Saturday, October 31, 2009

Re: The Reindeer Problem

Dear Santa,

Let me express how very much I love having you visit each year. Your gifts and surprises have enriched my life and added joy to my Christmas celebration. But Santa, we really do need to talk about something. The reindeer.

Each year our roof gets a little weaker from all that weight landing up there. I wonder if a change in the diet and exercise program in the off season might lend to a leaner and more muscular team that would be a bit lighter in their step onto the roof?

And while we are mentioning diet, I have one other suggestion that would certainly make life easier on my husband who has to get up and clean the gutters each spring. The reindeer droppings are a bit of a nuisance when they clog up the downspouts. Perhaps a diet higher in fiber and more conducive to regularity might help.

As usual, we will be setting out the chocolate chip cookies and milk for you and of course, carrots for your team--high in fiber and nutrition and I understand that they are good for the eyes as well. Perhaps better eyesight will keep them from mistaking the satellite dish for a sled.

Looking forward with anticipation to your Christmas Eve visit. Hope all goes well for you and Mrs. Claus in the meantime. And hoping we can resolve these reindeer issues without hurting their feelings.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Dear Santa letter

Dear Santa,

I do have everything I need this Christmas, and I’ve been pretty good. No, not perfect, but haven’t committed any major crimes either.

One gift you could leave in my Christmas stocking this year is a big ol’ gift certificate for books, to a local bookstore, or an online store of your choice.

You are Santa so you know best.

If the gift certificate is huge, I can have the fun of selecting children’s books to give away. Does everyone love wandering the children’s books sections as much as I do? The illustrations are so captivating and the poetry so delectable.

With this humongous gift certificate in addition to children's books, I will buy books for me! Plus more for my church’s library, a local homeless shelter and other folks who need and welcome books.

So that is what I would enjoy, and if someone else needs that certificate more, please put it in their Christmas stocking this year, instead of in mine. I always find a way to buy and enjoy books.

Love, Terra

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And It Smelled Nice, Too!

Not possessing a craft gene, posting about a homemade, inexpensive gift is like having a root canal with no anesthetic. Then I remembered a particular October when my husband was finishing his last year of graduate school. I had just given birth to Reese, our youngest, who was only 11 months behind his sister Molly. We pinched pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters—and, perhaps even a few pesos!

I borrowed an idea from a flea market and tried it at home. Here’s what I did.

I made fragrant door hangers and swags (to put above the fireplace) out of dried fruit and coat hangers. WHAT?!?!?! It’s simple—and you know it must be if I’m saying it.

Thinly slice oranges and apples and allow them to dry out on a cookie sheet lined with old newspaper. Flip them once or twice so they dry evenly.

Drill tiny holes in cinnamon sticks. “Thread” the dried fruit and cinnamon sticks onto the coat hanger to use in any size and shape you want. You could make a small wreath and add a raffia bow. My favorite size were door hangers because they didn’t require too much fruit. I made a loop at one end and speared the fruit and cinnamon sticks about 5-6 inches in length. Another loop at the bottom for the raffia bow and voila, you have yourself a beautiful, and oh-so-inexpensive, homemade gift. Spritz with apple jack fragrance to refresh the smell as needed. The one I made to put over my fireplace lasted several years! And I gave away a dozen or so to family members and friends.

Happy drying and threading!

Now what gifts can you suggest for the rest of us—crafty or not? We can always use new ideas in this department!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Santa Baby by Brenda Nixon

This week each of us co-authors on A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts is writing a letter to Santa. I don't know about you but I'll ask Santa for front row tickets to see a live performance of Il Divo. That won't happen.

Since I'm a speaker/author to parents, I will share tips for your children to write letters. They can then theirs to and it's free!

Tip one:
Remind children to practice thankfulness; begin their letter with appreciating the stories and generosity of Santa. Whether Santa is real or not, it's good to teach kids to acknowledge others before putting out their hand in request.

