Thursday, July 31, 2008

Best of the best of Wilson family traditions

The Wilson family Christmas habit

Like many families, we—Bret’s parents, my parents and our little family of five—have lots of family traditions or habits. Let me just share a sampling with you.

One, my mother-in-law likes to buy everyone in the family special flannel pajamas, which we open on Christmas Eve, don immediately and wear all Christmas morning, as well. I remember a few pair with affection (read: agony), like the ones sporting pink flamingos. My favorites were the “boring” red plaid ones; I still have those. (Not so much on the pink flamingos.)

Two, our immediate family has a special tradition that became a habit for several years. I heard the idea while I was pregnant with Charlie, our first. A friend from our Sunday school class said their family always visited a Christmas tree farm to buy their tree. They made a day of it, going on a hayride and sipping hot chocolate or cider. After they arrived home and set up the great-smelling tree, they camped out underneath it that very first night. Like them, we made a couple of trips to the tree farm, then eventually shortened the tradition to a local tree lot or, closer still, Home Depot. After carting the tree home and settling it on the base, we strung the lights, spread out our sleeping bags under the tree and snuggled close as a family.

Hint: Once the kids fell asleep, Bret and I sneaked off the comfort of our own bed. The kids never knew!

Three, this is a wonderful tip—that I tweaked slightly—from my mother-in-law. Early in our marriage, Bret and I spent Christmas at his parents’ home. As she pointed out ornaments on her exquisite tree, she shared stories—where she’d bought them, who had made them, why they were special—about each one. She said she had made it a point to buy a meaningful ornament for each of her children every year. Her intention had always been to give this collection to the boys when they left home and established their own families; however, when push came to shove, she just couldn’t do it.

My solution? I buy two of each ornament. That way, I’m collecting ornaments for the kids, but I get to keep my own set when they leave home! I always try to choose something that marks a milestone of my child’s life that year. For example, I’ve bought ornaments to remind us of the year Reese learned how to read, the year Molly took dance, and the year Charlie got his driver’s license. Using a fine point Sharpie® marker, I write basic information on the back or bottom of the ornament: the child’s name, the year, and the relevant milestone it represents.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nixon Christmas Habit?

"Jingle bells, Batman smells!" Our family (my husband, daughters, and I) have many fun family holiday habits. One is to ride around town looking for the house with the prettiest outdoor decorations. But, gas being what it is, that is a habit we may break.
Our other habit is watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I'm singing the ditty of Christmas Vacation right now. We have watched this movie, starring Chevy Chase, so many times we literally have the lines memorized and throw them around at each other during all times of the year.

So, Margo, tell me what you do every Christmas as a family.
by Brenda Nixon

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Christmas Family Traditions - Angel Turns and Journals

By: Trish Berg

Christmastime is such a time for joy and faith, family and fun. But if you have kids, it can also be a time of fighting and arguing over who got to decorate the last Christmas cut out cookie or put the angel on the tree.

Well, though I can't solve all your Christmas-kid-woes, I can solve one - The ANGEL.

We started many years ago taking turns putting the angel on top of the Christmas tree, and we write down who did it that year in a Christmas journal. We also have a Christ-mas nail we hang near the trunk of the tree as a reminder that Christmas is only the beginning and that the Christmas tree foreshadows the Christ tree - the cross.

So, each Christmas, one child gets to hang the nail near the trunk, and another child gets to hang the angel on top - with Daddy's help of course.

We make a big deal about it, and even take photos of the momentous occasion. Then we jot down in our journal who did each task, so the next year, we can look back and remember, and then the other 2 children get a turn.

The kids all get very excited for each other when it is their turn to hang either the nail or the angel, and it is fun to watch them cheer for one another.

This ANGEL ROTATION has completely eliminated the arguing around the newly decorated Christmas tree, and makes for such a joy-filled evening for us all.

Now if I can only find a way to solve the Someone-ate-the-last-Oreo-in-the-cookie-jar argument....Hmmmmm....

The pictures above: Riley, our youngest, getting ready to put the angel on top, and then getting a little help from Dad...

For more info on the CHRISTMAS NAIL: Check it out at

For more info on the CHRISTMAS JOURNAL:

The Christmas journal I use is Christmas Memories - A Ten Year Journal published by Brownlow. Though it is out of print, it is available used in good condition for as low as $1.99, and is a wonderful hard cover, easy to fill out family Christmas journal. No photo was available, but you can purchase one here.

And you can create your own Christmas journal with a nice, hardcover, blank journal from a discount store as well. Get creative, and have fun with it.
Enjoy the journey-Trish
Psalm 118:24

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hi, for me it’s refreshing on this sultry July day to be chatting about wintry times. I hear Dallas may receive temps up to 106 today. We’re to get near 100 in the Houston area plus a bucket of coastal humidity. Wherever you are today, step into the shade of an evergreen and cool down, neighbor.

