Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - My gift to you


I am a Christmas person.  I tend to get over the moon excited about the Holiday which celebrates the birth of our Savior.  I believe God loves it when we take a day to Feast in His honor.  What a precious gift it is as we indulge in the fatted calf.  Or in our case the fatted and smoked pig.  Unless you are vegan, of course.  Then you can indulge in the fatted kale.

My goal, when my children were young, was to make the Season as magical as possible (Narnia magic, of course) while always remembering the Season can sparkle only because of the Hope of the Redeemer.

Christmas is here but Good Friday is just around the corner.  And Easter.  And the Resurrection.  How can we not celebrate?

However, there were some years when the Holiday was looked upon as something to just survive.  A blip on the radar screen of life.  One in which I would do the best I could to enjoy His birth but was so painful (for one reason or another) that I could only have joy by clinging to the Hope of that Day when He makes all things perfect.

This Christmas has been one full of joy.  As I have mentioned before, partly because I have settled in to the new normal, partly because I have chosen ways to bring joy into the home, and added to all of this were gifts from a couple of friends who made it possible for me to make it easier financially.

All gifts from God.

Oh, and I do have to make an aside here in this the waxing poetic about the Season to thank someone.  And then I'll give you my gift.  I must thank a very precious cow.  You heard it correctly.  I thank Saltina for her very welcome gift.  She is truly a generous bovine.  I send out a heartfelt... "Merry Moo".  ;)

Now my gift to you for this Season.  A gift to indulge in when you have a little extra time.  A much needed respite for those who find this particular Christmas hard to celebrate.  For a couple years ago it was such a depressing time for me, I had difficulty remembering when Christmas was its' usual joy to my soul.  So what did I do to cheer myself up?

I pulled on my literary boots, swung a fictional scarf around my neck, and ventured into the Christmas archives of one of my favorite writers.  I give you a Seasonal basket full of my very favorite Lanier Advent posts from Christmas Past.  (I don't think they are in chronological order.)

Keeping Christmas

Sweet Delights

The Holly Bears a Berry

Day of days

The Light Shineth in the Darkness

When They Ring the Golden Bells

All Anticipation

Lo, how a Rose*
Enjoy, my friends!

*Lo, how a Rose is just part of an article Lanier wrote about an extremely difficult year.  It can be read in its' entirety... here

Image:  Season of Peace

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Last minute gifts!

Tea lights and washi tape, inexpensive and appreciated!
This is the most "off the top of my head" post I think I have ever written.  But I had to squeeze it in between running errands and buying the Christmas ham!  As I told my daughter, anyone who decides to go to a store the Saturday before Christmas should have their head examined!  So, sorry if it is a little... or a lot... jumbled. ;)

Most of my Christmas gifts for people have been either prepared partially (as in cookie dough) and frozen or baked and frozen.  A couple of items are best prepared at the last minute, those like the Reindeer Chow I plan to add to a couple gifts baskets (a Pinterest idea I saw, simply Puppy Chow with Christmas M & Ms added).

Gosh am I glad I got an early start this year.  Doesn't it seem it was just Thanksgiving and now here we are the weekend before Christmas?

My Christmas treat to myself this year was a bottle of Mrs. Meyer's dish soap purchased at the health food store on Senior Citizen discount day.  I was hoping they had the lovely cranberry fragrance I've heard so much about but I had to "settle" on their geranium scent.  Which is Springtime in a bottle.  :)

But it got me thinking about today's Pantry post and ideas for gift giving one might not have thought of.  For if you do not know what it is like to be on such a tight budget that Mrs. Meyer's dish soap is a luxury, you would most likely not think of it as a nice gift for a friend!

Although, one must be considerate when it comes to such products.  I'd give my daughter any item from the Mrs. Meyer's line of products but I don't think I would gift my daughter-in-law with their cleaning supplies.  As a young wife, she may think it is a comment on her cleaning skills, hehehe.

