Saturday, December 26, 2009

And All Through The House

It's the day after Christmas. The kids have come and gone and the house is suddenly very quiet. The tree lights still twinkle but the gifts no longer grace the tree skirt with anticipation. What lingers is the warmth of hugs, the echo of giggles, and the joy of knowing that we shared in celebrating the most glorious event ever--the birth of Jesus.

I pray yours was a Christmas of reflection--the reflection of His love. May the new year to follow fill you with the peace of His spirit.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone

May this holiday season and the new year be joyful for you and your families
This is my last post of 2009, and 2010 will be here very soon, and I hope to see you here, and on your blogs when I visit them. This photo gives you a glimpse of our tree, stockings and nutcrackers.
"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life." John 3:16 The Message

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Welcome and Farewell by Brenda Nixon

Thanks for visiting our blog! Each of us, co-authors, appreciates your interest and support for our blog and our book.

Here's my final post for 2009. This week leading into Christmas, we're asked to share our Christmas day plans. Now that my daughters are young adults, we have the luxury of a slow, leisurely morning. We awake, discuss the news, brew coffee, open packages, and savor my homemade cinnamon rolls. Later, we clean up the crumpled wrapping paper, bows, and boxes to ready ourselves for company.
Of course, things were different and disastrous when the kids were toddlers. The cameras were always flashing, the dogs barking, paper flying around the room, toy parts and pieces scattered on the rug, squeals and spills were a routine part of Christmas morning. But those days hold great memories, too.
What are your plans for Christmas day? Please leave us your thoughts. And who knows, maybe we'll run into each other at the after-Christmas sales.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 5 Last Minute Christmas Tips - By Trish Berg

Three days and counting...Christmas is coming.

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor,

Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

So how do you survive the chaos and find true joy?

By focusing on the true gift of Christmas, simplifying the small stuff, and enjoying the journey.

To help you get started, here are my Top 5 Last Minute Christmas Tips:


1. STORY TIME - One of our favorite traditions is to read 2 Christmas stories. On Christmas Eve, we all gather around the tree and read Twas the Night Before Christmas. The kids love eating a Christmas cookie and listening to the words flow. Then, on Christmas morning, before a single present is unwrapped, we gather around the breakfast table and read the TRUE story of Christmas, of the birth of Jesus. You can start with Luke 2:1-20 or Matthew 1:18-2:20. This truly helps your family focus on the fun side of Christmas, and yet cherish the real gift of Jesus.

2. MAKE AHEAD BREAKFAST - Take the time on Dec 23rd or 24th to make your Christmas morning breakfast ahead of time. That way Christmas morning, you can simply enjoy eating and not have anything to do. 2 fantastic ideas are Sausage and Egg Casserole, or Sunday French Toast. For those and more great breakfast recipes click here.

3. SLOW DOWN - We tend to be in such a rush to "get done" with opening gifts and celebrating Christmas. I enjoy slowing the day down. Maybe open a few gifts in the morning. Let your kids play with those gifts, have lunch, and then open some more in the afternoon. Spread it out, take your time and enjoy the time together. Don't rush out the door to grandma's house, instead, stay home as long as you can and relax and enjoy watching your children play with their gifts.

4. CUT IN HALF - If you are a to-do list kinda person like I am, write down everything you think you need to do between now and Christmas Day and then...CUT YOUR LIST IN HALF. Christmas is Christmas not because of anything you do, it is Christmas because God gave us the gift of Jesus. Celebrate that, and don't worry about getting it all right..or all done. Celebrate what you have, thank God for all in your life, and let the rest go.

5. GIVE TO SOMEONE - Nothing will make you feel more joy than giving to someone else. Take hot cocoa to the Salvation army bell ringer at Walmart. Bring cookies to your gas station attendant or a tin of Chex Mix to the local fire or police station. Give to someone who does not expect you to give to them, and you will feel the true joy of Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

An Apple for the Teacher

If you are looking for a last minute gift for teachers, try these easy to make chocolate covered apples:

6 medium sized sweet-tart apples
Popsicle sticks or wooden meat skewers
1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate cubed or morsels
1 cup M&Ms, chopped nuts, coconut, or crushed Oreo cookies