Tip two:
Remind children that a letter to Santa is not a "to do" list. They can express their wants but that doesn't mean they'll get everything their little hearts desires (nor should they, as it sends the wrong life message).

Tip three:
Encourage children to be honest. Self-expression is therapeutic and often children can share their feelings better on paper - or to an imaginary friend - than to a live adult.

Tip four:
Assist tots who are too young to write. This experience must be fun for kids. If they're forced to sit and labor over their penmanship or in finding the right words, then they'll avoid it as work.

My two daughters occasionally wrote Santa letters. It gave my husband and I a sneak peek into their heart, while allowing us to be their first and most influential teachers.

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dear Santa - By Trish Berg

Dear Santa,

I know I am a little old to write to you, but even at 41, I feel like a kid inside at Christmas. So I decided to write to you and ask you for what I truly wanted this year.

So, Santa, would you please bring me a cappuccino machine. I just think having one would make me happy.

And if I could have a sweet cup of cappuccino in the mornings, I might be able to wake up without feeling grumpy that my alarm went off at 6 am.

And if I don't feel grumpy, then I am less likely to yell at my children when they can;t find their tennis shoes on gym day or forgot that they needed a special packed lunch for their field trip.

If I don't yell at my children in the mornings, they are more likely to concentrate and do well in school, paying attention to their teachers and remembering their homework assignments.

If they are more likely to remember their homework assignments, then my husband and I won;t have to harp on them about not getting their homework done and our evenings will go smoother.

If our evenings go more smoothly, then we can actually sit down and have a peaceful family dinner.

As we sit down to have a peaceful family dinner, our children will be more likely to open up about their day, sharing about the ups and downs about their lives, opening up their hearts.

As our children open up their hearts to us, we are more likely to know how we should best parent them and love them, all the while guiding them closer to God and His will for their lives.

And once the kiddos are all tucked into bed at night, I can lay my head on the pillow, and say a prayer of thanks to God for the blessings I have been given to be a wife and mom.

Then again, as much as I would love for you to bring me a cappuccino machine, maybe I can simply pray for God to make me the mom my children need me to be.

But the sweet cappuccino would be a nice touch, if you don't mind.

Sincerely, Trish

P.S. Yes, I have been a very good girl....well, most of the time :)
P.S.S. To EMAIL Santa for FREE with your kiddos, go to You even get a response from Santa,
and can track his trek around the world on Christmas Eve.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

First of all I haven't written a letter asking for anything in nearly 50 years so I think you should seriously consider my requests.

I'm writing early because in another month, you're going to get thousands of letters from kids way too young to even know what they really want. So, I thought it would be nice to write you early and after much soul searching, I know what I want.

Could I have a Miss America make-over? OK, I know there's not much to work with, wanna negotiate? How about a MRS. America make-over? I'm not asking for all the perks, just a few. How about a new hour glass figure? Barbie turned 50 recently and she still looks smashing. And while you're shaping me up, how about airbrushing my crinkles? If you can bag my sags, I'll happily donate them to someone 30 years older than me. They might be content to trade out their old goods.

When you tumble down the chimney and leave the new me, I'll leave out fudge and Starbuck's coffee. I know it'll be a long night. My sweet tooth will be lurking nearby, could you haul him off in your empty sack? He's the reason I'm packing way too much in my trunk. Santa, you are one of the few who knows my real age of 61, but I've been telling people I'm 81, and they always say, "Wow! you look really good for your age!" But if you will roll back the years and cellulite, I can be an honest woman again.

Since, I'll have my new Mrs. America figure, I'd also like to follow tradition and ask for one more thing. If I have any influence at all, I'd like Real and Lasting World Peace. On second thought, Santa, just forget the new figure, I've given up wearing anything over 3 inch heels. And a new figure would require high-risers. How tall are some of those steepled shoes? Never mind. I'm comfortable in my skin and SAS loafers.