But think about those items you love but you know a friend would not purchase for herself (or himself).  Those things which are not all that expensive but not in their budget.  Items like liquid hand soap in a wonderful scent or a lovely rich bath soap.

Cooks on a budget would love a small bottle of very good olive oil, or a good sherry vinegar, or a good sea salt, or dried Hatch peppers if they like a Southwestern flavor.  You know, those things that foodies love but may not buy for themselves.  My husband and I were gifted with really good pecans recently.  They were like gold... we carefully divided them into his half for munching and my half for baking.

Just think a little bit and I am certain you can come up with an idea that is "out of the box".

One of my friends has told me she wished her children would give her a subscription to her favorite magazine.  It would be far cheaper than items she didn't want or need and each month she would think of them. A wonderful gift!

Of course, with some magazines these days just purchasing the latest issue and slipping it into a gift bag is all that is needed to bring a smile.  I adore the Stampington & Company magazines (Artful Blogger, Where Women Cook, Where Women Create, etc.) but they all begin at around $15.00 an issue.  There are a variety of cooking, design, crafting magazines that fall into this category.

They really are soft covered books if you think of it that way.  And if one should add a tin of tea or a package of Starbucks instant VIA coffee (which is actually quite good, I keep a couple packages in the pantry for emergencies), it would be a celebration in a box.

Do you see where I am going with this?  Use your imagination and you will come up with your own ideas because you usually know the individuals you are buying for.   You probably know their likes and dislikes and hobbies and such.

I'm a person who loves gift cards and I know many who are the same.  So if you can't think of anything for most men, a gift card for Sears Craftsmen tools would probably be welcome.  Or a place like Menard's.  My husband can get lost in Menard's.  He has also hinted to our son that gift cards to the local car wash would be absolutely wonderful.

Last year my son's gift to his dad was a "coupon" for tickets to a future football game at the University.  Since it was given in December, it was not fulfilled until the following football season but just as appreciated.  I think the team actually won that time.

If you know the gift recipient well and they still say they want nothing but you know they need everything (you know the type), then there are creative ways to give a gift.  I don't follow into that category for God has taught me to be a good receiver through the years (I would rather have been taught to be a good giver but that is another story).

But if you have a friend or relative that has a water softener (and in our area you had better have one), then find out what kind of softener salt they use and buy a few bags.  This would be especially helpful for an elderly relative!

Do they have a dog or a cat?  Find out what kind of food or kibble the animal uses (for they do tend to like a particular kind and stick with it) and then make the gift to the animal and not the person!  Better yet... from your dog to their dog, or your cat to their cat, etc.  It is a way to help the person on a tight budget in a loving and "not in their face" manner.

Fruit baskets make wonderful gifts for families on an extremely tight budget because they probably are not getting enough fresh fruit.  But not the fancy smancy fruit that has been cut and shaped and some dipped in chocolate.  It looks lovely and it would be temporarily good but it is just that... it must all be eaten right away since it is cut.  Leave that gift for the gourmet.

Last year my son was thrilled with his gifts... a battery operated camping lantern, a good flashlight for home, and a flashlight for his car.  I got the idea earlier that year when Hubby said he needed a flashlight at their place and they didn't have even one in the house.  Even a good flashlight can be inexpensive and a camping lantern can be an emergency light at home and a lantern for umm... camping.  Those with LED lights are best and are now quite affordable.

So if you do nothing else but purchase a small bottle of great olive oil or a bottle of Mrs. Meyers great dish soap for a friend on a tight budget, it would be a very good thing.  Just think... what is a luxury item that doesn't cost much but you know your friend or family member on a budget cannot buy for themselves?  Hmmm...

Come on, use your imagination.  Movie tickets and a bag of caramel popcorn?  Your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and all the ingredients (that happened to me recently when a friend sent me baking ingredients, including butter, in the mail It was just what I needed at the time!).   A garden magazine and gardening gloves (pretty much still available at many stores).  A little car emergency kit put together for your child.  Cute bandages for the kid's stockings?