Insert sticks in apples and refrigerate. Apples will coat better if chilled.
Melt chocolate in double boiler or in microwave oven until warm not hot. Stir to make a smooth consistency.
Dip and roll apples in chocolate using spoon to help cover hard to reach areas.
Roll coated apples in desired topping and put on waxed paper on a cookie sheet in refrigerator to set the chocolate.
Wrap the apple in colored cellophane and secure with a twisty around stick. Add curly ribbon for decoration.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Give Yourself by Brenda Nixon

It's sheer joy to be a co-author on this book. The six of us have laughed and learned as we discussed, developed, and delivered our "baby" to the world. Thank you for visiting our blog and buying our book. We deeply appreciate you sharing our enthusiasm with your support.

This week, each of us is to share an inexpensive gift idea for an educator; classroom teacher, Sunday school teacher, your child's teacher, etc. I've learned from teachers I talked to that they'd prefer a gift card. Many times they're given candles, mugs, and things they're already overloaded with. While they appreciate the gesture, they'd benefit from something else.

People often confuse price with value. In today's economy many don't have the money to buy high-priced gadgets but, can still give a valuable gift. Consider gifting your fav teacher with a certificate for your services. "What service do I have to offer?" you ask.
  • Yard Maintenance
  • Housecleaning
  • Pet Sitting
  • Snow Removal
  • Sewing
  • Bringing in a Homecooked Meal
  • Free Childcare
  • Small Engine Repair
  • Window Cleaning
  • Computer Tutoring
You see, YOU have a lot to offer! How about sharing the best gift - yourself - with a teacher this year. And, share your comment for a chance to win a FREE COPY of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. Everyone who comments on a blog this week will be entered into a drawing for a free book! If you already have one, use the freebie as a Christmas gift (I even gave an autographed copy for a December wedding gift).

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Teacher Christmas Gifts on the Cheap - By Trish Berg

I have 4 children who each have five teachers at school, and one Sunday School teacher at church. Now, I am not a mathematician, but that's about...hmmmm, let's see. Four times five add more, carry the one.

About 25 gifts. And that can get expensive.
So what is a mom to do? Here are 5 TOP TEACHER GIFTS that won;t break the mom bank.


1. COOKIES IN A JAR - You can assemble these cookie mixes in quart mason jars, and add a fabric swatch on top. Talk about sharing sweet love. Click here for details.

2. LIGHT UP THEIR DAY - You can buy inexpensive votive or jar candles at the dollar store and wrap them in fabric swatches with a tag attached that reads "You Light Up My Days."

3. NOTEPADS - Teachers are always in need of notepads. Find some fun and inexpensive ones at the dollar store and wrap them up in fun paper for your teachers.

4. COFFEE TO GO - Purchase $5 coffee gift cards to a local coffee house or Starbucks. Always a great gift, and no wrapping needed. $5 will buy one sweet cup of coffee. For a variation, get a Subway $5 gift card for lunch on the go. Their foot longs are only $5!

5. HOT COCOA MIX - Make hot cocoa mix. There are a ton of varieties that are sweet and scrumptious. Who doesn't love hot cocoa for Christmas. Tons of recipes here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Posted by Cathy: Co-Author Trish received the following e-mail from a reader, and we thought we'd share how handy it is to have a copy of our book around at Christmastime. It's a sparkly book on the outside and on the inside it's full of warm stories of family, recipes, Christmas history, and ideas for remembering the baby Jesus and celebrating his future work.  

Hi Trish,

I hope you are doing well. Remember me from last year's Christmas Tea

in Upper Sandusky? Debbie and I were just talking about how it was

just a year ago that we held that...and how that day was so magical! Thank

you again for being a part of it.

A neat thing happened: yesterday was our Christmas MOPS meeting. We

were all set to have a friend, and pastor from Columbus, come up to

speak for our meeting. At the last minute she canceled, and I scrambled

and prayed to come up with something to fill her time. I came into my office

and opened up your Christmas book, to look for some ideas. So...I ended

up having each of my steering members read a page out of it, the stories

about the origins of different Christmas traditions, it was perfect! And,

to me it was like celebrating the anniversary of our Christmas Tea. So

I felt like I needed to thank you again!

I hope you and your family have a very Healthy and Blessed Christmas!