Just work on acquiring that World Peace, please.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hostess Gifts

Ivory Soap bars, some holiday designed napkins, and a little parafin can make beautiful decorative bars of soap for the bathroom and make lovely hostess gifts as well.

  • Find napkins that have some small decorative designs you can cut out that fit the size of the top of the Ivory Soap bar.
  • Melt some parafin in a small shallow aluminum disposable baking pan. You can do this by placing the aluminum pan in a larger pan of water on low heat on the stove.
  • Using only one layer of the napkin (some have several layers of paper), place the cutout on top of a slightly damp soap bar. It should stick but if it doesn't, you can brush on a bit of the melted parafin to help it stick.
  • Carefully holding the edges of the bar of soap, dip the bar design side down into the paraffin just far enough to coat the design and about 1/2 the edge of the bar of soap.
  • Dry design side up on a piece of wax paper.
  • When thoroughly set, wrap in colorful cellophane paper for gifts.
  • You'll find that the bars of soap last longer as well with the wax coating.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gift of Amaryllis, Beauty Under $20

You do not need a green thumb to give a gift of a splashy red, ice cool white, lime green, or candy cane striped white and red amaryllis for the holidays. This photo shows my red amaryllis from last year's Christmas, which will bloom again this year.
October or November is an ideal time to buy an amaryllis bulb, and your local plant nurseries will have them now, or very soon.
Bulbs can cost $5 or $10, add a ceramic pot, a tiny bit of potting soil, and your gift is ready to go.
Buy it planning on 8 to 12 weeks before it blooms, so right now is a great time to buy the bulb. Need I say that you too deserve an amaryllis, so you may want to buy more than one bulb.
A hardware store chain in my area is selling these bulbs in a pot for $5 this week, now that is almost unbelievably cheap!
If you buy the bulb separately, plant it in a pot that is only slightly larger than the bulb, with a bit of potting soil to anchor it, and be sure the pot has a hole for drainage and a saucer to set on. Just water once a week and put it in a sunny spot indoors.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What Is a Tisket Anyway?

I like quick and easy decorating tips. Aside from arranging my regular Christmas items, I find that it’s easy to “display” anything in a glass bowl or a rustic basket. Anything from glass-blown ornaments to pine cones to rolls of ribbon looks good out in the open if they’re grouped together in a bowl or basket.

And, though I don’t keep out my Christmas-y type items year ‘round, I do use and reuse my baskets all year long! Incoming mail, bills, kids’ papers, sewing stuff, coupons, loose change . . . anything looks decorative if you put it in a basket or bowl!

What’s your best (or quickest and easiest) display idea? We can all learn from each other and try things now!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dollar-Stretching Gifts by Brenda Nixon

We all love to give -- afterall the Bible reminds us that it's more blessed to give than to receive. And it's fun to give. Plus there are those "group" or "office" get togethers when everyone is exchanging gifts and you want to participate. But if you're out of work or money, how do you give gifts without losing your sanity or savings?

For the frugal minded (and who isn't in this economy?) here are two tips to save face and finances:

Homemade gifts: Warm chocolate chip cookies made with love are always cherished and gobbled up. Print out coupons for free babysitting or yard maintenance. Find internet sites that offer homemade versions of bath salts, soaps, and other welcomed gifts.

Basket gifts: Throughout the year, collect "freebies" or sample sizes of food, laundry soap, toothpaste, hair care, lotions and notions. Artfully place all those wonderful - and useful - items in a pretty basket, wrap with cellophane and a large, festive bow. Voila! You can give a gift that is sure to please and has cost you virtually nothing. Personalize the gift basket by packing items specific to a person's need; if it's for a college student, then school supplies and munchies would be wanted.

Don't hit the panic button this year. Make it a wonderful Christmas season with dollar-stretching ideas.

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Simple Inexpensive Gifts - By Trish Berg

We have four children, and each of our children has at least 4 teachers in school. They have Sunday School teachers, baton instructors, coaches, and the list goes on. I want to bless these amazing people with sweet gifts at Christmas time, but do the math,

That is 16 plus 4 plus 2 plus 3...Ok, I lost count. Let's just round up to 20 or more gits. That can not only break the bank, be stressful to figure everything out.