There are a lot of last minute gifts available if we stop and think and it is not out of the question to ask God for His wisdom.  ;)

Bread and Wine book, Kindle sale!


I'll be back later today with a Saturday post but I wanted to let you know one of my all time favorite books, Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist is currently on sale for the Kindle at a great $1.99 price.  Amazon link... here.*

When I wrote out the ten most influential nonfiction books (a list I need to find again), this book made the list.  It reinforced the way I thought about food and gathering around the table and hospitality and life in general.  I have read it through a couple times and perused sections of it quite often.

Remember, such deals last a very short time.  I'm hoping it stays this weekend!

*Associate's Link

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My World this Week

The big red mixer is back where she used to be all the time!
How is your Christmas season going?  Have you taken the time to do what makes your heart sing?  I must admit that this past week has been one of more busy-ness than heart singing.  But by baking ahead for the freezer, it opens the way for Christmas week to be stress free as food baskets are assembled for friends and neighbors.

And it is not a bad thing to be in one's cozy kitchen with the oven making it warm, Christmas music on the CD player, and vanilla dabbed behind the ears as our grandmother's once did.

I took a morning away from the kitchen for a lovely "breakfast out" with my friend, Linda.  That was my Christmas gift to her and when we left the restaurant, we stopped by a favorite store that sells primitive country items to take in the atmosphere there (trying not to covet everything!) and then made a trip to Barnes & Noble to peruse British decorating magazines.  A really nice Christmas celebration that didn't cost much and will provide good memories in the coming year.

So... here is what has been going on in my work this past week when I remembered to take photos!

Reading

I purchased Elizabeth Goudge's A Christmas Book* for just a few dollars last year (or was it the year before?).  I have a few hard-to-find and expensive titles on my Wish List.  When I have credit available, I go through them to see if there are any cheap additions available.  This one is a library discard so it was inexpensive but just fine for one who collects on a budget!

The other two books I am reading through... Come Thou Long Expected Jesus* which is my favorite Advent devotional and Winter Song* by Madeleine L'Engle and Luci Shaw.  Beautiful all year but especially during the Christmas Season.

Tea Time

You may remember last year's thrifting find, the beautiful Old Country Roses Christmas teapot for $2.99 at Goodwill!  That was amazing.  The stoneware cup... part of a Christmas set of dishes I bought cheap at Meijers long ago.  I use the set all year because it makes me smile.

I took this photo while waiting for the tea to steep inside that lovely teapot.  I was using the last of the whole leaf green tea blend Stephanie bought me for my birthday.  It was delicious.  The "sweet" was half of the tiny chocolate bar from Aldi's.

The vintage hankie was brought out to make it all look pretty.  I don't do it everyday but a few times a week I like a proper pot of tea instead of just a teabag in a pretty cup.  Emphasis on pretty.  Life is too short for drab.

Thrifting

I found this Christmas artwork (an original painting) for $1.99 at the Salvation Army store this year!  It adds so much color to that part of the Living Room.


The Christmas tree in the stoneware stays out all year, usually residing on the floor next to the TV stand.  I love primitives.
Pretty

I had just finished washing a stack of Christmas trays when I thought putting these three together in one place might be cute.  It is...

Decorating

Her Fluffiness

I didn't take any photos of Victoria last week so I thought I'd share this one again.  A favorite from the past!  Linda asked for permission to get prints made from this photo to use for cards.  Love those tippy toe paws!

*Amazon Associate Link, I receive a tiny portion of what is purchased and it cost you nothing more than clicking on the link.  ;)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nature Girl: a guide to caring for God's creation, a review


I was intrigued by this little book as I have a granddaughter who shares my love of nature and it is very difficult to find good books about nature, organic food, conservation, recycling, and ecology from a Christian perspective.