This week, the Word Quilters will tell you about a few of our Christmas habits, things that we do each year, unique to our families.

The Messecar’s Bear Spot—since we live on 100 plus acres, most years we cut a long leaf pine off the property for our Christmas tree. Groomed only by nature, these pines are not always the perfect shape, not always perfect-branched.

After we bring our tree indoors, we turn the area lacking in limbs toward the wall and face the fullest part of the tree toward the room. Over the years, a phrase I heard from hubby or children was, “There’s the bare spot.”

One year, I tucked a teddy bear into the bare spot, and he nestled in our evergreen through the season, bringing a lot of cheer. Now, instead of bemoaning the barren space, we enlist a teddy bear to peek through the branches and fill in the gaps. The size of the bear? It all depends upon the bare spot.

(The photo is of granddaughter Jolie helping decorate the tree last year. At three, she exclaimed over each ornamented treasure she unpacked. Her favorites--white glass ornaments with Victorian roses.)

Do you have a holiday habit unique to your family?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hooked on Chocolate--Godiva Chocolate

I'm not much of an online shopper--for that matter, I'm a disgrace to my gender regarding shopping. Even when we are traveling, I don't spend much time in souvenir shops or those "bargain outlets" you find in the Caribbean. I do have a favorite story however about being on the receiving end of an online gift.

My husband had a company he did business with that always sent us a gift at Christmas. One year they chose to send Godiva chocolate. Unfortunately, when the box arrived, we opened it to find that many of the candies had been crushed. Trust me, it did not hurt the taste one bit. I had never had such an indulgence before and after the first taste, I was hooked.

Knowing that the company had probably spent a great deal on the gift, Bob called the sales rep and told them the condition of the chocolates when they arrived. The company called Godiva and complained and a week later we received a second box--beautifully intact and scrumptiously delicious! Now I'm addicted and worse yet, there's a Godiva chocolate store in our mall that I have to pass--well, it usually calls my name and I indulge. Can't let those fresh chocolate covered strawberries go to waste.

Do you have a good chocolate story?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Favorite Gift to Order Online, Amaryllis Bulbs

The theme for this week’s posts is a favorite gift to purchase online, and I suggest amaryllis bulbs as surprise gifts, in early November, so that they will bloom at Christmas. Bulbs from Holland will bloom 6 to 8 weeks after planting, and from South Africa, in four to six weeks.

Amaryllis are those spectacular lily like flowers growing on long stems, often in red, salmon, white or splashy stripes.

A favorite source is, which sells a wide selection of amaryllis, including San Remo, pink flowers flushed with raspberry, 8 inches across on 16 to 24 inch tall stems and Prelude, red blooms with white edges and center. $14.99 per bulb. Wayside Gardens at sells Stars and Stripes, red flowers with white centers, from South Africa, 8 inch blooms on 14 inch tall stems, which bloom 4 to 6 weeks after planting. $14.95 per bulb. The photo is of Stars and Stripes.

Buy a big bulb, plant it with a little bit of potting soil in the smallest pretty ceramic pot that will hold it. A typical large bulb grows well in a pot that is five inches tall and eighteen inches around. Heavy pots prevent pot tip overs, since the flowers are so large they can be heavy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Online Shopping--You Never Have to "Drop"

Leslie’s Favorite Online Purchase

My favorite online Christmas gift just happens to include my children. And, NO, you can’t have my precious cherubs all the time, but I will loan them to you. Let me explain. Molly and Reese, my two youngest, are Barney kids. Yep, they’ve been featured performers (a fancy name for recurring cast members) on Barney & Friends for several years. Around our house, we love the big purple dinosaur and his buddies B.J., Baby Bop and Riff! (So much for SOCF blog readers believing me when I say I’m not the stage mom type!)

What does this have to do with gifts, you might ask? Good question. Well, they’ve also performed (And yes, that’s really them doing the singing, too. No dubbing.) in a couple of Barney DVD releases. These DVDs have become my favorite online purchase, Christmas or otherwise. I buy them for my friends with preschool children, even as a baby shower gift. (Kids grow up awfully fast!) Look for these titles at or “Let’s Go to the Firehouse” and “Barney’s Perfectly Purple Birthday.”

Added bonus: My husband, teenage son and I are extras in the fire station audience of the firehouse DVD. Though you have to pause the screen to be able to see us, we’re really there! I’m already threatening to show that segment as a blooper reel at my kids’ rehearsal dinners!

OK, OK, I realize the vast majority of you don’t have a preschooler who tenses with excitement when the Barney theme song comes on TV each morning. To that end, I have another online shopping suggestion.

