Friday, January 30, 2009

See you in July

This season's posts from us are winding up, until we start again in July. Christmas in July, as Cathy noted.
Please leave topic ideas in your comments if you are so inspired.
This Christmas of 2008 was a joyful one for my family, and I hope for yours, also.
To add to my own fun was our book's debut and the enthusiastic reception it is getting.
I made the toffee recipe, from our book's postcard, for a Christmas party at work, and got many requests for the recipe.
I have two post-holiday Christmas activities lined up at my house.
I gathered pine cones and will make a wreath from them, and bought a DVD copy of "A Christmas Memory", starring Patty Duke and Piper Laurie. It arrived in January and so I will watch it soon, and report back to you on how I like it.
Meanwhile come visit me at my own blog, where I post lots of garden tips and have book giveaways at

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Honoring Those Who Passed Away During the Year

My husband’s maternal grandfather passed away in March of 2007. He lived a full, happy life, going to be with the Lord and his beloved Madge at the age of 93. Even at his funeral, family and friends laughed at stories about his life more than we mourned his passing.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one, we all need to grieve in our unique way. We need to process what the loss means to us and acknowledge our pain. To that end, one way to help do that over the holidays is to set up a tribute to the deceased loved one.

Our family has done this several times—for my or my husband’s grandparents. We covered a card table with a solid tablecloth and placed on this table items that reminded us of the vibrant lives of Papa Dee, Mama Madge, Nana and G.G. We enjoyed looking at photos of them in younger years and swapping stories about the way they had influenced us. Rather than ignoring their deaths and pretending like nothing had changed from the previous Christmas, we were able to respectfully acknowledge their special and significant influence on each of our lives.

My hope is that my children will do the same when I’m gone . . .

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Salad Dressing Tip

The advice on weight loss doesn't change much--eat fewer calories, move more. Doing it is the hard part.
Here's a way to reduce some calories and certainly fat. Instead of using a bottled salad dressing or even an oil and vinegar mix, take a packet of Splenda or Equal (I haven't tried any of the others) and sprinkle it over your salad. Then take a fresh lemon quarter and squeeze that over the top. It gives you a sweet/sour dressing taste that is really quite pleasant and even wakes up the taste of those bagged salads. Add a little pepper if you are so inclined and you'll have saved calories and fat.

Now as some of my favorite movie characters say, "Move it! Move it! We got to move it, move it!"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Losing Weight the Easy Way

This week we are posting about tips on losing weight, and after Christmas at my annual doctor appointment I learned I lost 5 pounds in the past twelve months.
I did this in an easy way; a year ago I changed to eating more healthy whole grain carbs and limiting refined carbs.
My favorite bread now is Health Nut; it is whole wheat and nuts and delicious.
Instead of the usual snack crackers and pretzels I buy Ry Krisp crackers and other whole grain crackers.
Every day for breakfast I have oatmeal or Shredded Wheat. I have read that oatmeal helps lower cholesterol, a side benefit.
The oatmeal is easy to fix. I buy Quaker Oats quick one minute oatmeal, put 1/2 cup in a bowl with 1 cup of milk and cook it in the microwave for 1 and 1/2 minutes, stir it and cook for 30 seconds more.
Add craisins, raisins, brown sugar, a dollop of light whip cream, or anything you like for a yummy breakfast.
So that turned out to be an enjoyable way to lose five pounds.
Do you have any tips to share?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Leslie's Weight Loss Tips

This tip always works for me. Part of our challenge in weight loss is that we can easily access new clothing to fit our ever-expanding frame. Just buy new clothes. That’s always fun, right? However, to help your weight loss efforts, don’t allow yourself to buy new items to replace those that have gotten a little snug.

In fact, avoid wearing anything stretchy altogether! Instead, find the tightest pair of jeans—ones you already own—that you can still fit into. If you have to, lie down on the bed to zip them up.

Doing so will accomplish two things:

1. Serve as a constant reminder of what you want to accomplish—losing the five (10? 15?) pounds you put on over the holidays.
2. Keep you from eating very much anyway. If they’re that tight, you’ll feel full after only a few bites. Listen to your body and stop eating. Remember, you’ll have another eating op in a few hours!

It’s interesting to me to note what you have when you take the “e” out of feasting. Fasting. While I’m not insisting that you do that, most of us could stand to skip a meal or two, or—at the very least—cut back a little on our consumption.

Finally, I’ve always liked the Weight Watchers slogan: “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels!” Can you say amen?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Snow Angels Revisited

Ohio has had its share of cold and snow this week. I find it a little confining and frustrating when the roads are bad and the wind chills get dangerous. But not my mother-in-law. Yesterday we went to pick up my grandson for the weekend and stopped by her condo to drop off some Christmas gifts. Since we had cruised for the holidays, we didn't get down to see her before Christmas.