The authors, Karen Whiting and Rebecca White, have assembled a wonderful book full of information and ideas for young girls (and I may add, entire families) who want to study nature in its' many forms.

Within the book are science experiments, games, and crafts, along with information for the reader in each section.  It would be an excellent book for homeschoolers to draw activities from for their nature studies.

The chapter headings are:
  • Be You and Be Beautiful
  • You Are What You Eat
  • Be an Earth BFF
  • Caring for God's Critters
  • Wet and Wonderful Water
  • Let's Clear the Air
  • Power Up!
  • Real Girls Reuse and Recycle
  • Party at the Park
  • Sprouting a Green 'Tude
This is not a big book and it contains no photos.  But it is packed with a lot of information and activities.  I highly recommend it!  It would make an inexpensive addition to your family library.  It is available in paperback and for the Kindle.

For further information about the book at Amazon, click here.*

This book was given to me by the publisher for the purpose of review but the opinion is my own.

*Amazon Associate link

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Take Heaven, Take Peace, Take Joy


I salute You!  There is nothing I can give you which you have not;
but there is much, that, while I cannot give, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.
Take Peace.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. 
Take Joy.
And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you,
now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.
Fra Giovanni
A.D. 1513

I was asked a question by my husband this past week.  He was wondering why certain circumstances in our life were not bothering me as they did him.  I thought for a moment and told him, "It's because I have put boundaries on my disappointments".

He looked startled, it was not what he expected to hear.  And to be honest, as the poster child for the melancholic temperament... he most likely wonders why someone would do such a thing.

Perhaps that is why this Advent Season has been more joyful than those in the past few years.  Either I have become comfortable with the new normal or by placing boundaries on those disappointments of life, it has enabled God to fill my heart with joy.  Most likely a combination of both.

I have long enjoyed the above quote by Fra Giovanni*.  It appeared in my Advent reading again this week as well as in Tasha Tudor's beautiful DVD Take Peace, which I watched a couple of times again this Season.  It inspires that part of my soul that loves all things lovely.  But back to the quote.

For me, the advice given so beautifully reflects what God has been teaching me in that still small Voice. Long ago He showed me how... should I have nothing else to give Him... I can lay my attitude at His altar.  That choice between bitterness and defeat or choosing to thank Him for what good things He has given.  The trust that God will work all things together for my good and His glory.

But Fra Giovanni's message takes all a step further as we are reminded it is up to us what we do with the given circumstances, how we choose to accept them that can make all the difference.  And as for me... I take Heaven, I take Peace, I take Joy.

There is something about God's design on the human soul which I find quite remarkable.  That is quite often... not always but often... we can change our emotions by choices we make.  

For instance, I can be quite gloomy but if I choose to put some lovely Christmas music in the CD player, I may feel better.  Music alone cannot by any means change circumstances but it has a power within to encourage my soul's thoughts from dark to light.  It helps us to take Joy.

Last year I was having conflict with people I love.  They had quite unintentionally hurt me deeply.  When talking to my daughter about the situation, she reminded me that I could choose to remain hurt or offer them forgiveness.  The way that situation would turn out was up to me.  I chose forgiveness and it changed everything.  I took Peace.

Many years ago I was a teenager crushed by life's circumstances.  An acquaintance I went to school with invited me to a revival meeting at her church.  I learned later that they were told to ask the least likely person they thought would say yes.  She chose me.  I said yes.  And at that church, I found Jesus.  I took Heaven.

The world becomes darker each year it seems.  More of the ways of the enemy and less the ways of the Lord.  A couple TV stations have been playing the Christmas episodes of shows from the 50s and 60s.  It is with nostalgia that I have watched a few, for the episodes... even the comedies... show the Christmas seasons of old as much more Christ glorifying.

But that is where your choices come in, and my choices, and what we do with each December.  

Do we go with the flow of the Culture and ignore Him?