So, what we have done many a time, is give the gift of COOKIES IN A JAR. They are simple recipes that you assemble in canning jars, all the ingredients to make cookies or brownies. We cut some Christmas fabric for the lid, print out labels and instructions, and voila. For a little but of investment, we can give these homemade gifts that look beautiful and are yummy.

So here is how you can make your own.

Gathering Supplies

Quart Size Canning Jars with Lids
Scrap Fabric
Recipe and Required Ingredients (below)

Filling the Jar

Thoroughly wash and dry the jars and lids.
Pick a recipe from below and gather your ingredients.
Using the instructions and tips from the recipe you choose and fill the jar!

Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar Gift

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


Mix the salt and baking soda in with the flour, then layer the ingredients a quart-size jar in the order listed, with the chocolate chips on top. Use scissors to cut a 9 inch-diameter circle from calico. Place over lid and secure with rubber band. Tie on a raffia or ribbon bow to cover rubber band.

Enclose a card with the following mixing and baking directions:

Baking Instructions:

Note: Store this jar in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months before using.
Additional ingredients needed: 1 cup unsalted butter or margarine,
1 large egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Sift dry ingredients through a colander to separate the chocolate chips from other ingredients. Beat butter in a medium bowl until creamy. Beat sifted ingredients into butter until blended. In a small bowl, beat egg with vanilla. Mix beaten egg mixture into butter mixture until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter, spaced well apart, onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 4 dozen.

Additional Recipes for COOKIES IN A JAR are

Monday, October 19, 2009

Homemade Gifts

Look for great ideas this week from the WQs as we share how-to for terrific homemade gifts.

Mine is one that most any one person or family would enjoy:

Fiesta Cracker Fixins!

scant cup of canola oil
1 packet of dry Hidden Vallen Ranch Dressing
2-3 teaspoons red pepper flakes (I use 2)
1 box fat free saltines (4 sleeves, MUST BE FAT FREE)

In a very large bowl with lid or oversized large zippered plastic bag (larger than gallon size) mix first three ingredients and stir, then gently empty the four sleeves of Fat Free crackers into container. Roll bowl or bag to coat all crackers. Repeat every couple hours. Leave in container for 24 hours. Store in zippered freezer bags or storage bags.

These are wonderful with light salads or soups. Or I serve them with a cream cheese chicken spread.

My teenage nephews and tweener grandsons can't get enough of these tasty, zingy crackers. To create a gift, using the recipe below, make a batch of these at home. Then divide them up into baggies according to the number of people you will be gifting them to. (If you want, place some into freezer bags for your own use. They freeze great and are scrumptous crunchy when pulled from the freezer to go with a mild homemade soup.) Buy extra boxes of crackers (must be fat free to remain crunchy), red pepper flakes and individual packets of Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix to include in your basket or cellophane bag, so your recipients can then make a batch of their own. Copy the recipe on a large index card, punch a hole in corner and attach to gift with ribbon. The recipients will have a recipe they'll treasure and use for years to come.

Tell us about a favorite homemade gift you gave or received.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Grandkids Picture Wall

One of the favorite spots in my home is our picture wall of the grandkids. I bought frames that are similar in color and size but differ in shape and framed all those great 8x10 pictures we received as gifts.

Each child has his/her own frame and as I get a new picture, I take their frame down and insert the picture in front of the older ones. Each time I get to look at how much they've grown and changed.

We will have to shuffle the framed pictures a bit this next Christmas to make room for number seven. Another girl. If there are too many more additions, I'll have to switch to 5x7 pictures.