One Winner, still time to enter two times

Last Monday's winner didn't leave good contact info, so I selected another name: Stacie, a follower is now the winner. We pick more book winners on the 14 and 21. Still time to enter.

The Word Quilters hope you are finding time to cherish the season and even relax a bit. On page 151 in our book, we give tips for taking breaks, our blog address, and ask any of our book readers to let us know how they have used any tips in the book. We heard from MOPS' leaders about how A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts helped them out in a pinch. Their story:

Hi Trish,

I hope you are doing well. Remember me from last year's Christmas Tea

in Upper Sandusky? Debbie and I were just talking about how it was

just a year ago that we held that...and how that day was so magical! Thank

you again for being a part of it.

A neat thing happened, yesterday was our Christmas MOPS meeting. We

were all set to have a friend, and pastor from Columbus, come up to

speak for our meeting. At the last minute she canceled, and I scrambled

and prayed to come up with something to fill her time. I came into my office

and opened up your Christmas book, to look for some ideas. So...I ended

up having each of my steering members read a page out of it, the stories

about the origins of different Christmas traditions, it was perfect! And,

to me it was like celebrating the anniversary of our Christmas Tea. So

I felt like I needed to thank you again!

I hope you and your family have a very Healthy and Blessed Christmas!


(Photo: Book signing, Abilene, TX, left to right, Leslie Wilson (co-author), Judy Bowyer (contributor of story "The First Christmas Without Santa"), Cathy Messecar (co-author)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SOCF makes the Perfect Gift

Melinda Schmidt (Midday Connection) sent this beautiful photo to me. She is giving away copies of SOCF as Christmas gifts and tied them up with a beautiful ornament. It does make a great gift to share...

Stress Less--Plan Your Holiday and Work Your Plan

This year we will have our home full of children and grandchildren but the biggest kid of all will be my husband. Like any kid, he can come up with all sorts of ideas for things to do, places to go, and people to see. As Christmas approaches, the list seems to grow longer--right in relationship to my stress level.

To keep the peace of the holidays intact, I try to put a rein on expectations. We discuss what we want to do for the Christmas season and then decide what is truly feasible without overloading our calendar and making ourselves crazy with a schedule that is impossible to keep up with.

The important thing is to work the plan. Once it is in place, and someone wants to add more, be sure to weigh the importance of the addition and negotiate what will be cut from the plan to insert the new activity. Make it a rule to not add unless you subtract. If you don't, you will find yourself exhausted by the time you sit down to make those New Year Resolutions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

More Joy and Less Stress

Christmas celebrations and selecting gifts can be stressful, so I offer a few things to create a bit of joy in your home.
Cook ahead for the Christmas feast, by preparing side dishes the day before.
I feed the song birds in our yard with extra seeds during this cold season and they come a flyin' in.
Play your family's favorite holiday movie while company is here, not so they sit and watch it, but just as a fun background entertainment. The idea is that people will pause as they walk around and laugh at a funny scene that they've viewed many times before. For us, the movie is A Christmas Story.
Write plenty of Christmas cards, even to folks who don't send you one. Sometimes your card could be a spark of joy for the recipient.
Can you find the time to visit a homebound person? I aim to visit my two older buddies who no longer drive. They don't want or expect gifts, just some friendly conversation.
I am sure many of you readers have super ways to add joy and subtract stress from the holidays and I will read your comments with anticipation, and remember:
!!!!!   Leave a comment here for chance to win a copy of our Christmas book   !!!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mrs. Santa Claus by Brenda Nixon

In September, Lifetime Entertainment selected me as "Mom of the Week." What an honor to have my bio and pic on their website, and to receive many kudos from friends and colleagues around the country.
The same month, I learned my parenting book, The Birth to Five Book, won the Good Parenting Seal.
Now, if it were possible to be awarded the title of Mrs. Santa Claus I'd want to emulate her jubiliant spirit (but not her girth). I'd want to spread happiness, cheer and homemade cookies around my neighborhood, relieve small hurts, help people survive the economy, and make it a most memorable Christmas. Yes, I'd practice Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men (and women).
Wait a minute . . . I don't have to be awarded a title to do most of that. Neither do you. We all can value the best in ourselves and practice the joyful, giving spirit of Christmas.
And in speaking of giving, my birthday is Saturday (December 12). hint hint

Hey, leave your comment and be entered for a drawing of a FREE COPY of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts! Anyone who comments to a post this week & next will have opportunity to win a free book. If you already have one, give the freebie as a Christmas Gift. I recently gave an autographed copy as a December wedding gift.