Do we give into our circumstances when they are less than perfect and stomp our feet and cry into our pillow and tell Him if that is the what you are allowing in my life... forget Christmas this year!

Or...  do we accept the knowledge that we are not living in Heaven, yet.  Neither are we living in the New Earth in all its' Glory.  No... we are but pilgrims and sojourners walking on this most fallen of planets.

But we can be a reflection of Heaven and its' Glory to all around us.  While our faces may not shine as did Moses when he returned from the mountain, we can reflect at least a little of His Joy, His Love, His Compassion, His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness... His willingness to be obedient to the Father.

The battle may rage in this world.  But He really does win.  Whatever is going on in your life at the moment, He is at work in your situation.  You have not been forgotten.  Hold on.  Christmas is here but Easter is coming. 

My prayer this Season is that you, too, my friends will Take Heaven, Take Peace, and Take Joy.  And then lay them at His feet as an offering of thankfulness for what He has done in the past, the mercies He is showing in the present, and the hope that remains in the years to come.

*The entire letter from which this quote is excerpted can be read here.

Image:  Winter Scene

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Some favorite Christmas recipes

Photo from Country Woman magazine
This next week, I will be doing most of my Christmas baking and candy making. I like to put together a basket or cute gift bag of a variety of goodies when I give them as a gift.

Instead of combining baked goods with "gifts in a jar" this year, I am giving a few items that require baking or preparing somewhat in the last few days before the gift giving.  But most can be made ahead.  I can bake the mini loaves of cranberry orange and pumpkin chocolate chip bread ahead of time and pull out of the freezer shortly before assembling the basket (the mini loaves of cranberry orange bread are already in the freezer).

However, beginning this weekend, I'm making the shortbread dough for the freezer to save time during Christmas week.  It needs to be prepared one batch at a time since it will be baked in a mold but that is very easy.  Each batch goes together quickly and can be made one after the other in the Kitchen Aid mixer.  I will freeze each batch separately and then a day or two before assembling the basket, I will bake them (defrosting the dough in the frig overnight).

Last year I baked a few of the batches in the Christmas mold but a couple batches were simply rolled out and cut with a round cookie cutter.  I sprinkled them with course sugar before baking and they were a big it.  This is a way to stretch the shortbread to feed more people since they are thinner cookies and make more.  The cookies baked in the mold are much thicker.

The two "maybes" on the list include the Christmas Jam recipe (photo from Country Woman as I have forgotten to take a photo before) and madeleines.  I've collected madeleine pans through the years (I think I have one for regular size cookies and two for miniatures... or is it the other way around?).  We'll see if there is enough time for those to be added, although it would be lovely.

Below are links to some of my favorite Christmas recipes and then my favorite shortbread recipe (with a variation) is included here.  It needs to be added to the recipe blog.  ;)

Christmas Jam... here.
Candied Cranberries... here.
Cranberry Bread and Pumpkin Bread... here.
Rachel Ray's Fudge... here.
Beverly Nye's Candy... here.

Cookies made from my mold last year.

Lemon Shortbread
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 cup flour (unsifted)

Cream the butter until it is light.  Mix in the powdered sugar and the grated lemon peel.  Slowly work in the flour.  Knead the dough on unfloured board until nice and smooth.

If baking in a mold, spray the mold lightly with a veggie oil spray.  Press the dough into the shortbread pan firmly.  Prick the entire surface with a fork, and bake the shortbread right in the pan at 325 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until just lightly browned.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before loosening the edges with a knife and flip the pan over carefully.  Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm (or as I plan to do this year, leave it intact for the design and let the recipients just break off pieces of the cookie later).

Shortbread cookies can also be made by rolling out the dough, cutting with a small cookie cutter, and baking at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Another version of shortbread can be made with the following ingredients, baking as per instructions above:

Classic Shortbread
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour (unsifted)

Both versions of shortbread are recipes from Brown Bag Cookie Art and came with the shortbread mold.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature, a review


The idea for this book is truly inspired.  Choosing rooms that are similar to those described by works of great literature.  I must admit, it intrigued me to see what the author would come up with.