The wall is right outside our bedroom door so the last thing I see before going to bed at night are all those shiny smiling faces. I say goodnight and cherish the blessings.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Favorite Decorations

I love how my house transforms from ordinary to warm and sparkly as we decorate for Christmas.
I can't choose a favorite decoration since all the tiny parts add up to such a merry vibe.
The colors of red and gold and green pop out in a festive way, beginning with when I put my collection of wooden nutcrackers up on the fireplace mantel.
Red Christmas stockings, the traditional red poinsettias, and red and white amaryllis accent the center piece of our tall Christmas tree.
The wooden reindeer displaying cards from friends and family far and near has a place of honor.
Our two nativity scenes have quiet beauty, and Christmas carols add their own charm.
Who could choose just one element? Not me today. I love it all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Love White Elephants!!!

If I haven’t already shared with you, I LOVE white elephant gift exchanges. In a lot of ways, they’re more fun than the real thing. Through the years, I’ve found some wonderful (read: horrible) gifts—ones that live on through their legends in our family or circle of friends. In fact, my story about the cardboard cut-out of Elvis from a white elephant gift exchange is my favorite contribution to A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. If you like The King, this story is a must read!

Some other white elephant favorites include:
The actual ceramic white elephant I found at Canton, 300-acre flea market between Dallas and Tyler.
A pink flamingo stuffed animal (we poke major fun at pink flamingo aficionados of the world)
Redneck gifts always bring a smile (the redneck woman’s coozie, camo with pink fuzzy fringe OR the redneck briefcase—men’s boxers stapled to a wooden handle)

What’s your favorite white elephant story? Please share. I could use the laugh!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Home Decor by Brenda Nixon

A few friends tell me they keep their nativity set up year round to remind them of Christ's first and His anticipated second coming. While I respect that tradition, it's not one our family has adopted.

We do have a lovely, handmade nativity that I bought one fall for the upcoming Christmas season. Since my wedding anniversary is in November, I bought the blue-glazed porcelain nativity as our anniversary gift knowing we'd have it for years.

We also decorate outdoors. I don't do the lawn ornaments nor look like Clark W. Griswold in Christmas Vacation but our home is festive.

Actually, in my home decor, I like to rotate the furnishings by season. If you visit me in the spring you'll see fresh flowers, "springy" wall decor, and other reminders of new life. If you visit in Autumn, you'll munch candy corn and smell fall scented candles. Changing my decor with the season is one way I make my home a haven to family and friends.

How do you decorate for the holidays . . . or anytime of year?

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

Monday, October 12, 2009

Favorite Christmas Decoration - By Trish Berg


I love decorating my home at Christmastime...little white lights on the banister. Greenery and white lights oh the barn beams that adorn my kitchen ceiling. Mini Christmas trees, Santa's, angels and wise men.

Most of all I love decorating with snowmen because I can leave them up all winter long, well past Christmas.
So when New Year's comes and goes, and we take down all of the Santa Clause figurines, trees, white lights and greenery, we can leave up a jolly old bunch of snowmen to brighten our home.

A Little Bit of Christmas Year Round

This week, the Word Quilters will talk about our favorite Christmas decorations, might be outdoor, might be indoors. Mine is about a year round table top Christmas tree that sits atop a barley twist table in our family room.

When January rolls around, I'm a bit sad to put away the Christmas decorations. Years ago, I came up with an idea that suits our family and delights our grandchildren. Since I resist the urge to leave the stockings, mistletoe, and shimmering lights up all year long, our foot and a half, year round Christmas tree brings a bit of whimiscal joy to each day. I also leave out one other Christmas item that I'll tell you about in a minute.

The picture is of the current autumn tree (the little string of lights and small shiny autumn leaves didn't show up in the pic). The tree will hold Christmas decor soon, then bright red hearts, then a few crosses and tiny bunnies, and then late spring to fall, it sparkles with American pride, proud to be an American tree. The tree has a set of battery powered lights that we turn on when we have guests.