My sister won rave reviews for her Item-of-the-Month purchases last Christmas. For a whole year, my oldest son (aka The Salsa Connoisseur) looked forward to receiving a different, delicious salsa of the month. Charlie’s true colors came out, though; he wouldn’t share!!! My youngest son couldn’t wait to get his Bacon-of-the-Month, which came packaged in freezer bags. (Visit for more information.) Other mouth-watering offerings my sister unearthed included Coffee-of-the-Month and Fruit-of-the-Month.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Brenda's Fav Gift to Buy Online

by Brenda Nixon

Yummy, my mouth is watering as I write this. My all time favorite gift to buy online at Christmas is Topsy's Popcorn out of Kansas City, Missouri. Anyone else know about or love Topsy's?
When we lived in Kansas City, it was easy to run to the nearest Topsy's and grab a cannister of cinnamon, cheese, and caramel popcorn. These days, since we live in Ohio, I get online and order a can for our family's holiday treat.

What is your favorite gift to get online at Christmas?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Swings and Things - Online Must Have Gifts - By Trish Berg

I love Christmas shopping, walking around the stores, seeing the neat decorations and enjoying the atmosphere. But with online shopping becoming more and more a part of our lives, I have also learned my way around cyber space.

The best gifts to buy online are the gifts that are specific. Like when my daughter asks for a pink unicorn Webkinz toy, or a specific song from a specific singer on a specific CD. As much as I enjoy Christmas shopping, I do NOT enjoy going from store to store, wasting gas, and losing my temper as I go in search of something that specific.

Those are the times when shopping online becomes your best option. Simply Google the gift, and voila, options. With just a click, you can search a variety of stores without spending an money on gas.

This summer, I have spent a little bit of time shopping online, and wanted to share a couple of neat gifts you can get for your children, or gift exchanges.


First of all, my almost-thirteen (thinks-she's-fifteen) daughter, Hannah wanted a tote bag from Ron Jon Surf Shop. My mother-in-law had been on a vacation in Florida a few years back, and had purchased one for me as a gift. I love the bag. I keep my cross stitching in that bag, and all the books I am reading. I toss my camera in there, and it is perfect for small trips.

It's cute. It's the perfect size, and it has lasted very well over the years.

The problem is, Hannah wants it. Yep she wants MY BAG!!!!

So, as her fall birthday approaches, my mother-in-law asked her what she wanted, and she said a bag like mine.

(2 Ron Jon Tote Bags pictured at right)

Well, we do not live near the beach here in Ohio, and Ron Jon Surf Shops are located near beaches on the coasts.

So I went online, and found the perfect bag for her. With a quick click, voila. Shopping is done.

Check out Ron Jon Surf Shop at


The other online shopping I have done is to find a wooden seat, old fashioned tree swing for my daughter, Sydney's birthday. Though, this would also make a fantastic Christmas gift for kids and adults.

There is something romantic about a nice big tree swing you can sit on in your front yard.

I started by searching online for tree swings, then wooden tree swings. And though I did find some that were exactly what I was looking for, they were, well, NOT CHEAP!

The cheapest one was about $70 plus shipping. For a wooden seat and a rope????

They were beautiful, and well worth the money, but I just can't see spending that much on a tree swing. One place that had beautiful tree swings was "Breezy Wooden Swings" at

But, being cheap, I did what any mom would do - got creative.

I found the dimensions of the seat and called my local lumber store. I asked them what they would charge to cut a piece of pre-treated lumber in the dimensions of the swing seat, round the corners, and put 4 holes (1 in each corner) about 1 inch in. The holes needed to be 5/8 inch so I could get a very sturdy rope.

The bill? About $5-$10 for the swing seat.

I can stain it myself, and am going to a local hardware store to purchase the rope. I will look up online how to tie the rope through the swing and hang it on the tree.

My total cost? Less than $20.

So, as great as online shopping can be, you need to know what things are worth, and what you are willing to pay for an item, plus shipping.

And sometimes, you can simply get the dimensions or directions for a gift online, and make it yourself.

For directions to make your own wooden tree swing, check out DIY here.


Online shopping is about more than buying gifts. Its about having options, getting information and simplifying your life.

And if you use it wisely, it can do just that.

Whether you are shopping for the perfect tote bag or the romance of a wooden tree swing, you can find it online.

I'd love to hear your online shopping stories. What was the best online gift you found? Or what did you find online that you ended up making yourself?

Let's talk online shopping this week, and since it's only July, we have tons of shopping days until Christmas.

As always, enjoy the journey, Trish
Psalm 118:24

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Christmas Gifts Online


The first two weeks of posting on this blog has been really fun for the Word Quilters. A special thank you to readers and those who leave comments. Send your friends around to check out the archives and new posts.

