Category Archives: Christmas

Lights and Dust

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This morning I was able to get up before the rest of my family for some rare time to myself.  I made coffee, I cleaned up some dishes left soaking from the night before, and I spent some time with the Lord.  Then I decided to open the blinds to let the sun shine in and sit down to quietly play some Christmas carols on the piano.

As I sat down, I noticed dust on the top of the piano.  Dust!???  I had recently dusted.  I had checked the house over before we hosted a gathering the night before and I had not seen dust.  Where had the dust come from?  The dust had been there but now  the light was shining in.

God then reminded me that He shines light in the darkness and reveals our sins and weaknesses.  Those sins and weaknesses are there, within us.  Many times we live life, day to day, without ever acknowledging them or even realizing how they are hurting us.  Then God sends the light to reveal what the darkness has hidden.

Acts 26:18

to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’
I was reminded how we have to daily open the blinds and  then dust.  I have to daily take time with the Lord to ask him to reveal what is keeping me from knowing Him better.  Then I have to ask forgiveness and change my behavior.
I am so thankful for The Light.  This time of year the entire world loves looking at lights…..Christmas lights on trees and those decorating yards.  I pray that as you take in the seasonal lights that you remember The Light that we are actually celebrating.  God sent his son, The Light, as a baby to deliver us from our darkness of sin that separates us from Him.

Isaiah 9:2

The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.
So get out the dust rag and get rid of the dust that the light reveals.
Let the light reveal the dust and then get rid of the dust!

Let the light reveal the dust and then get rid of the dust!

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Pondering Christmas

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“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  Luke 2:19

My Mom has always loved that verse that comes from the book of Luke in the Bible in the passages that share about the birth of Christ.  The verse has become a favorite of mine too.  I think any mother can relate to Mary here.  I think it is important that we see that Mary didn’t worry that her house wasn’t perfect for company (heck, she wasn’t even in a house but a stinky stable!…well I’m inferring it was stinky but ya get the idea).  Mary wasn’t obsessed over the fact she didn’t have anything to serve her guests.  Nor does she seem bothered that her son is lying in a manger rather than on a soft bed over at the inn.

She simply takes in the scene and ponders on it.  Actually she doesn’t just take it in but she “treasures up” everything going on.

She lived the life God had placed before her, embracing every step of the way.

What an example for us.  I’m pretty sure God allowed that verse to be a part of the Luke passage on Christ’s birth story to help Moms.  Sometimes we get so busy doing, creating, entertaining, etc that we don’t simply enjoy the life God has given us.

Was Mary’s life easy?  I don’t think so.  She was pregnant, not married, traveling right at the time she was due.  She had no real place to rest and strangers were coming to visit the same night she gave birth.

This Christmas I have determined to enjoy—to not get rushed and hurried and not to think something had to be done.  Rather I want to focus on the real reason for the season.  I want to help my family enjoy the holiday and not get caught in the Christmas-Crazies.

The last few years have brought unexpected change to our household; but one of the pleasant impacts of the change was it allowing me to realize the need to treasure and ponder.

I pray that you will take the time this holiday to stop, reflect and treasure up all that God has given you….even in the stinky stables of life He has blessed us with so much.

The Stable_mary ponders

 

Party Punch—easy, easy, easy!

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I recently needed an easy party punch as it was going to be too warm for cider at a holiday party.  I searched the internet up and down for a non-alcoholic and non-red punch.

That is a difficult combination—especially when you want it to also be easy and tasty.

However, I succeeded!  I found this recipe on Allrecipes.com.  I love that it takes two ingredients so you can make more as needed.  I chilled the ingredients overnight in the refrigerator and mixed the first batch up just before the party.  Then when the punch bowl ran low, I just quickly mixed up the second round!  I would suggest having these two ingredients on hand along with your “throw-down” cookies from Trader Joe’s on hand through the holidays for those impromptu parties!

Easy Party Punch

  • 1 2-liter bottle of grapefruit soda, chilled (yes, they actually make this and I bought the 86¢ Wal-Mart brand soda!)
  • 1 64 fluid ounce bottle of White Grape Juice, chilled (I didn’t skimp on the juice though and bought name brand)

Mix the two together and serve.