I also leave beside the tree a small six by five inch nativity, a single piece of carved limestone with faint pink tinting--a reminder that gifts to others come in different packages, year round things that can lift spirits.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Head

Every group I have ever heard of that does an annual White Elephant Gift Exchange always has at least one item that keeps circulating. Our Sunday school class was no exception. For a while it was a pair of very large ceramic birds. There was a bit of a debate over whether they were peacocks or fancy pheasants. They mysteriously disappeared. Someone's garage sale perhaps?

Undaunted, our class quickly found a replacement--The Head. It showed up one Christmas unexpectedly and sent its recipient jumping up and tossing the package across the room. The Head was made of white styrofoam and had been used for someone's hairstyling course at the local beauty school. Over the years it returned with various additions: sunglasses, moustache, hats, etc. One year someone even gave it a new hairstyle.

The Head eventually vanished although I don't imagine it happened at a garage sale. Tales of The Head still abound and I'm sure whenever anyone sees a box about that same size in the pile of White Elephant Gifts, there's a niggle of anticipation. Has The Head returned?

Friday, October 9, 2009

I have no white elephant

Yes, tis true, I have no white elephant story.
Oh, I am a bit green with envy reading here about the fun my co-authors are having with white elephant gift exchanges.
It seems to be most fun with a big group involved, like say 20 people.
As I have mentioned before, at Christmas our celebrating together group is 4 people, my husband and I and our 2 adult sons.
The only white elephant I purchased was at a church "white elephant sale", where I bought a tiny cactus for 25 cents, when I was 8 years old. That cactus is thriving at my parents' house and has flowers several times a year. But it can NOT be moved, it will bite someone, with its spines, so it is not suitable for a gift exchange.
I hope you all get inspired to start this funny gift exchange with your own families.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Very Own Gift List--Now Who's Going to Forward This to My Family?

I’m not dependent on giving and receiving gifts like my daughter, whose first language is gift-giving, not English! However, when I’m pressed for a list, I try to comply. Here are my favorites:

Books—novels by Brandilyn Collins or humor by Karen Linamen
Food—I especially like getting things I hesitate to buy for myself because they’re expensive and/or I’m the only one in my family who eats them. Think wild rice, shredded parmesan cheese, shelled pecans, sugared pecans, port wine cheese balls and Stoned Wheat Thins, sushi.
Gifts of time—I need help (often) with my computer, labeling and printing photos, going through closets and organizing things. I love it when my family offers to help me do these things!
Restaurant gift cards—We don’t eat out too often (Have you noticed? It’s expensive!), but I thoroughly enjoy a nice out.

What are some of the items on your secret wish list? Promise we won’t tell . . .

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

White Elephant? by Brenda Nixon

"What!?" she exclaimed with a broad grin.

The circle of friends roared with laughter. I nearly fell over in my chair. Someone else was slapping me on the back as she hooted and hollered in delight.

It was that pesky white elephant gift we'd been passing around for years! The item itself wasn't as funny as the fact that the stupid thing kept popping up each Christmas at our annual White Elephant gift exchange. From one year to the next, I couldn't remember who was bestowed the honor of taking home the offensive possession but, each year we all circled our chairs at a new party and hoped we were not the one "blessed" with it.

And the one who brought it tried to disguise it with elaborate wrapping that'd make everyone one else want to choose it from the pile of glittering gifts under the tree. It became an art to camouflage it for the next victim.

Odd isn't it? Something that repelled us actually brought us together.

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

White Elephant Gift Exchange - By Trish Berg

We have a white elephant gift exchange story that we will never forget. It involves a bronze bust of Buddha....need I say more?

When Mike and I were first married, 2 of my distant cousins flew in from New York City to attend the wedding here in rural Ohio. My 2 cousins, John and Joe, live a very different life than we do. They grew up in Queens, and both had successful careers in New York City.

Definitely a city way of life, very urban and sophisticated trendy and hip.

So when they went shoppingfor our wedding gift, I am sure they wanted to get us something that represented their unique style. Well, that they did.