This week we're going to suggest our favorite gifts to order online. Between the six of us, I imagine there will be suggestions that will fit some of your gift giving.

Here's a favorite of mine--teabags with a scripture on the tea tag. Here's what the company says about its products:

Scripture Tea continues to make its way around the world as a comfort and blessing to so many. Since 1982, Scripture Tea has combined two timeless treasures – Tea and The Bible. Known for the inspirational messages found on the teabag tags, these messages quote verses of scripture from the Bible. Our teas come in various flavors and can be found in outlets throughout the United States.

Click here to order or view products. Tea is sold by box or in bulk, individually wrapped, ideal for including in a Christmas card or as a party favor.
I'm eager to see what the co-authors suggest. And don't forget, a copy or two or more of A Scrapbook of Christmas First may be preordered from Leafwood Publishers.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Versatile Pine Cones

By Karen Robbins

Whether you buy them by the bagful or pick up your own outside, pine cones are one of the most inexpensive and fun ways to decorate for Christmas. Put out a bowlful of cones as a centerpiece. If you purchase the scented cones, it will also fill the room with wonderful cinnamon or pine scents.
Or fill large glass containers/vases with the cones. I take old small colored glass ornaments and sprinkle them in as well. Usually one side gets tarnished and as I layer them with the cones in a large vase, I turn the shiny side out.
Do you have a favorite place for cones in your holiday decorating?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Christmas Stockings Add Pizzazz To Any Room

Here is a photo of my sons and I with a few stockings in view. Yes, the Christmas stockings are handmade by me, from felt, sequins and glitter. My husband, Will, took the photo, so he is not in it and I promise to soon find a photo including Will, and share that on this blog.

I have a few extra Christmas stockings, in addition to the five that we hang on the fireplace mantle. By the way, why five stockings for four folks? One for each of our sons, one for my husband, Will, one for me, and the fifth one is for our cats to share. They don't mind sharing! Each Christmas morn they hope for a can of tuna (sold for human consumption, not cat food grade) and a bit of organic catnip, grown by my sister Sky in Wisconsin. Our cats are not disappointed, since they are VERY good kitties.

My easy decorating tip involves colorful Christmas stockings. One year at a dollar store I found a pretty red stocking that says “I Believe”. I bought several as gifts for friends, and an extra one for my family, and now each year I take a push pin and hang this Christmas stocking in the bathroom. Every year, at the end of the season, stores put Christmas stockings on sale, so that is a great time to buy more for your next year's decor, and keep a look out at craft fairs for stockings that appeal to you.

In the same bathroom I hang a handmade colorful stocking that I bought at a fund raiser. The person who stitched it created a very cute stocking, including a sleigh loaded with gifts and real ribbons. Hanging a few holiday stockings is such a quick way to add a Christmas glow to any room, even the sometimes overlooked bathroom.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Easy Decorating Tip for the Craftfully-Challenged

A simple one I learned from my mom:

Doesn’t matter how many ornaments or decorations you have, everything has a greater impact if it’s grouped together with similar items. To that end, I set up all my Santas on a baker’s rack by our fireplace. A good friend collects nativity scenes; she has 15+ from as many different countries. Think angels, snowmen, small Christmas trees. Spread a square of gold or silver tulle on a small card table, set up your collection, and you’ve made a statement.

A more complicated one, but hands-down my kids’ favorite:

At the Wilson house, we set up a Christmas village every year. My boys have been a tremendous help with it because they have the analytical minds. They like planning and laying the groundwork (strings of lights underneath the layer of “snow,” designing city streets and surrounding hills). My daughter likes putting on the finishing touches: the people (ice skaters or carolers), animals (deer feeding in the “woods”), and everything that glitters (sparkling confetti, plugging in the lights). I just asked each of them, and the response was unanimous: They prefer setting up the Christmas village to decorating the tree!

Do you have a favorite decorating tip? If it's an easy one, all the better!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Brenda's Quick Deco Tip

How are my favorite readers? Have I a tip for you! Grab your dog (or kid, if you don't have a dog) and put on his Santa hat then snap some shots. Here's a pic of "my boys" Andy & Opie. I raised Andy then gave him to my older daughter. Opie (the one in the back with space eyeballs) is mine. They love Christmas because of the extra crumbs of food that fall to the floor while I'm baking or the extra guests who come to our home. Of course the dogs thinks people come just to see them!

Seriously, remember your pets during the holidays. Include them in family pictures or take them in the car when you drive around to look at pretty Christmas lights. Because dogs today are domesticated, they really aren't meat eaters like their ancestors, so you can "treat" them with a baby carrot, an ice cube to gnaw on, a piece of fruit or small piece of cheese. But don't overfeed your dog. . . or you may be cleaning up a mess you don't welcome in your home! Dogs have simple digestive tracks so they do not require a diet of variety, rather one of routine.