Happy Holidays!
Brenda Nixon,
Co-author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Peace From Within - By Trish Berg

I have been there. I have gone to a family dinner or event with angst in my heart, defensive and at the ready to attack someone, anyone, who said something inappropriate or hurtful to me or anyone in my immediate family.

Yes, I have been there. And let me tell you it is not a nice place to be.

When you enter a family event or dinner with that kind of angst and anger, you are bound to explode at someone or let the anger build up inside so you blow up at your own family later.
I love my family, but people are people, and we are all different, so there are bound o be challenges...
And though my family has not changed, I have. I can not control those around me, I can control myself.

I can change my heart.

For example....I have some family members who never, and I mean never, ask me about my life. My teaching or writing, or anything going on in my life. I used to let that hurt my feelings. No longer.

I have made the decision to be free of that angst by recognizing that my self worth does not come from what others say about me or to me. No pat on the back or ego boost from words will make me any more than what I am.

My self worth comes from God, from striving to be what He wants me to be. Period.

So, how does that make me peaceful and joyful at family events?

Simple. I realize that I am not there to get my ego stroked. I am there to BE WHAT OTHERS NEED ME TO BE.

I am there for them. For Jesus. For Jesus to use me anyway He wants to bless others and point them towards His love.

And though that may sound idealistic, it is rather practical. Here are five ways you can find peace and joy from within at your next family event, just in time for Christmas.

5 Ways To Find Peace From Within At Family Events

1. EXPECT NOTHING - Enter the event with the expectation that no one will ask you about your life. Let go of that expectation. Do not set yourself up for disappointment.

2. MAKE IT ABOUT THEM - Make your time at this event about others, not about you. Ask others about their lives, their jobs, their hobbies, their interests. Make all of your conversations outwardly focused on the people you are talking to, and bless them with your interest.

3. PRAY - Pray before you go to the event that God can use you to bless those you come in contact with. Pray for God's peace and guidance, that He give you the words He wants you to use.

4. TIME IT - Set a time limit to stay at the event, and stick to it. Speak to your spouse ahead of time and decide how long you will be at the event. We will go to your mom's from 6 pm until 11 pm, and then we will head home. Having a time frame will allow you to be in the moment and know when you will head home.

5. KEEP IT SIMPLE - Keep your conversations simple and surface related. Don't dig deep into current events, politics or faith. A family event is not the right time to dig deep into any hot topic area, and doing so may set you up for an argument or uncomfortable conversation. So, go with several light hearted topics in mind, keep it simple and fun.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Book Give-Away

Become a follower of this blog or leave a comment to be entered into drawing for a copy of our Christmas book. Awaiting address from this weeks' winner, then will announce her name. Enter for the drawing on Monday the 14th. One more after that on Dec. 21. Merry Christmas. Merry December.

Goodwill at Your Address

Peace on earth covers millions of acres, but what about the peace in your household this holiday? Even though Deecember is here, our regular chores and lives move forward right along with the tinsel, the Shepherd's costumes and the eggnog. So what keeps you on an even bobsled during this month?

This week, the Word Quilters will give you tips for keeping the joy in Christmas, for fostering peacemaking in your home, not just being a "peace keeper."

1. Don't set your expectations too high for your home decor. Have you ever gone dress shopping when you already had a style and color in mind? I did and nothing on the racks met my expectations. Christmas can be like that too. Decking the halls at the malls is a lot easier than from pulling together a collection of his, mine, and ours. They have designers and budgets for decor, we have garage sale decor items, hand-me-down Lenox pieces and little hands outlined in glitter. All of these are tucked into spots reminding us of certain people. The items are not clutter because of all the memories tied to them. If someone brings you a gift. Display it proudly, no matter if it matches.

2. Keep the atmosphere loving, open, and lighthearted. Avoid pointing out your pet peeves throughout this month. Get out of the habit of saying, "I just hate--Mondays, frizzy hair, my weight, or numerous other things we casually say we hate. Don't nag others about behaviors. By January, you may be surprised at how your generosity improved the "flavor" of your home.

