Friday, July 31, 2009

Poinsettia Story

At our house we always have at least one gorgeous Poinsettia as part of the holiday decorations. Do you feel the same about these pretty plants?

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, the Poinsettia has a place in homes in many countries at Christmas time. Dr. Poinsett was the U.S. Minister to Mexico in the 1820s, a position we now call Ambassador. He was an amateur botanist and was thrilled to find this beautiful plant growing wild in Mexico.

In 1829 when Dr. Poinsett returned home to the United States, he brought Poinsettias with him and cultivated them in his greenhouses at his home in South Carolina, giving them to friends and spreading the word about their beauty.

In Mexico Poinsettias have the poetic name of “flor de noche buena” or “flower of the holy night.” This plant became a Christmas flower through a legend with varying details, but a central theme. A poor child in Mexico longed to bring a gift for the baby Jesus, to present at the church’s nativity scene. All the child could find to give was a plain green bouquet of weeds, but as the child approached the nativity scene, the tops of the green weeds glowed in crimson red, making a strikingly glorious gift.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

History of the Yule Log

One particular Christmas legend is literally a dying ember: the burning of the Yule log. Many Americans now have gas logs or no fireplace at all in which to burn the traditional massive log. Perhaps that’s best, as the strict set of guidelines—designed to ward off disaster during the coming year—for properly burning a Yule log boggle the mind.

First, logs—often a stump or root—had to be found on one’s property, or a neighbors’. It was considered unlucky to buy the log! Next, the log must be lit. Not with a match or bit of kindling. No, people used a small portion of the previous year’s log, hidden under the homeowner’s bed and safeguarded through the year for a couple of reasons: 1) to protect the home against fire and lighting during the year; and 2) to light the new Yule log. The person who lit the Yule log carried a weighty responsibility. He (or she) must have cleans hands—dirty hands signify disrespect. And the log had to catch fire on the first lighting attempt. If it did not, misfortune would surely follow that family for the upcoming year.

Once the log had successfully been lit (and the owner calmed with a bit of brandy or eggnog), the Yule had to burn continuously for twelve hours. During that time, the family drank cider and shared ghostly tales and stories of the olden days.

I like an evening by the fire as much—if not more—than the next mom, but I can definitely do without the ritual and pressure!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Snow Maiden by Brenda Nixon

This week we're sharing the history of Christmas legends. Legends are made by retelling stories from one generation to the next.

The German Christmas Spider legend is in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. You've probably heard that wealthy biblical scholar Clement C. Moore wrote Twas the Night Before Christmas for his children. But do you know the history of the Russian tale of The Snow Maiden? Mac Carey retells it here

After reading, answer these quiz questions:
Who accompanies the Snow Maiden to deliver her presents?
How often do Russian children expect a visit from the Snow Maiden?

I like the Russian proverb, "Fools shoot, and God directs the bullet." Do you have a fave legend? Please leave your comment here to entertain and educate us.

Brenda Nixon,
Co-Author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The History of the Christmas Cookie - By Trish Berg

I love baking Christmas cookies. We bake cookies all December long, from cut outs to nut meg logs, biscotti's to ginger bread men. So I wondered what the history of the Christmas cookie is.

Here is what I discovered:

"To discover the true meaning of Christmas (cookies), we had to look back--way back--in time. Now, it's no secret that sweets have been part of holiday rituals since long before Christmas was a declared a holiday (which was in 1870, in case you were wondering). But according to, it was a combination of Eastern spices and European flair that contributed to the cookie's success:

Ancient cooks prepared sweet baked goods to mark significant occasions. Many of these recipes and ingredients (cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds, dried fruits etc.) were introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages. They were highly prized and quickly incorporated into European baked goods. Christmas cookies, as we know them today, trace their roots to these Medieval European recipes. Dutch and German settlers introduced cookie cutters, decorative molds, and festive holiday decorations to America. German lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas.

Of course, the article goes on to state that sugar cookie type recipes descended from English traditions; perhaps their trip over the Atlantic was the inspiration for Animal Crackers, which were originally designed as Christmas ornaments.