As we walked up to her door I looked to my right where the new coating of snow had been disturbed. There in the middle of it was a fresh snow angel--just her size.

If you have a copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, my story, Grandma's Snow Angel, is on page 95. When I first wrote it she was about to turn 80. This year she will be 88. And she's still making angels in the snow!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Good and Not-So-Good of this Past Christmas

Christmas 2008 has presented itself with both good and not-so-good elements. As is God’s Way, though, the two seem inextricably woven together. The economic woes of our nation hit my family particularly hard this year. My husband works as an independent investment advisor, and he gets paid when his clients make money. And for the past few months . . . well, you get the idea.

At first, I railed against our circumstances, which had required that I take on a part-time editorial position with Joni & Friends ( , a non-profit organization for the advocacy of people with disabilities. Only a few weeks later, I can see God’s had in all of it. I admire my boss, Pat Verbal, who ranks as one of the women I wish I could be like when I grow up. I enjoy the work, which has stretched me already, and I eagerly await our bigger projects.

I lamented our meager—and I do mean meager!!!—Christmas gifts. However, I had a Very Special Gift to give: my new book! And we re-gifted in some cases. Shhh, that’s just between us! Our kids understood. All through this process, they’ve looked for creative ways to save and make money. It’s been good for them.

As with most trials, I would not have chosen to take on these challenges; however, my family and I are stronger for having faced them, given them over to God again and again and again, and allowed Him to provide in miraculous and creative ways. Dependency on Him is ultimately a good thing.

Maybe my not-so-good is actually very, very good.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Any Discoveries this Christmas?

We'll be wrapping up the Christmas blog daily posts by the end of January, but I'm wondering if you readers would like for us to weigh in on a specific subject next year? We are now making up our blog schdule for summer and fall of 2009. We left lots of holiday areas uncovered. If so, leave a comment, let us know. We plan to begin posting again in July, Christmas in July, you know.

At our family gathering with 47 at our home the Saturday after Christmas, we had one family member who sat out the activities in favor of a quiet spot in another area of my home. This person had some work that needed to get done, so while we were all polite to him/her, speaking, but not conversing long, we pretty much followed their expressed wishes.

Of course, my adult daughter was the only one who was brave enough to ask, "Hey, are you feeling anti-social today?"

However, quite a few family members asked me over the next week, "What was wrong with _____________?" Without bad mouthing the person to the questioner, I just said they had work to do and needed to be quiet and alone. I think their behavior did put a bit of a damper on the gathering. I heard several ask the person's immediate family as to why the "worker" wasn't joining in the fun, not even eating.

Here's my point, plenty of times we go to events where we really didn't have our heart in going--maybe we were tired or left a mini-van full of work at home, but to honor the hosts, I think it's best to be charitable and engage pleasantly. When I manage to be gracious, even though I don't feel like it, somehow, I end up getting the blessing. It's that simple rule of the giver receiving more than the receiver.

I heard about a speaker at a women's renewal who got up and gave a five minute introduction about how she hadn't really had time to prepare, making every woman in the room probably wish she could jump up, run out, and not waste her time sitting through someone's confessed ill-prepared speech. The friend who told me that said, the speaker had burdened the audience when she should have been there to give and uplift.

Unless you've just had horribly tragic news, most of us can find the stamina and grace to step away from our personal feelings to be a giver.

Speaker, listener, host or guest, be ready to "give," not detract.

Decorating Your Life by Trish Berg

Well, all the decorations are tucked away, and life is getting back to normal around the Berg house. We had a wonderful Christmas this year. Very traditional. Lots of baking, presents, and family.

But sometimes, after Christmas we can all feel a bit blue.

Just last night my teenager informed me that her new MP4 player she got from grandma is broken. Yep, only 2-3 weeks old and broken. She is not sure why. I am not either.

We all wish for great gifts, presents, things to have and hold. But things are fleeting. They break.

And you are left feeling empty again.

But Christmas isn't about the things you get. As great as presents are, they are merely things. Things that will wear out and break.

I bet in 5 years you won't be able to list the gifts you received this year for Christmas.

But faith- that is something you can hold onto forever.

Did you find the Baby Jesus under your tree this Christmas? Did you find faith?

The Gift of faith came wrapped in clothes lying in the manger.

Did you find Him?

If not, there is still time. Christmas is not over unless you want it to be over.

The decorations may all be tucked away in the attic, but is your life still decorated with the faith of Jesus?

What will you do today to show the world you BELIEVE?

How will your life be decorated with God's love?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Don't throw those Christmas cards out!

By now, you've probably taken down the tree and stored all the ornaments. The stockings, the knick-knacks, and the pine cones are tucked away for next year. But if you are like me, you haven't parted with the Christmas cards yet. Mine are stored in a drawer for two reasons.

