cross over to embrace you and Dad again in the Great Beyond.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blogging Hiatus Due to Passing of a Loved One

Friends and Visitors!

I just got my computer back after a long stay with the Geek Squad and would normally be blogging and visiting blogs like crazy. However, my beautiful, sweet Mother-in-Law has just passed away and my little family is preparing to go to California for the interment and memorial service. We will be returning Monday night.

Please check back here one week from today, as I will begin blogging with a vengeance from then on. I will also be visiting again.

God bless,