While the tradition of Christmas cookies may have its roots in Medieval Europe, and while we may associate some cookies with the holidays more than others.

The Cake Spy

So, since I know I have the BEST cut out cookie recipe in the WORLD, I wanted to share it with you.



1 cup real butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla

5 cups + more all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt


1. In large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and eggs. (Recommend using wooden spoon, not Kitchen aid)

2. Add sour cream and vanilla and stir.

3. Stir in flour1 cup at a time, an.d add soda and salt.

4. By the last cup of flour, will need to mix with hands.

5. Roll out on a floured surface, not too thin, cut out.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes

*Use butter cream frosting in a can to ice

Monday, July 27, 2009

Topping off Christmas--Tree Toppers

This week the Word Quilters will share personal insights and the history of some Christmas traditions.

What do you put on top of your Christmas Tree, or do you put anything special at the topmost spike?

We never put anything on top of our tree until our children started to school. One year our daughter's school class drew self portraits that were then glued onto flying angels. She brought it home mid-December about the time we put up our tree, so I let her put it at the top. Her "angel" had a cute face and blond pigtails. Her brother, three years older, tolerated our tree topper that year, but by the next he protested her place of eminence.

That's when we bought a star. Our first star was an elegant glass star ornament about 14 inches tall. It lasted ten years or more, but then one year we found it shattered when we got out our Christmas decorations. That's when we bought a more durable, think plastic, star.

The star atop Christmas trees, reminds folk of the special "star" that shone over the place where the Christ Child lived in Bethlehem. This star's first appearance in the sky alerted the magi from the east that something magnificent was happening on earth, and they searched out the king star mystery because it was written in star script in the sky. If you want to know more about that original appearance in the sky, see this Web site by Rick Larsen, his findings, world wide lectures, and now a classy DVD with "star" explanations.

There are so many things I love about stars. They dispel darkness and gloom. I like that they shine so bright that stars millions and millions of miles away can be seen with the naked eye. A friend who had eye surgery was asked how his eyes were doing and he said, "They're great. I can see 93 million miles." Of course he was talking about seeing our sun star.

OK, I know I've rambled a bit getting around to the reason stars are placed on top of Christmas trees. How about your tree topper tradition? What do you put on top of your tree. Let us know.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

No Batteries Needed

While there are many devices that after a few hours in the sun are recharged and ready to use, there are also a few that can be used when that sun is difficult to find. For several years now I've seen some radios and lights that can be cranked in order to charge the power supply and are gret for use in emergencies.

If you search online for "no battery radio," you will find several that can either be charged in the sun or have a wind-up recharge. I even saw one that features a radio, a light, a siren (for attracting attention in an emergency) and an outlet that can charge a cell phone. What a great idea for a camper too!

Next to solar and wind power a little "elbow power" is a great thing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mystical glowing garden globes

I found “Glow in the dark garden balls” with an online search and bought one for my sister as a Christmas gift last year. During the day small flecks of fluorescent material absorb sunlight and at night they softly glow.

There is no backup battery needed, and no tricky set up. You either buy a mounting stake for it to sit on or hang it from a tree branch. These are hand blown glass balls that are an ethereal blue green, as they gently glow in your garden.

I haven’t seen it at night since my sister lives in another state, but I think it would be very mystical to see one glowing in the dark and may buy one for me this year. One online company that sells them is Signals, which is where I bought the one for my sister.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Solar-Powered Gift You Can Really Use!

My favorite energy-saving gift is one that also provides beauty at a relatively low cost. Plus, it falls into the set-it-up-and-forget-about it realm. What could possibly be this perfect, you ask?

Solar-powered garden lights! Available in a variety of styles and sizes, they reflect beauty (naturally glowing light) only when it’s needed (dusk and through the night). We installed them along a stone walkway in our front flower bed and just love the effect. I don’t even have to remember to turn them on and off!

What’s your favorite energy-saving gift?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's A Green Thing - by Brenda Nixon

This week we're supposed to talk about solar powered gifts - y'know, it's that energy-saving thing (that's why I posted in green).