I mixed in a one gallon pitcher and then poured it into the nicer pitcher that we used at the function.

Enjoy!

 

 

Christmas is Coming!

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I can’t believe that Christmas is almost here!  My girls are excited to see that the gifts under the tree keep growing as I begin to wrap the items that were shipped here from family members many miles away.  The girls are fun to watch as they shake each gift and try to figure out what it is.  I am feeling more calm this Christmas than in the years past.  I think it is because this is the first Christmas I have not been working.  Yes, it makes things tighter but only in our wallet.  God has given us so much and we are trying to focus on his gifts rather than our wants.  As I shared with some friends last week, I think of the ornaments on our tree as the blessings God has given us to decorate our tree of this life on earth.  Sometimes an ornament doesn’t seem so pretty until you let it grow on you and you see it from different angles.  This has been my year for looking at things from different angles.  Losing my job was not the blessing I was looking for, but it has turned out to be a good thing in so many ways.

With Christmas just days away, it wouldn’t be a holiday if I didn’t spend hours thinking about our menu.  I bought all the items for our Christmas Punch today.  I shared the recipe with you last year.  It is a tradition for us.

Then of course Taco Soup is on the menu (not for Christmas Day but I have several days with visitors here to plan!).  The menu for Christmas morning is still up in the air as we need to be at church around 9:00 for our 10:00 service but I do believe Ham, scalloped potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, hot fruit salad, and rolls are the main meal for the day.

What will you be eating for Christmas meals?  Leave a comment and let me know….maybe you can share a recipe with me!

Christmas means Gingerbread cookies!

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Growing up my Mom always made gingerbread cookies.  We would sit and decorate them and then enjoy eating them too!   I have carried on the tradition with my girls but I have been making these cookies long before I had children.

Cookie cutters in action

I made them for the UT Longhorn Marching Band’s caroling  party; I’ve made them for an entire floor of residents in one of the UPenn towers; and they have traveled with me to numerous parties….these cookies get around!

I love this recipe and I have decided to share it with you.  I think it came from one of my Mom’s Southern Living cookbooks.  I put the doubled recipe amounts in ( ) after the ingredient so you don’t have to think as much 🙂

Gingerbread Boys

Cream together in a big bowl:

  • 1 cup shortening (2c)
  • 1 c sugar (2c)

Stir in:

  • 1 egg (2)
  • 1 c molasses (2)
  • 2 T vinegar (4)

Beat well.

In a separate bowl, shift together:

  • 5 cups flour (10)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of soda (3)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (1)
  • 2-3 teaspoons of ginger (4-6)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon  (2)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cloves (2)

Stir the dry ingredients into the molasses mixture and chill at least 3 hours.  (I wrap my dough in saran wrap and then place the wrapped dough in ziploc bags and place in the refrigerator.  I have made the dough as far as 3 days in advance)

Making the cookies:

On a lightly floured surface roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness and cut them out.

Place onto a greased cookie sheet and bake 5-6 minutes at 375.

Allow the cookies to cool for one minute before taking off the cookie sheet.

Decorate as desired after they completely cool.

Store covered.

Things I have discovered over the years:

  • 1 batch yields about 50 small gingerbread boys/girls.
  • There is 1 1/2 cups of molasses in a Grandma’s Molasses jar.
  • Keep your dough cool—I don’t take it all out at once.  Cooler dough cuts better.

Piles and Piles of goodness!

 

Let there be lights, and lights, and lights, and more lights….

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“The lights on my tree
I wish you could see”

Those just aren’t lines from Karen Carpenter’s Merry Christmas Darling, but I really do wish you could see my tree lights.  I have a “thing” with lights on the tree.  It all stems to my childhood (doesn’t everything start there?!)

Well, my Dad would take hours to put on the lights and the tree always just dazzled.  I never was given the job to put the lights on but in high school I was asked to take them off.  Oh man, was that a job.  My Dad would wind and twine the lights around and it was a crazy mess to figure out how to get the lights off.  Well, now that I have my own family and our own tree, I want the dazzle of the Christmas lights too.  I have developed my own method for putting on the lights and it takes me a good evening’s work but I think it is worth it. So I have decided to share my process with you.

Oh- and taking them off?  It isn’t a chore anymore.  Since we have a real tree I just use some pruning shears to cut branches off when I get in a fix!