I found this book a delightful read.  An excellent coffee table book that would create conversation if left out for guests to peruse.  But also containing enough decorating advice that one would enjoy picking it up on a snowy evening while sipping hot chocolate and losing oneself in the photos.

Imagine rooms inspire by L. M. Montgomery, or Elizabeth Gaskell, or Jane Austen, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Willa Cather... to name only a few authors of novels who inspired the rooms showcased in this book.

The title of the Introduction explains the contents a little bit more, "We Don't Just Read a Great Story, We Inhabit It".  The various section headings are as follows:
  • Shall I Put the Kettle On?  (British books, of course)
  • Remembrance of Things Past
  • Living au Naturel
  • Oh, the Glamour of It All
  • Anything Goes
  • Sometimes a Fantasy
I doubt few would use this book as a pure decorating source, rather it provides a look at what rooms describe in favorite novels would look like as shown in real life homes today.  Although it would also provide inspiration that one can pick and choose from the pages to try at home.

Now I do have one caveat about this book.  You most likely will look at some of the rooms representing a favorite novel and think it in no way is what you thought the home would look like.  For one of the joys of reading is to create our own backdrop mentally of what we think people, rooms, towns, etc. appear in our visualization. 

But the author creates rooms from the descriptions within the pages of the book, how she sees them represented.  Which may not completely agree with your ideas but are still authentic to the period.  I found it amusing that some of the rooms I definitely did not find attractive are associated with novels I didn't care for either.  Hmmm...

If you are looking for a unique Christmas gift this year for the Bibliophile in your life, this would be it.  I came away with not only an appreciation of the beautiful photography but a desire to read books listed within the pages I hadn't thought of adding to my list.

Further information about Novel Interiors at Amazon can be found... here.* 

This book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review but the opinion is my own.

*Amazon Associate Link

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

My World this Week


After the past ten days whirlwind of activities, it is good to share another My World this Week blog post. I need long stretches of time to ponder and I must admit, re-entering the world of the fast lane made my head spin.  I must shake my head and wonder that I used to live that way each and every day of the year.  Amazing...

I decorated a lot this year, even the front porch is spruced up with lots of red and green.  It just felt right this Season to fully embrace all it has to offer.  Now, when all of it must be repacked to return to its' home on the shelves in the garage come January, I may think just the tree would have sufficed.

This is what has been happening in my world for ummm... more than a week... as seen through the lens of my camera.

Reading

I was so busy, I needed to reread something encouraging and this book is a favorite, I think this was my third re-read.  I kept it up on the Kindle to read off and on when I had an opportunity.

More info on Amazon... here.*  I noticed the Kindle version is discounted!  Since I reread it, one of my prayers has been for pixie dust each day.  ;)

Thrifting
Purchased last summer for a couple dollars, came out for the Thanksgiving table.  It is a small-ish vintage platter, perfect for the presentation of carved turkey.

The Study
The stand with the plant had to temporarily come in here... it may be permanent!

Decorating
You should see this at night with the reflection of the tree against the hurricane lamps.


Old Friends
Cross stitched when Stephanie was a baby.

Starbucks Christmas cup, need I say more?

He makes me quite happy.

From my very small vintage collection.

Made when Christopher was a baby.

Her Fluffiness
 
She is such the little helper! 

*Amazon Associate link

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sunday Afternooon Tea - Why I Celebrate Christmas

This is a repeat of a Christmas post from a couple of years ago but it is dear to my heart... so I share it once again.

Someone had mentioned in a comment about a person who does not celebrate during the Holidays due to the pagan beginnings of the DAY chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ.  I have known people with whom I agreed on most areas of theology but in this area, we had to agree to disagree.