Here's one more pic of Andy and Opie . . . awwwwww

AND for your four-legged friends at Christmas, try this Doggie Biscuit recipe:
  1. 3 Eggs, slightly beaten
  2. 1/3 Cup milk (can use leftover chicken broth)
  3. 1/4 Cup molasses
  4. 2 Tbs cooking oil (use leftover chicken fat)
  5. 2 2/3 Cups whole wheat flour
    In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, molasses and oil (or fat). Gradually stir in flour to form a stiff dough. Place on a floured surface and roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with bone-shaped cookie cutter or any preferred shape. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. To make treats harder, leave in oven with heat turned off for additional 1/2 hour. Place your treats in an airtight jar or in a plastic freezer bag and store in the freezer.
Now it's your turn. Share how you involve your pets in the holiday hoopla.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wrapping Your Holiday In Lights

I LOVE Cathy's tip about decorating your kitchen in little white lights. In fact, I am, what you might call, a little white light addict of sorts. I hang those bright strands all over our century old farmhouse - on the banister; on top of my kitchen cabinets; on the barn beams in the high ceiling kitchen. Everywhere. AT night time from Thanksgiving to New Year's we are like Motel 6 - We'll leave the light on for you...literally. It is never dark here at night.

I shared in my comment on Cathy's post another neat idea, about making a lighted Christmas gift out of a glass block (like a single glass block from a basement window), a strand of lights, and a bow. I purchased one at a craft show, but they are so simple and inexpensive to make.

I wanted to share a picture of this awesome Christmas decoration. And also give you the link with the instructions:


And my ultimate favorite, simple Christmas decoration tip is this: If you decorate with an artificial Christmas tree, as you assemble the pole, wrap little white lights tightly around the pole, all the way up, as many as you can fit.

Then put the branches on as normal, and string the lights as normal on the branches. Your tree will have a 3 dimensional look,and will glow with lights. There will be no empty or bare spots, because the pole lights are top to bottom. It almost plays a trick on your eye, and make the tree look more beautiful than you can imagine.

And yes, I know, I need to seek help for my little white light addiction. My husband grew up with those huge colored lights on his childhood tree. So bless his heart, he lets me drape the tree in white lights anyway.

Which leads me to a question. Do you decorate your Christmas tree the same way your mom and dad did? Colored or white lights? Live tree or artificial? We tend to stay in our comfort zone, so I bet most of us do.

And what happens when you like white lights and your sweet hubby likes colored ones? Or he like artificial trees and you like live ones? Who wins???

We have solved that problem in the Berg house by using an artificial tree that we can put up the day after Thanksgiving and I can drape it with white lights. Then we purchase a very small live evergreen a couple of weeks before Christmas and put colored lights on that one. The kids then get to decorate it with homemade decorations, like paper ornaments, popcorn strings, paper chains, etc...

Both are unique, and both are beautiful.

And however we decorate our homes, what is even more important is how we decorate our hearts. Are we kind and loving? Forgiving? That beauty is beyond compare.

Boy, it's only July and I am so ready for Christmas already!!!! I wonder if there are any little white lights I can grab from the attic and......

Oh, no, here I go.....

Enjoy the journey-Trish

Monday, July 14, 2008

Frugal Christmas Decorating Tips

This week the Word Quilters will share simple Christmas decorating tips. The tips I've found most helpful over the years are the ones that yield lots of splash without much effort or money spent, so I have two for you today.

The first tip is to invest in a few flocked pointsettias. I bought two at least eight years ago--they still look great. Mine are traditional red. I store them in a closet with the bracts covered (plastic bag in climate controlled closet or old pillow case if in the attic).

I set them out early in December to decorate the hearth because our Christmas tree doesn't go up until mid-month. Terra, my verdant-thumbed friend, are you cringing that I don't have the live plants? Some years I do add a few live ones.

The second tip is to place a string of colored or white lights in a not-so-usual place in your home. My favorite place to plug in color is in my kitchen (decorated in red for 40 years, even our new home we're building--kitchen is mostly white and a bit of red again.) In my current home, my kitchen counter top is port wine Formica. On two wooden shelves of teapots, I weave a multi-colored strand of lights and then cover them with holly-type greenery. On the opposite long countertop, I place a multi-colored strand behind my canisters, coffee pot, bread box, etc., and cover it with ivy like greenery, allowing the cheery bulbs to show through.

A friend, who had a similar kitchen with ample counter space uses white lights and greenery, placing her Christmas miniature houses and figurines among the lights.