3. Make December a Secret Santa month for your family.  Secretly do things for other household members that will actually ease some of their work load. Empty the trash in your husband's office. Offer a back rub. Well, that's not exactly secret. I guess you could blindfold the recipient. Dream up your own list of Secret Santa things to do for others.....Shhh. Don't tell. You are doing this out of the goodness of your heart to help another, not to get applause.

Until next Sunday or Monday....
OK, that sums up my advice for a calmer December. Just wait until you read my co-authors' tips. These girls are goooooood!

Anyone want to chime in and share how you set the peace pace in your home?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Some Christmas Tree Facts

By now I'm sure my coauthors have given all the excellent tips I would have shared for your real Christmas Tree. Here are a few facts though that might be of interest:
  • Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource if you want to be "green."
  • Real trees are grown in all 50 states
  • There are about one million acres in produciton for growing Christmas trees. Each acre provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.
  • For every real Christmas tree harvested, 2-3 seedlings are planted in its place the following spring.
  • It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of average retail sale height, but the average growing time is seven years.

This information came from the Northeast Ohio Christmas Tree Growers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Select Your Living Christmas Tree Carefully

When you choose a living tree that you will plant in your yard, find out the height and width that the tree will attain and make sure yon don't plant it too close to your house or to a fence.
Years ago our neighbors bought and planted the wrong Christmas tree in the wrong location, too close to the fence between our yards. Soon the tree began pressing the fence, damaging it, and creating shade for our flowers that needed sun. The tree grew tall rapidly and then died, and was expensive for them to remove!

Study where you will plant your tree, and consider the height and width the tree will attain. Noble Fir, Grand Fir and White Pine can live for a hundred years and reach 60 to 90 feet tall, with branches spreading thirty feet in width. For typical yards, dwarf Blue Spruce cultivars with their perfect conical shapes and thick foliage are excellent choices. Semi-dwarf Fat Albert reaches fifteen feet, Blaukissen or Blue Kiss reaches ten feet tall, and White Spruce Picea glauca Conica is a dwarf that only reaches seven feet tall.

Living trees need cool temperatures, so keep them indoors for only a week at most, with plenty of light and away from heaters or fireplaces, and be sure to keep the root ball moist. Before planting outdoors put the tree on a porch or in the garage for a few days, to allow your tree to acclimate to the change in temperature.

Your living Christmas tree will be a family treasure for years to come, and give it a name if you like.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Simple Storage Solutions

Try these:

• Use egg cartons to hold small, breakable ornaments.
• Wrap lights around paper towel tubes—and store extension cords inside. 
• Stubs wads of used wrapping paper in the loops of large (expensive) bows you’d like to keep to help them maintain their shape.
• Store bows and ribbon in plastic (crush-proof) containers.
• Label everything carefully, so that you can pick and choose what to get out next year!
• Keep a running list (on the computer) of who received what to avoid duplicating gifts next year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tips for Live Trees by Brenda Nixon

Welcome faithful readers!

Do you use a real or artificial Christmas tree? Each year, the Nixon clan rotates; one year it's real, then next we drag out a pre-lit artificial. This practice makes each Christmas different while preserving the tradition of decorating a tree.

I've learned three things by having a live tree in our home:
  • Vacuum daily - or pine needles stick in your carpet and poke little feet.
  • Saturate with clean H2O - or your tree will dry, look ugly and be a fire hazard.
  • Keep kids and pets away - both can do damage to a living tree.
If you want more information on caring for a living tree see
Thanks for joining us at A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts blog.

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009





Decorate with LOVE - ByTrish Berg

This Christmas, while you are decorating your home with lights and your tree with ornaments, don't forget to decorate your life with love.

While you are filling out your Christmas cards, add an extra one to an American soldier who was injured in battle. Send your letters, cards and love to:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue NW
Washington , D.C. 20307-5001

Go to

And on the left is a list of US soldiers overseas. You click on a name, fill out a form and will be sent the email of a soldier you can email, encourage and support.

TIP #3 Other Ways to Love Our Troops
Check out for more great ideas on writing or emailing our soldiers, sending care packages, and letting our troops know we love and support them, and are thankful for our freedom because of their sacrifices and dedication to our country.