On the night before our wedding, after our rehearsal dinner, they came home with me and handed me their wedding gift to open. When I pulled out this solid bronze bust of Buddha, I was not quite sure what to say. It overwhelmed me in many ways.

Most of all I had no idea what I was going to do with it.

The thought was sweet, and I know they probably spent a pretty penny on the thing. But it was just not us. So we stored it in our attic, and Mike used it to air dry his baseball caps after he washed them.

And when our extended family decided to have white elephant Christmas gift exchanges, well, we knew just what to do with our bust of Buddha.

Yep, it became the white elephant gift with the best story. It rotated from year to year, whoever had won it the previous year, wrapped it up and brought it the next year. What a hoot.

But alas, our beloved bronze bust of Buddha is gone. It was gifted to my sister-in-law's husband, and when they divorced, we did not win custody.

Oh well....not more hat drying for us.

But he lives on in our memories....

Monday, October 5, 2009

White Elephant Gifts

This week the Word Quilters will tell about a white elephant gift exchange (sometimes these are called a Chinese gift exchange). They are great fun and if you've never participated in one, you might plan one for your holiday family gathering. In our family, we either try to find an outrageous gift at a garage sale, some atrocious thing from our own homes, or a really decent item that we no longer need.

I've given and received both. The exchange goes like this: everyone brings a wrapped gift fitting the above descriptions. The gifts are stacked in one place. If there are 20 gifts then the sequence of numbers from 1-20 are written on slips of paper and anyone who brought a gift picks a number. Whoever gets number 1 gets to select the first gift from the pile. He opens it and shows it to everyone. The number 2 person gets to take the first gift opened or choose a new gift to open. Numbers 2-20 can take any gift opened ahead of them or open a new gift. Of course number 20 has the advantage because they can chose any of the 20 gifts opened before them. If your gift is taken, you get to chose another wrapped gift. We don't let number one have another chance at the end of the game like some families. This is probably explained better somewhere else on the Internet--if you need the rules. We are often accused of making the rules as we play.

I've given away some really tacky things such as very poorly painted "artwork," very outdated clothing (think polyester leisure suit, with wide white stitching on lapels), gaudy ceramics and such, but I also gave away a 150 year old English serving platter when I cleaned out my collection of bone platters.

I have to back slap my jealousy when I think about the year my mother slipped a beautiful piece of footed ruby red glassware into the gift exchange and someone else in the family claimed it in the exchange. I am happy they won it. I am happy they won it. I am happy....

I think the best gift ever was a stuffed crow resting on a branch; it returned year after year, reminding us of Poe's "ungainly fowl," the raven, who said, "Nevermore." So, there you have it. A good-for-laughs family fun, a mix of the shabby, chic, and extreme.

Do you have these fun gift exchanges at your holiday celebrations? Let us hear about the "best" gifts shared at yours.
*Image from Pigtown Design's blog

Saturday, October 3, 2009

All I Want For Christmas. . .

Thankfully, I still have my two front teeth but it won't be long and I'll be asked what I want for Christmas. It's always such a hard question to answer. After all, there's that looming shadow called a budget that casts gloom and doom some years.

Given no limit, I'd ask Santa for a cruise with all my kids and grandkids aboard. I've seen other families on cruises for the holidays and yes, been a little envious.

Bringing it down more into the realm of reality and yet not worrying about that budget thing, I'd opt for a new laptop computer. While not as old as I am--face it, computers weren't around when I was born--in computer years mine is getting up there. Computer years are calculated faster than doggie years. I think I've heard that before you get it out of the box it could be obsolete.

I think about last year's gifts and realize one of the most treasured is a calendar my daughter-in-law made with all the pictures of our grandchildren on it and little pictures of them on their birth dates. And it was "free" with some sort of redemption from Coke products. I'd love another.