When you plug in strands of miniature lights and turn off overhead lights, even a small dwelling or a tiny dorm room will usher in Christmas ambiance.

If you have a frugal holiday tip, please post it for our readers.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Anticipating Christmas

Early Christmas wishes from Karen Robbins! Nothing like warm sunny weather to make you think about Christmas. Actually that’s what the six of us have been doing all year round for about a full year now. Thankfully, most of my creative work for A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts was done when the weather around Ohio was snowy and looking like a “traditional” Christmas. But Christmas tradition for me has evolved and changed as I have grown ol. . .er, shall we say more mature.

My husband (of 40 years), Bob, and I have passed through the stage of hectic Christmas seasons with five children and have moved into hectic Christmas seasons with six grandchildren. Hmmm. Seems nothing changes even with semi-retirement. Since our family is scattered literally from one coast to the other and North to South, we get together for the holiday as a family every other year. And the years in between, Bob and I plan a holiday cruise—sort of like the Kranks in Grisham’s story, only we actually take the cruise. We are avid travelers and we’ve had the opportunity to see how Christmas is celebrated in several other areas of the world.

While I loved the writing/compiling of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, and I’ve published hundreds of articles and essays over the years, including my current grandparenting column at Positively, my first love in writing is fiction. I have been working on several novels: a cozy mystery, a hilarious story about a 70 year-old pickle entrepreneur, a historical from the Great Depression era, and am currently trying my hand at a romance novel. As I told my writing friends at ACFW Ohio, I guess I'm a genre jumper. But enough, if you'd like to know more about my travels, writing, and speaking, you can hop over to my website.

So, tell me, have you ever spent Christmas away from home? Where was it and what was it like?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hello from Terra Hangen

Hi, I am Terra Hangen, co-author of Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts and it is my turn to introduce myself. I am very happy that we six writers met online in 2004, and undertook our odyssey of writing this Christmas book together.

I was raised in Wisconsin, and now live in California, with my dear husband of 36 years, and our two adult sons living in the same town, I am joyful to report. My cats want to mentioned here. I can't imagine writing, reading or gardening without a cat nearby.

I have a B.A. in Art History and a Masters Degree in Library Science, which helps me research topics and get my facts right! One year of college I spent in Istanbul, Turkey, one of the world's most beautiful cities, and what fabulous recipes I learned there.

I went to Jerusalem at Easter that year, on the Way of the Cross, and also to Baalbek and Petra. The Holy Lands are scarcely describable and left a profound impression on me. In Jerusalem I was blessed to walk the same paths and cobblestones that Jesus walked 2,000 years ago.

I am published regularly in dozens of magazines, including Country Woman, Hobby Farms, Victorian Homes, Lutheran Digest, Vibrant Life, Mature Living, Back Home, San Diego Family, etc., and have a garden column online each month at

Please head on over to my blog at and say hi; I would love to meet you. I visit the blogs of everyone who leaves a comment on my blog. Main topics on my blog range from gardens, to cats, to my journey as a Christian author, and book reviews and book giveaways. My work in progress is a gardening book that includes Scripture.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Co-Author Leslie Wilson Weighs In . . . But Not Literally!!!


Leslie Wilson here, the other Texan in the group. I’m so glad to welcome you to the VERY FUN blog for A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

Here’s a picture of me in Cancun with my kiddos.

My family lives about 30 minutes east of Dallas in Rockwall. Hubby Bret and I married in August of 1988, so you math whizzes out there—and maybe even some of you regular folks—have figured out we have a big anniversary coming up soon.

I’m blessed to be mom to Charlie, Molly and Reese—all teenagers, who keep me hopping. In fact, this weekend, we travel to College Station (where Texas A & M University is) to watch Charlie play in the state 7 on 7 Football Championship, then on to Round Rock (an Austin suburb) for Reese’s baseball world series.

We live in a new home we built to look old and one of my favorite things is decorating for Christmas. With our wood floors, oak beams and wood trim throughout, we feel like we’re Little House in Suburbia. See?

OK, I’m supposed to share a bit about my writing and speaking background. Been doing both for as long as I can remember; in fact, I recently found an old interests’ survey I took as a ninth grader. My areas of highest interest were literary and entertainment! Professionally-speaking, I’ve been at this since 1999.

At the largest Christian writers conference in the world, Mount Hermon CWC, I found my voice—that intangible element of my writing that distinguishes me from every other writer out there. I stopped trying to be my very good friend Mary DeMuth—whose stuff you MUST read—and started writing as me.

For nearly four years, I’ve penned a weekly humor column called “Reality Motherhood” for the Dallas-area Star Community Newspapers (circulation 100,000). My family provides me with a seemingly endless supply of information, and threatening—er, promising to share their missteps in my next column has become my favorite—not to mention, most effective—discipline tool.