When I was growing up, Mom always taught us energy-saving tips like, "Turn out that light!" She drilled it into our noggins to keep lights off in unoccupied rooms. Likewise, I've chided my children to turn off the water while brushing their teeth and to unplug unused electronics.

Today, eco products include everything from a solar powered watch called the Boiler to a solar gadget that recharges your iPod and cell phone to biodegradable cornstarch pens.

This Christmas, if you have family and friends who are clean-energy conscious - or you want to teach them to be - and you need ideas for solar powered gifts consider these at

Brenda Nixon,
Co-Author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sun in a Jar - By Trish Berg

I love the glow of candlelight around Christmastime. Actually, anytime of year. But the constant drain on electricity or batteries can be expensive and environmentally costly.

So, this Christmas, try giving a

"Made with a traditional Mason jar and high tech energy efficient lighting! Captured inside the jar are a highly efficient solar cell, rechargeable battery and low energy LED lamps.

When the Sun Jar is placed in sunlight the solar cell creates an electrical current that charges the battery over a few hours. This energy is then used at night to power the three LED lamps inside the Sun Jar.

The light is diffused by the frosted Sun Jar and gives the appearance of sunlight emitting from the jar (warm colored LED lights are used to give a more natural and warm light). You may have noticed that there is no switch on the sun jar - in fact there are no visible controls at all - there is a clever light sensor inside that automatically activates the lights when it gets dark or lights are turned out!

Mason Jars are not only beautiful but by their very nature they are completely water tight - so the Sun Jar can happily be left outside in any weather conditions. A perfect garden light or night light for a kids bedroom.

More energy saving gift ideas can be found

Light up someone's life with sun in a jar.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Da, dum, da, da, da, Here comes the Sun

Wishing all our readers a happy week ahead. You will get some great solar powered gift ideas from the Word Quilter's blog this week. We really want to help you have a less stressful Christmas, and one way to do that is to plan and purchase early.

My family has two solar powered items on our homestead that "light" up our lives. Our friend Eddie found solar powered luminaries at a dollar store, and they are remarkable, a total of six for $6.00 plus tax. They are a square plastic box with two AA batteries that are powered up by the sun througout the day, cloudy, rainy, or bright sun. They begin to flicker on at dusk and last for about three hours. Eddie gifted ours to us last December and the only thing I have done was to put a heavy rock inside each of them to keep them from blowing over. I have three on each end of a platform right before our front porch. These lights have created a delightful homey look year round. Many more outdoor products exist such as Roman stepping stones with a light in the middle, and much, much more. Surf the Web and look for luminaries or other solar powered outdoor lighting.

My second suggestion is a solar powered motion detector light. On our farm, my husband's work truck is parked in an open-sided barn shed a few hundred feet from our home. It seems that the cows love to hover around that end of the barn, and well, let's just say they sometimes mark the path with plops of manure. Stepping in that is no way to start your day. With the motion detector light attached to the eave of barn, as soon as Dave walks near, it sheds light on his walking path, and he can walk in a straight line to his truck or sidestep.

The lights can be purchased at Harbor Freight stores or online. And you can also find a lovely sun-powered garden lantern for $9.99

We'd love to have you tell us about the solar powered products you use.

Happy Summer Days.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thanks for Noticing!

This week our theme has been favorite movie lines. What to pick? What to pick?

If I had to guess what our family's all time favorite Christmas movie is it would be National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. There are lots of good lines from there that pop into conversation at appropriate moments not only at Christmas but throughout the year. My husband is always saying, "I couldn't be more surprised if I woke up with my head nailed to the carpet."

I think my favorite line though is said as the family stands in the front yard admiring Clark's engineering feat of illumination--once his wife finally realizes the switch needs to be turned on. Some of the twinkle lights don't work. Now that's a problem we can all relate to. And who would notice and make mention of it quicker than an in-law?

Clark's father-in-law brings the non-twinklers to Clark's attention and Clark just keeps staring at all the lights, nodding his head, and then finally says, "Thanks for noticing." He doesn't get angry and fuss back at that man (of course he hasn't reached his breaking point yet). He just thanks him for noticing.