First things first

Set the mood with your favorite Christmas music blaring through the house.  Then put on some work clothes that you don’t mind getting a bit sappy in case the tree is in the giving mood!  Also, wear socks- this will allow you to know if you are stepping on lights before you crush them.

Now for your supplies:

  • 1 surge protector.
  • lots of lights!  I use the 100 strands of lights.  Currently we have just white lights but my girls would love for me to get colored.  I need to buy some after Christmas to have as we use a lot of lights.
  • water bottle full of water.  I always get thirsty when working on the lights.

Getting started.

I will plug into a different wall three strands of lights, end-to-end.  This lets me know that A) the lights still work and B) that the plugs “fit” each other.  There is nothing worse that getting to a critical place in the tree and reaching for the next strand of lights only to find out that the plugs to jive with each other.  Also, in doing this I remember how many lights I have strung together already as I work from the 3 plugged in.  Once they are gone, I get three more to test and start from the surge protector again.

Test the lights- Do they work? Do they fit together?

Safety!

This is a good time to make sure you know that you really shouldn’t plug more than 3 strands of 100 lights end-to-end (or 6 strands of the 50).  You don’t want all your hard work to catch on fire.

So two plugged here means six strands already on the tree!

The Tree

I didn’t mention it earlier, but really I think the tree makes the difference.  My favorite tree is a Nobel Fir, but they don’t seem to provide them for purchase where I live.  So, now we get a Frasier Fir.  I like it because the needles are soft and the limbs are pliable yet strong (not as strong as a Nobel though).  If your tree is very thick it may be difficult to really light up all parts of the tree.

The Frasier Fir

Let the Lighting Begin!

Now I just start going up and around.  I go down each branch from tip to trunk spreading the light to all the dark places of the tree!  It is fun.  I wrap lights around the branch to make sure it is in place.  Here is my first set of lights.  I don’t have a plan like you read on “how-to” blogs such as divide the tree into thirds, work from top to bottom, work from inside to out.  I found that I was more stressed when I tried to follow a plan.  Instead, my plan is to light every branch of  the tree…literally.  Now this year I tried to hold back a bit and not feel like every single branch needed lights….that is a huge step for me!

Here are some of my tips:

  • Once you get high on the tree and need to start a new strand of 3, drop the plug down the trunk from the area you want to start rather than working up from the surge protector.
  • Use green twist ties to your advantage.  Sometimes you need to hold a plug end securely in place so it doesn’t drop down into view.  I use twist ties.  I also use these to hold a strand that I have pretty much finished and it is starting to short out on me when it wiggles a certain way.  I will try a twist tie to hold it in place and see if that works out the kink!
  • Step back from the tree often to see where you need to go.

Here are some photos of the dawning of the Christmas lights:

The first set of lights- flash is turned off.

Getting there

Don't forget about the back of the tree too!

Almost Done!

All done---Let there be light!

Any guesses on how many lights this year on our tree?

Christmas Punch

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It has been a while since I shared a recipe with you.  That might be due to the fact that I haven’t really been cooking!  Our family took a weekend trip to NYC to visit Brad’s brother and sister-in-law and with the rush of Christmas preparation, well…we have had lots of chicken nuggets, spaghetti, pizza and tacos!  (Actually I have tried a few new recipes but I didn’t like them so they won’t be making it to the blog)

I did sit down the other night and plan our Christmas menu and the meals for the following week- so I will indeed be cooking again soon.  This recipe that I want to share with you is one that we have been enjoying for nine years now.  I know, because I was expectant with Emily the first time I made this at the Giese family Christmas morning breakfast.

Christmas Punch

Combine:

  • 3 cups Hawaiian Punch, red, chilled
  • 3 cups unsweetened Pineapple Juice (I’ve noticed now they call it “naturally sweetened”)
  • 3 cups White Grape Juice
  • 3 cups Ginger Ale

Makes 12 cups.

I like to chill all the juice at least overnight.  One nice thing about living in PA is that you can sometimes just set the juice outside to get it good and chilled if refrigerator space is tight!  We add the Ginger Ale just before serving and actually Heather doesn’t like “fizzy” drinks so she gets her share without any Ginger Ale.

Enjoy!