Wilson family misadventures have also appeared in compilations including Hearts at Home’s new release, I’m Glad I’m a Mom, Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler’s Soul, and both of The Groovy Chicks’ Road Trip books. My freelance background includes publication in dozens of parenting magazines, including Baton Rouge Parent, Washington Families, South Florida Parenting, About Families, and Focus on the Family’s Focus on Your Child—Early Stages.

I am truly blessed to connect with thousands of women each year speaking at Hearts at Home Conferences, MOPS groups, Early Childhood PTAs, Mothers of Multiples, and area women’s conferences and retreats. My favorite topics include “Kid Boot Camp: Teaching Children to Be Responsible,” “No More Cookie-Cutter Kids: Target Your Parenting to Your Unique Child,” and “Home Fires: Keep Sparks of Passion in Your Marriage.” I launched an e-newsletter, “Dose of Reality” on Mother’s Day 2008. I also share mothering mishaps and insights—or lack thereof—with friends and fans at My favorite endorsement of my speaking came from a young mom who wrote “Leslie’s funny—with a point.”

I’ve so enjoyed working on A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts with the other Word Quilters. They all bring unique talents to the project, and I’ve learned so much from each of them.

I’ve met Trish—at a MOPS convention:

And Cathy and Karen—both in town on business:

On a personal level, I enjoy working out. In fact, I get kind of crabby if I don’t make it to the gym or go on my walk. I’m currently training for my first triathlon. (Please don’t laugh!) I love bargains—garage sales, flea markets, Ross! I like to read, particularly books by authors I know. Finally, my favorite vacations are going to the beach (in summer) and the mountains (in winter). Having grown up in Evergreen, Colorado, there’s nothing more Christmas-y than a fresh blanket of snow and a quiet walk in the tall pines. Talk about connecting with God!

Well, I’d better let you go. You’ve ignored the phone and/or kids long enough, and I need to go spend some time with my dear husband. After all, we want to make it to 25 years of marriage! Can’t wait to talk again soon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Brenda's Bio

Hey all you Scrapbookers or Christmas lovers or both ~ this is Brenda Nixon, one of the six authors on a fabulous little giftbook, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. Today, it's my turn to share a bit 'o my bio.

Back in 1996 (wow, that sounds ancient), I was working for the Kansas City, Missouri School District as a Certified Parent Educator and lovin' it! But I felt a divine guidance to start a speaking profession to parents and go beyond the school district boundaries. I resigned from my job and launched a humble, vertical learning curve as a professional speaker on childrearing.

My mission was (and still is) to empower parents with education and encouragement. After speaking for a few years, I realized the marriage between speaking and the written words that go beyond the platform. So, I accepted my first columnist job, for a local publication, sharing parenting tips. More writing assignments followed and eventually my first book. Along the way I wrote for compilations including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Humor for a Sister's Heart, and The Art of Helping.

Although my "calling" is to help parents in their sacred and enormous task, I enjoy occasionally writing on other topics like some of the "firsts" in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. Did I say this is a fabulous book? I don't want to be one-dimensional as a person or in my profession. My way of developing multi-dimensions is by occasionally speaking at industry events on writing or to present on-site trainings to licensed childcare providers.

To date, I've spoken at parenting or family events from VA to CO -- still waiting for that invite to Hawaii. I've contributed to 23 books, the fabulous A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts is ready to run off the press, and my newest parenting title, The Birth to Five Book: Confident Childrearing Right From the Start (Revell) releases January '09. In my spare professional time, (what's that?) I teach a class I designed "How to Get Published," give media interviews, serve as the parenting expert for a couple websites, and offer quotes for publications. . . and, hmm, I'm probably forgetting something.

On the homefront; my best friend, Paul, who is also my husband, and I have been married 30 years (this November)! Yikes, that makes me sound ancient (Hmm, let's say I have years of wisdom). We're blessed with -- and proud of our -- two lively, fun daughters, Lynsey and Laura. I love being a mom! Our family also includes Opie, a miniature dachshund. We all live in Ohio in a small town I teasingly refer to as Mayberry (that explains our dog's name). I like scrapbooking, all things Christmas, garage sales, working in my yard, bicycling, and baking.

If you aren't bored yet, you can read more about me at

'Nuf about me, do you have a dog or kids or both? Share a bit and let's get acquainted!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Introducing Trish Berg

Welcome to our new Christmas blog! I am so glad you found us here.

Well, Tuesday is my day to post, so I wanted to start by just telling you a little bit about who I am and why I so believe in this book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

I started writing when I was a child. I loved writing poetry and short stories. I remember coming up with make believe places only I could travel to. I needed to escape sometimes, since my childhood was troubling at times.