When things don't go quite right for me and there's a little thing someone brings to my attention, I try to thank them for noticing. It's the polite thing to do. Right?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Quote from a Christmas movie

I wouldn't say this is my favorite quote from a Christmas movie but it is certainly the most memorable quote for me, and it is one no parent likes to think about. The quote is from the 1983 movie, A Christmas Story, and it is “you will shoot your eye out.”

Ouch! Doesn’t that make you flinch? Young Ralphie’s deepest desire is to receive a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, and that goal is threaded through the whole movie. Set in a small town in Indiana, which could be “anytown USA”, Ralphie tells three adults, his mom, his teacher and Santa Claus, about his Red Ryder rifle quest, and they all respond with this quote.

The quote summarizes parents’ concerns for their kids, as the movie’s hilarious plot twists unfold and Ralphie, his younger brother and his parents manage to survive the holiday and find some joy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

And Why Is The Carpet All Wet, Todd?

Let's get in the holiday mood now by thinking of a fave Christmas movie or song. Our little family of four always watches National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation . . . not just at Christmas but, my husband drags out the video by Thanksgiving if not earlier! We've seen the flick so many times each family member can quote lines by heart, and often we answer one another with the movie lines.

Throughout the year, one of us may ask a naive question and another will answer in an exasperated tone, "I don't know Margo!"
Or if we forget something, one of my daughters almost always quips, "Don't throw me down Clark" in an Aunt Bethany quivery whine.

In the summertime, it's "SQUIRREL!"
On road trips, we hear, "I'll get around this egg-timer."
Fall brings, "It's the holidays and we're all suffering."
You hungry? Our advice is, "Nose around in the kitchen and get yourself somethin' to eat."
When our dog coughs, "he's just yackin' on a bone."

The Nixons have a good time hootin' and hollerin' through Christmas Vacation; it's a tradition - one that draws us closer. And don't bother us when the movie is playing. If you need something, well you'll just have to "knock down the --- ---- door!"

Brenda Nixon,
Co-Author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Favorite Christmas Quote- It's a Wonderful Life - Trish Berg

There is nothing I enjoy more than watching Christmas movies all December long. We have accumulated some of our favorites on VHS and DVD, and one of my all time favs is It's a Wonderful Life. I love the premise of wanting more than what you have, of feeling trapped in your life, or in a small town.

Of longing for the world, only to learn that the best the world has to offer is right there in your hand, and you have just not appreciated it.

There are so many moments when I am caught up in that movie, when I feel like I am living their lives.

I love it when George falls for Mary as they walk home from the school dance together in robes and an old football uniform, and she runs and her robe accidentally comes off and she has to hide in the bush. Love that scene.

I love it when they toss a stone at the old house and make a wish.

I love the scene when George runs home after all that has happened and the banister top comes off in his hands, and he kisses it and replaces it. I love when he then hugs his children and tells them he loves them.

I love the scene when everyone comes into the house and drops money in the basket, when the IRS guy tears tosses in his own money, and the DA tears up the arrest warrant.

I love when Harry Bailey toast his big brother, George, "The richest man in the world."

But most of all, I love it when George prays. When he humbles himself before the Lord and asks for help. When he realizes that only divine intervention will save him.

Here is that prayer....

"Dear Father in heaven, I'm not a praying man, but if you're up there and you can hear me [begins crying] show me the way... show me the way. "

Yes, Father, show me the way. That is my daily prayer, not just at Christmastime, but every day of my life until God calls me home.

Dear Father, show me the me the way.....

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bah Humbug!

This week the Word Quilters will share some of our favorite quotes about Christmas.

Mine is from O. Henry's Gift of the Magi. O. Henry is a pen name for William Sydney Porter, who allegedly wrote the short story in a New York tavern. It was first released in 1906, and the theme of the story is retold in many genres for entertainment during the Christmas season.

I'll not spoil the story by telling you the plot. If you've read or heard it before then my chosen quote from the story will tease you into remembering the conclusion, and if you've never read it, you can read it here

But first here's my favorite portion of the story that hints at the plot.

"Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair…."