First, I like to take my time reading all the Christmas letters so I tuck them all in a drawer until I can read every word and catch up on what's been happening with far away friends and family.

Second, I double check the return addresses against what I have in my address book to be sure no one has moved. And I also have a little box to check to say that I've received a card. It helps me keep track of those I've heard from--at my age, I need lots of memory helpers.

But once that's done, what do we do with the beautiful cards? Make all sorts of things, of course!

  • Use pinking shears or those fancy scrapbook scissors to cut squares from the cards and make nametags or gift cards for next year's presents.

  • Cut the cards to index card size and use them to make fancy recipe cards to share with friends or family.

  • Make Christmas tree ornaments by tracing around cookie cutter shapes, cutting them out and gluing them back to back with a looped ribbon in between to use as a hanger. This is a great activity for the kids--now or in December.

Any one else with other great ideas for those cards?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Storing the Decorations

Once Christmas is over and the new year arrives, we begin putting away our holiday decorations, and begin with our tree.
I feel a bit sad taking the ornaments and lights off of the tree, but it needs to be done. Our city recycles the trees, and picks them up when it picks up regular recycling. Then they chop the trees to create mulch which they use in city parks.
So when the dozen boxes of decorations fill up, my husband takes them up to the attic. We write "lights" on one box, "nativity sets" on another and "nutcrackers" on a third.
That is as organized as we get.
The other cardboard boxes are full of ornaments, stockings, our jingle bell wreath, and other Christmas decorations, and are stored away til next December when the fun begins all over again as we celebrate Jesus' birthday.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Storing All the STUFF!!!

If you read my post from last week, you know I had a stroke in 2004. In the days immediately following, I struggled to regain short-term memory. I was also physically weak and depleted from a week-long hospital stay and attempts to regulate both oral and IV blood thinners.

My dear husband had called everyone we knew to ask them to pray for my recovery—particularly our trip from Colorado back to Texas. The doctors insisted we stop every couple of hours to let me walk around; I didn’t need any more blood clots forming!

When we arrived home, I had waiting for me the greatest, non-spiritual Christmas gift I have ever received. Our close friends, the Mases and the Arledges had secured our house key from my parents and gone into our home to put away all of our Christmas decorations! Can you imagine a more profound labor of love? (I mean besides being a surrogate.)

We walked through that front door and an immaculate home greeted us, no trace of tinsel, no hint of holly, no sign of Santa . . . anywhere. These dear friends had even bought red and green containers (something I’d always wanted but been too cheap to buy for myself) to house our ornaments, stockings, and Christmas lights. They labeled everything and stored it back in our attic.

Not only could I have not done a better job myself, but that particular year I couldn’t have done the job at all. These friends stepped in to help in a practical, tangible way I’ll never forget.

That’s my Christmas storage story. And I’m sticking to it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How do you store away Christmas? This week the Word Quilters will share our ideas for packing away Christmas and give you hints for orderliness, packing and labeling.

If you are into labeling, here's a hint for this week of 2009. Office Depot has a Brother's handheld labeler for $9.99 through January 10th, this Saturday. If you apply for an office Depot card, you can get an additional 10% off of that purchase and other future purchases. Labelers are helpful for growing families, especially for labeling "places" for children to get into habit of finding the right place to put away items. OK. Back to storing away Christmas.

I prefer the clear large storage boxes, no labeling needed because contents can be seen. I keep my inside holiday decor to a minimum, so mine fit into about 3 tubs, with a few runneth-over-items, too large for tubs (think Christmas throw pillows). Larger wreaths (hang on our country gates) are kept in garage on pegboards. No need to wrap them or keep them dust free. They are outdoor ornaments that get washed off with the first December rain. For my fake, but very realistic looking inside poinsettias, I store them with a plastic bag covering, clear cleaner bags are no-extra-costs and perfect for this purpose.

If you are in the mood to have less, read Mindy Starnes The House that Cleans Itself. I just finished it. It is for the "housecleaning impaired." I have that gene. Through her own trial and error, she discovered her strengths and weaknesses in the art of housecleaning. She passes along some very doable and workable solutions. Some, I'd already discovered on my own, but I especially loved her suggestions for an incoming paper station and just set mine up yesterday.

I just prayed for all who will read these posts that you will be able to tuck away the tangible Christmas, but that the intangible spirit of giving and loving will stable itself in your hearts year round.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Caribbean New Year's Celebration

We have just returned from a holiday cruise aboard the Eurodam, a Holland America Line ship. This is the third time we've done Christmas and New Year's in the Caribbean. It's fun and gives our kids less stress in having to be one more place for their Christmas rounds--well, it's a good excuse, right?

New Year's celebrations in the Caribbean were very noisy. We spent the last two days of 2008 in Aruba and Curacao and both were alive with fireworks. There were more firecrackers going off that we had around home for the Fourth of July!