My mom and dad fought all the time, and eventually divorced when I was about eight years old. I lost my dad as he moved out of state thousands of miles away. I only saw him a few times a year at best, and felt like a lost puppy.

As I entered my teen years, I continued to write for fun. I loved researching and writing, both fiction and non-fiction. I went to college at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio, and started of as a journalism major. I wrote on the newspaper staff as a sports writer, and headed up the yearbook staff as well.

Then I decided to expand my major into fiction writing. I remember sitting in my first fiction writing class (creative writing) feeling as nervous as can be as the professor read my fiction story out loud to the class, and then proceeded to rip it apart.

I had a lump in my throat the size of an apple, and went home to cry for hours.

I never took another writing class. I let what one person said to me impact my life decisions. I could not take the rejection and embarrassment of someone hating my writing.

I became a business major, and learned to love the field of marketing. I put away writing at that point.

I also met my husband at B-W, and God changed my life forever. I did not grow up in a Christian home, a very loving home, but I was not a Christian at that point in my life.

My husband, Mike was. And over the first year of our dating relationship, he exemplified God's love and grace to me in how he lived his life. About a year into our relationship, I asked Christ into my heart, and God has never stopped loving me, or forgiving me when I need His grace.

After Mike and I were married, we moved to his family cattle farm in Ohio, and I had more adjusting to do. I am a city girl at heart, now living on a 200 acre beef cattle farm.

When I became a mom in 1995, I joined a local MOPS group, and that is where God brought writing back into my life. I began writing the local MOPS newsletter, which led to writing for MOMSense Magazine, and with the mentoring of a godly editor, my first book proposal.

That is probably more information that you want to know about me. But I guess I felt I needed to share that with you because I want you to know that whether or not you have a relationship with Jesus right now, God loves you. He is working in your heart and your life. He is leading you. He is there waiting to hold you.

And boy oh boy, does He have plans for your life.

If I think back to 1988, the year before I met my husband, I would never have imagined myself as a Christian, living on a beef cattle farm, writing books, and speaking to audiences of thousands of women about God's love and grace, and the humorous side of motherhood.

Yet here I am. Unworthy as ever, relying on God each step of the way.

And I stand amazed at God's love, and at the doors he continues to open for me. When I met the other 5 authors of SOCF through an online writer's group at Yahoo, I had no idea what God had planned for us.

He brought the 6 of us together to love, support and pray for each other as we each journey down this writing career path. But He also put us together to produce this amazing book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

SOCF is an amazing book of faith and fun, tips and stories, and recipes. It is the best of each of us, and a reminder about what is truly important about Christmas.

I encourage you to read SOCF for yourself. Discover the simplicity of the baby in the manger, and the love that never ends.

Welcome to our new Christmas blog! I am so glad you found us here. And I can't wait to get to know you all throughout this amazing journey.

(The first picture is my family when my mom book Rattled was released this year. The 2nd picture is the OHIO Word Quilters meeting to sign the book contract for SOCF - pictured are Brenda Nixon, Karen Robbins, and myself.)

Enjoy the journey,
Psalm 118:24

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Introducing Cathy Messecar


At this blog, you'll be hearing from the six co-authors of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. Each week through January, we'll inspire, give ideas, or share hints for simplifying the holidays and connecting with family and friends.

This week, we're introducing the co-authors, and I drew the short straw and get to go first. Here's a bit about me.

I live outside of Montgomery, Texas, the birthplace of the Texas flag. From our rural farm, Leaning Tree Acres, we own and operate a trucking company, delivering rock and alfalfa. My husband and I have two children and five grandchildren. Many in our extended family live nearby. We eat some meals together. It's not Walton's Mountain, but we are Walton-ish.

I authored The Stained Glass Pickup, a devotional book, and I'm a six-year newspaper columnist for The Courier, Conroe, TX, have taught women’s Bible classes, speak at women's renewals and organizations such as garden clubs, Retired Teachers, MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) and writing guilds. I freelanced for The Houston Chronicle, Christian Woman, Sisterhood, Power for Today, and the Pen & Sword Newsletter for the Amy Foundation. I also guest write at blogs and Web sites including New Wineskins Magazine Blog. My inspirational writings appear in other devotional compilation books, too.

My interests include family and friends, snooping around antique fairs, collecting old linens, serving tea from my teapots and cups, and of course Christmas and writing.

(The photo is Cathy signing the book contract with Leafwood Publishers for A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.)

Christmas in July is a phrase that's become common. For those of you who craft your Christmas for others, have you started on a special project for someone this December?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Blog Debut

This blog debuts on July 7th, 2008. Only a few more days! Check back.