I celebrated wholeheartedly... they did not.

Now, I admit to finding Church history fascinating so I hope I don't bore you with some details.  We know the most probable reason for choosing the time of year we celebrate the birth of Christ was for it to coincide with the Winter Solstice celebrations already in place.

No one knew exactly the date of Christ's birth but most historians believe it was in the Spring since the shepherds were watching over their sheep.   There are some who think it may have been in the fall.

The date was not chosen for it to be part of a pagan celebration, it was really chosen as a matter of convenience... and even then the date was intermingled with other Church feasts and celebrations such as Epiphany.

The point is, the original season and date has nothing to do about honoring the birth of Christ.  It's much like my calling Easter, well... Easter.  I have friends who will only call it Resurrection Day because the name Easter was associated with something more pagan.  I respect them and thus, their theology.

But Easter was never pagan in my little part of the world!  The most pagan my celebration of Easter becomes is when I color some eggs (the sign of new life among pagans... and farmers) and pretend the Easter bunny brought candy (believe me, my children knew it was Mother).

I know as Christians we have a range of ideas about the elephant in the room called Santa.  I just tend to love a little fantasy here and there, a little pretend, a lot of sparkle.  We never did the Santa thing but Mother was known to tell kids Santa just may stop by to fill stockings (wink, wink).  I mean, really... with a wink and a nod to "let's have a little fun here and use our imagination".

In no way was Santa ever given credit for buying and wrapping gifts.  I was too selfish cheap frugal to give anyone else the credit for that other than parents, grandparents, friends, etc.!  I was even careful when my children were small not to decorate so Santa would be the center of attention.

Although come to think of it, they may have thought I worshiped snowmen in the bleak midwinter... but that is another source of pondering.  ;)

By the way, do you know the true story of Saint Nicholas?  I know it can be difficult to cut through what is truth and legend but still his story is wonderful and well worth reading this time of year.

Okay, then we get to the whole Christmas tree has pagan roots, etc.  If you are a Druid then... yes... when you put up that Christmas tree each year you definitely are worshiping your Druid god.

But the closest I ever get to becoming a Druid is singing along with the John Denver on the itty bitty iPod while walking through the forest.  I can definitely understand how one who does not know the One True God would try to create one in such Beauty.

However, did you know St. Bonifice used the evergreen tree to teach about the trinity (triangle... tree... get it?).    Did you know that Martin Luther brought a tree in his house and lit candles on it at Christmas to represent how the stars lit up the dark night?

I love how a person described it on a show about Christmas traditions and using trees (and other greenery) in decorating our homes for the Season.  He said pagans may have used these items to worship the sun but in our homes, we worship the Son.

If you read the New Testament, especially the writings of St. Paul, he is brought up with these same situations many times.  Not with Christmas, of course, but in the conflicts between what is under the Law and what is under the new Grace brought about by Christ.

His answer is often this, do what you believe you are free to do while not causing a brother (who does not have such freedom) to stumble.  For me in the 21st Century, this means celebrating Christmas and Easter and any other Holiday my way but giving you the grace to celebrate (or in this case, not celebrate) in your way.

The only times there would be real concern is when the one who does or does not celebrate thinks they are "holier than thou" and the peace of the Season is destroyed by one who feels their way is the only way.  (How many times have Christians won an argument only to lose another for the Kingdom of Christ, it has to make God weep.)

To be honest, I don't know how any Holiday in which one is pointed toward the Savior for weeks and weeks can be a bad thing.  How can a Season when one turns on the car radio and hears Silent Night or Oh, Come All Ye Faithful be against our Lord? That is why those who hate the Christian religion hate Christmas and have tried for years to legislate it out of existence in the Public Square.

My friend, Linda, has heard me wax poetic about legalism most likely more than she cares.  But I saw what it did to my mother and thus to my siblings from her first marriage.  Legalism rarely (if ever) draws one to the Cross.  Instead it acts as the opposite side of the magnet and pushes them away from Truth... leading one toward the darkness and away from the true Light.