In Willemstad, Curacao, we could hear them all over the town and from the ship's upper decks we could see columns of smoke rising when they went off. Curious, we ventured out and found that there were chains of firecrackers a city block long that were being set off. They took about 20 minutes to all go off in a noisy celebration of the New Year.

Sadly, by the time we returned to the ship, the Christmas decorations were gone and in their place were all the glitz and glimmer for the New Year party that night. But what a wonderful time of seeing in the New Year with people from all over the world gathered together on a ship in the middle of a warm Caribbean Sea. Did I mention it was warm??

Warm wishes for a wonderful New Year filled with peace and joy!

[BTW--There are more pictures on my blog.]

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Year Already

Happy New Year to One and All.

Here is a photo taken of me dressed as a Christmas Santa's helper, and our volunteer sunflower which is in full bloom on Christmas Day. This is a symbol of hope to me, as it survived nights of freezing to bloom boldly. Let's all do great and unexpected things in 2009.

Does your house look less bright when the Christmas tree is set out on the curb, or stored in the attic, and the wreaths and stockings are put away?
Christmas is a sparkly time of year, and 2009 holds all kinds of possibilities for us.

Thinking of the world situation, and family concerns, I like this Scripture, and hope you will find it encouraging:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path." Ephesians 5:20 NKJV Thomas Nelson Chronological Study Bible

Thursday, January 1, 2009

And Then It Was January - Trish Berg

Well, it is now January 1st, 2009, and Christmas is over. Not exactly for Christians, but as far as the world sees Christmas, the celebrations, dinners, and gift giving is over.

The decorations come down. The trees are drug out of the house or put back up into the attic.

I don't know about you, but once we take everything down, the house always looks kind of empty and bare. It can be such a downer.

But, with January also comes a fresh start. God grants us new beginnings each and every day of our lives. When the sun comes up, we have a new beginning. His grace provides forgiveness for our mistakes, and we get to start again.

Do-overs. That's what we get. Do-overs.

But with January comes GREAT BIG do-overs. A new year. A new start. A fresh beginning.

I am not one for New Year's resolutions, since I have enough guilt in my life.

But I am one for fresh starts.

So today, as you begin to take down your Christmas decorations, see it not as an ending of celebrating Jesus' birthday, but as a beginning of a new year with Jesus walking beside you.

He has big pans for you this year. He has a purpose for your life.

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, o Lord, endures forever." - Psalm 138:8

And all we need to do is to commit 2009 to God. To His plan for our lives.

That is what I am doing.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed." - Proverbs 16:3

So, Happy New Year.

January 2009 is upon us, and it is just the beginning of a fresh start, a new beginning for your life.

What will God do in your life in 2009?

His plans are anything but empty and bare.

So go ahead and take down that Christmas tree. Tuck all your decorations away in the attic.

Let God decorate your life with His love, His grace, and His plans.

And that is the most beautiful decorations of all....

Happy New Year.

Trish Berg

Avoiding the Post-Christmas Let-Down

The phenomenon reminds me of coming home from church camp. As a young person, I enjoyed experiencing a spiritual high each year as I worshipped with friends, learned from dynamic speakers, and played hard on too little sleep. That one-two punch always left me depleted, though, and the days following camp were often marked by a low—a brief time of depression or the blues.

I think many of us experience something similar right after Christmas. After all, we’ve put so much energy and enthusiasm into decorating, cooking, and entertaining for the weeks leading up to Christmas. The time following can be a let-down of giant proportions.

My attitude toward this common occurrence changed dramatically in 2004, when I suffered a massive stroke on our trip home from Colorado to Texas. You may read in more detail about this life-changing event on my website (, but as anyone who undergoes an extreme medical crisis can tell you it gives you a different perspective on life—and the things we tend to gripe about or take for granted. While this certainly doesn’t mean that I run around every day singing praise songs and thanking God for the very gift of life, it has influenced me to slow down, stop worrying so much and to experience greater contentment right where I am. January of 2009 marks the 5th anniversary of my stroke. However, the memories of that day are as fresh in my mind—and the minds of my family members—as if it were yesterday. And the truth I rest in is this: Who do I live for? Who’s important to me? What can I do now to influence my eternity?

I’ll be honest with you. I wish it hadn’t taken a stroke that paralyzed the entire right side of my body to get my attention. I wish I had been more attentive to God and been able to hear His voice and determine His direction for my life without going through such a crisis. But it is what it is. I did go through it. I not only lived, but I’m also able to praise Him for the miracles He worked through it. Praise God for His incredible wisdom and for loving me in spite of myself.

All I have to do is read back through the story of my life at that time to help me maintain a proper—optimistic, peaceful, eternal—perspective today. I invite you to do the same.