Share your favorite story, movie, song, or carol with us this week.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Now Where Did I Put. . .?

This could be a lean Christmas for many of us. But this is also a great time to get creative with ways to celebrate the season. Years ago (we won't go into how many), I worked a summer job for a family that had a unique tradition at Christmas time. What money they made with their seasonal business had to last the whole year and so they came up with a fun way to spend nothing on Christmas gifts.

Throughout the year and especially as time got closer to the season, family members would hide away little items that belonged to another member of the family. Usually it was something that they would not miss right away and/or wasn't essential--a pair of socks, a pen, a hairclip. Then at Christmas time they would wrap it up with a pretty bow and present it back to the owner. I imagine they heard "I wondered where I'd put that!" a lot.

Of course this probably works better with older kids and there would certainly have to be some rules set down. Or maybe this just might give you an idea to start thinking about some other creative ways for gift-giving that don't cost anything.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Celebrating with adult children

As family situations change, ways of celebrating holidays evolve. Since my husband and I and two sons don’t have any other relatives living in our state, the four of us celebrate Christmas at home. This means we have a quiet holiday which we like.

Now that our sons are adults and have moved out, my husband and I are not wakened at 4 a.m. by boys jumping on our bed, which we kind of miss. Instead, we all gather at a reasonable hour at our family hacienda on Christmas day, to spend time together, exchange gifts and enjoy a companionable meal. We each have a red felt stocking hung on the mantel, and our cats have their own stocking.

The cats’ stocking contains a can of tuna, the kind we eat, not pet food tuna, and I always manage to find a small size gift for each stocking, like a wool ski cap or gloves. One tradition is that Mrs. Santa (that’s me) buys 2 sacks of gold foil covered chocolate coins for the stockings, which is a Jewish tradition, symbolizing prosperity for the new year.

So with our sons, we continue all of the basic family Christmas traditions at our house.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Brenda's Fake it 'til You Make It

Change is difficult! Even "welcomed" change like a new pet, winning a prize, graduation, accomplishing a goal, or new job causes stress. But some unheavals like job loss, divorce, relocation, strained friendships, or an empty nest coupled with the busy, crazy holiday season can almost crush our spirit.

Research has shown that laughter benefits us from strengthening the immune system to reducing food cravings (helpful during the holidays!) to increasing our pain threshold. Laughter is a way to reduce the effects of stress. "Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine," said the poet Lord Byron.

So how do you laugh and have a great time when you're stressed? Some experts suggest a "Fake It Until You Make It" technique. Yep. Studies show faked laughter provides benefits such as physical release, distraction, and increased levels of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters!

So fake laughter; you'll still get the positive effects, and your fake merriment may lead to genuine smiles, laughter, and stress release.

Tell us now; how do you celebrate the season with joy and serenity when you're going through change? Leave us your fun and silly comment to tickle our funny bone.

Brenda Nixon,
Co-author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Creative Christmas Celebrations- By Trish Berg

Sometimes, we put way too much money into celebrating Christmas. What should be a celebration of the birth of Christ soon becomes a "keeping up with the Jones'" race to the checkout counter.

This year with so many people out of work, underemployed or budgeting so they can get out of debt, we all need to be thinking more creatively, more sensibly about how we celebrate Christmas.

And now is the time to start planning. Now is the time to start making lists and budgeting. Now is the time to make some creative plans on what you will spend your money on and what you won't.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned over the 13 years that I have been a mom is that gifts come and go. They gather dust. They break and they are lost. Even the most beloved presents become garage sale fodder and in the end, a waste of money.

Think about your own childhood. Can you think of the Christmas presents you received each and every year? All the boxes you opened...all the wrapping paper you tore through.

I know I can't.

I do remember a few meaningful ones, like the stick horse I wanted one year or the leather coat my mom got for me when I was a teenager.

But for the most part, the gifts are all forgotten, gone from my memory.

And our kids are no different.

But what does last? The memories you make. The time you spend with your children. Those are the things that will last a lifetime.

And those are the things we can all afford to give our children this Christmas.

So, even though it is July, I want you to start thinking about what you can do to budget this Christmas, and give more memories. Spend less so you can give your family MORE.