Our God is a source of all joy!  "Every good and perfect gift is from above... (James 1:17).  When everything around us is pointing to the Savior... it is a perfect gift.

So, why would God allow the church to celebrate in the bleak Midwinter?  I don't know, perhaps He knew this world... in its' darkness... would "need a little Christmas, right this very minute" throughout the centuries.

Think of all the celebrations, the Feasts, the Days of Remembrance among the Jewish people.   If anything, God certainly understands Holidays that are meant for remembering.  They were His idea... the very God who was delighted when King David danced.


If Christ's birth was in the Spring, He has given us another celebration during that time, you know.  It is a celebration of an event that happened during Passover two centuries ago, and whether you call it Easter or Resurrection Day, we are to...
Celebrate!!!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Pantry Lifestyle - When You Have Nothing to Give

This post is from a few years ago but I had a lot of comments and e-mails from readers who said it sparked their imagination for gift giving on a very limited budget.  Mine is even more limited now since we have to pay insurance premiums.

In our materialistic society, we most often think we have to make a purchase to give or the gift is will not be appreciated. Actually, I have found that not to be true in most cases. Yes, there are those around who may not appreciate fresh baked cookies but let's be honest... do you want those people as friends? So they are family and you are stuck with them... pray for their materialism and offer them a cookie, anyway. They may learn someday.

Here are some ways I've learned to be a giver, even with a very limited income...

When I do have "extra" cash, I stock the pantry (shelves, frig, deep freeze) with simple items which... when mixed together... create magic (Narnia magic). Isn't it absolutely remarkable the number of recipes which can be made from: eggs, butter, milk or cream, various sugars, flour, flavor extracts, nuts, dried fruit, yeast, etc.?

Throughout the year I'm always looking for inexpensive containers, suitable for giving gifts of baked goods. For instance, last year I hit a clearance sale at Wal Mart and purchased a couple dozen pretty red trays for a dime each. I gave many of them to Stephanie as a gift since she often takes baked goods to people.

When I can get a good deal on fresh fruits, I like to "can" jellies and jams. People love these.

A blog friend sent me honey and homemade soap from her farm... LOVED it!

Other gifts I give with little or no money:

Books from the book sales or purchased with Amazon credit.
Items purchased at garage sales and while thrifting that I know people would love.
A pretty mug or teacup from my own collection with a box of favorite tea or hot chocolate.
A basket filled with a favorite snack (like puppy chow... yum) made "from scratch".

I used to make teddy bears, angels, small quilts, and other sewn items.
My first gift to my husband (before he was my husband) was a crocheted scarf... which he still has. :)
I've given a gift of recipe cards written with favorite family recipes.
My daughter received a "cookbook" from our good friend for a wedding gift that she had written with their favorite recipes... all printed from her computer.

Stuff to do as gifts

Offer to babysit the kiddies.
Sit with an elderly or ill person so their caregiver can get relief.
Read to someone who can't read for themselves... young or old.
Offer to scrub a floor or paint a room.
Trim bushes and trees for someone who can no longer get around easily.

Put up a Christmas tree for a friend who is not handy about such things.
Share extra decorations with a friend who has none.
Hang the Christmas lights for the elderly neighbor who can no longer hang them.

Write letters to people who would love to hear from you.
Send a pretty card to an elderly relative or friend.
Give forgiveness to someone who needs to hear those words.

Listen to a teenager, really listen.
Ask an elderly relative to share family history and write it down.
Collect family recipes and type them into the computer... give copies to loved ones.

Encourage your children to draw pictures for Grandma and Grandpa... and send them.

If you have a green thumb, take starts from your flowers (in season) and start them in your home, give to a neighbor or family member when they are ready.

Yes, it takes creative thinking but you can give... even if it a prayer.