While it's nice to wish and dream, at this stage of life, I am happiest to give more than receive. Still, the kid in me loves a little something to rip paper off of.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Making a List and Checking it Twice

Making a list and checking it twice,
for all friends and relations, whether naughty or nice!
When my sons ask what my husband, Will, and I want for Christmas, I have some budget minded ideas. Sometimes our sons improvise and give me gift certificates to a plant nursery or to a book store, always a wise choice for me, and to a bike store for my mountain biking husband. He loves that gift!
Some years one of our sons will give us one of those entertainment coupon books, with lots of great deals for restaurant meals. One year a son gave us an air popper for popcorn which was very welcome and gets alot of use.
Do I write out a gift list for my Christmas gift giving ideas?
Actually, post-it notes are a part of my day to day life, full of things to do and buy, and I still jot down holiday gift ideas. However, this is not a structured list, just brilliant (hopefully brilliant) ideas.
I ask my favorite people, what would you like for Christmas, and am happy when they give me several ideas so I can choose one.
Also, I am on the lookout for small items that will be put in the Christmas stockings.
Our cats get the same gifts every year, and are well content with our selections: catnip grown by my sister and a can of Chicken of the Sea tuna (not the pet food variety).
Since we don't want or need anything, the best thing our sons give us is their hugs and presence back home for the holidays.
Being together with our loved ones is like a glimpse of heaven, for me, and a super gift.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Number 10:
Keep snooping children from ruining your Christmas—and theirs—by wrapping gifts as soon as you purchase them. You may use a code, such as a sticker or number, to distinguish between gifts. Don’t worry about tags and bows yet; add those later. Or, if you simply cannot take the time to wrap right then, hide the gifts under your child’s sink. They’ll never look there!

Number 9:
Set a gift-giving budget. Discuss gift expectations with your mate, and stick to said guidelines. If you’re tempted to overspend in a particular area, have your husband do that shopping instead. Track your progress as you go along.

Number 8:
Don’t fill up your calendar with any errands, appointments or activities that can wait until after Christmas. Encourage leaders of groups you’re involved with to consider suspending December meetings. Wait until January to take your dog to the vet, schedule that mammogram or shop for new blinds.

Number 7:
Prepare early! Choose a date in October to do each of the following:
• Book animal boarding for your travel dates
• Schedule your hair appointment
• Line up baby-sitters (Pay them a little extra to arrive early so you can finish getting dressed in peace!)
• Make lists (menus, rental equipment, shopping) and remember where you put them!

Number 6:
Stock up on items you know you’ll need:
• Batteries
• Film chips
• Stamps
• Butter

Number 5:
Keep inspiring Christmas books, such as A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, around your house. Take deliberate breaks during the day to rest, read and rejuvenate for a few moments.

Number 4:
Do the things you normally do. If you exercise, continue with that routine. Eat enough fruits and veggies. Drink lots of water. Have quiet time. Get enough sleep. However, don’t take on any new self-improvement projects until after the holidays. What do you think New Year’s resolutions are for?

Number 3:
Keep a calendar handy where everyone in the family can see it. Add activities and events as soon as you know them to avoid conflicts and keep you on track. Reply immediately to invitations, circling “rsvp” on the invitation so you know you did it. This is a good time to build family time into your schedule. For example, put “Watch The Grinch and have hot chocolate” on a weeknight, so other things don’t squeeze out all your family time.

Number 2:
Learn to say no. Stop feeling guilty because you can’t do everything! Practice saying these phrases:
“No, we’re not going to be able to make it. We need that time together as a family.”
“No, I can’t bake cookies for that event, but I’d be happy to pick some up at the store.”
“No, I tried jamming in too many activities last year, and it really backfired. This year, we’re simplifying. Let’s get together after the first of the year instead.”

Number 1:
Remember the Reason for the Season. Stop, sit and take time reflect on Jesus. Just thinking about Who He is and what He’s done for you can calm the most frazzled hearts and minds. Meditate on His power and goodness for 2-3 minutes, pray for strength, and then get up to face the rest of your day!

What sanity savers can you add? What works to calm your spirit and be more like George Bailey than Ebenezer Scrooge?