Here are my top ten Creative Christmas Celebration Tips.

10 Creative Christmas Celebration Tips

1. SAVE NOW - Start putting some cash aside now. Even $10 each week will add up so that by Christmas, you will have over $250. Saving $20 each week will give you $500.

2. CASH ONLY - Commit to only spending cash this Christmas. No credit cards. No additional debt. It is a big commitment but well worth it.

3. MAKE LISTS - Make a list of everyone you buy a gift for, and then set an amount you will spend on each gift. i.e. I will spend $10 on my nephew, and $25 on my brother. Setting and sticking to these limits will help you stay within your budget.

4. SHOP NOW - Shop now for those gifts when they are on clearance. You can find some fantastic deals online and in the stores on the clearance racks.

5. WISE MEN - Give your children 3 gifts only. One for each of the gifts the wise men gave Jesus at His birth. It will cut down on the gift giving and help you focus on Jesus.

6. TIME - Give the gift of time to your children. Plan on going places and doing things with your children. Spend some of your budgeted Christmas money on those things because they will build memories that will last a lifetime. (examples: go to an indoor water park in December; Take a weekend trip to a national landmark, etc.)

7. NAME DRAW - Ask extended family if they are willing to do a gift exchange to reduce gift giving and spending. Have all the cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents put their name in a hat on Thanksgiving (0r sooner) and randomly have each person draw a name out. Set a price range and do not over spend. That way each person only buys one gift, puts more thought into it, and saves each family money. Other ideas for saving money through a Christmas gift exchange can be found

8. HOMEMADE - Homemade gifts are always more meaningful than store bought ones. If you cross stitch, start now making some cross stitch patterns for gifts. If you sew, sew some throw pillows. If you craft, make some fun crafts you can put away for simple Christmas gifts to neighbors and friends.
Family Fun is a great resource for homemade gifts.

9. BAKE - My mother-in-law makes these amazing tea rings for gifts every year. Find something you would enjoy baking, from cookies to coffee cake, and make some sweet treats to give as gifts. You will save money and people will appreciate having home baked treats around the holidays.
Cookie mixes in a jar are simple and delicious.

10. INDIVIDUALLY WRAP - I wrap every part of a gift individually so when the kids wake up Christmas morning, there appear to be more gifts than there truly are. Kids love tearing open the paper, and I am still within budget! (i.e. I wrap socks in a shirt box; wrap the shirt separate from the pants; etc...) Other wrapping tips can be found

Sunday, July 5, 2009

When the Tree Tumbles

Hello, This is opening week of posting for the 2009 Christmas season. Each week, the Word Quilters (six co-authors), of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts ~ Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday will post 4-6 themed entries.

You'll read gift ideas, recipes, about family issues, money saving tips, saving your sanity, and ways to celebrate this blessed season with joy. Become a follower and receive all our daily tips.

This week's theme: Tips for celebrating when your family dynamics change.

My tip: Be flexible. Everything does not have to be done exactly the same to have a significant and memorable Christmas.

Trees Tumble. Finances change. People move. Family members pass on. Some years bring change, but they don't always mean we have to be disappointed with a Christmas celebration that is different from past get togethers.

Last September, Hurricane Ike blew into our neighborhood and uprooted many things on our farm. My daughter and her family live on seven acres of the farm and they had a huge pine tree go through the back of their house. It poked enough holes in the roof that water leaked down into almost every room and ruined their wood floors and walls. The house was not livable during repairs, so they moved into a rental, and moved back into their home THREE days before Christmas. Yep, they improvised.

She didn't get a single traditional ornament out of storage. Instead, they bought a small artificial tree (very on sale December 22), and they purchased all blue lights (think Elvis' blue Christmas), two boxes of silver ornaments, and silver tinsel. The kids decorated the tree, granddaughter Jolie put on a dress, Jack and Adam put on shirts and they had their Christmas photo taken by Dad and Mom.

Sheryle says, "The best part of Christmas was being back home, in our house."

Remember, if your finances, family structure, or location has changed in 2009. Be flexible.