Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Little Perspective

As we teased and argued during a lively game of Apples 2 Apples on Christmas night, my son periodically grabbed his abdomen and complained that his stomach hurt.

"So does everyone else's, Charlie," I told him, slightly irritated that he thought his pain from overeating was any more special than anyone else's.

He woke my husband, Bret, and me at 8 the next morning to tell us he had vomited several times during the night. I grabbed my copy of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s All New Child Health Encyclopedia while my husband pulled up WebMD. In less than a minute, we'd both reached the same conclusion: appendicitis.

The ER agreed with us, and Charlie had surgery a few hours later.

I'm thankful his appendix hadn't ruptured. I'm thankful he wasn't five hours away at college. I'm thankful he has three weeks to recuperate before he returns from school. I'm thankful we live five minutes from a terrific hospital.

This crisis, though relatively small, was enough to give us a little perspective on the holiday. Christmas is about Jesus's birth and giving gifts to commemorate that. But I never mind when a little extra thanksgiving gets thrown in.

I hope you have gained perspective as well--perhaps even without the crisis. What has God shown you this Christmas season?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's Wishes - By Trish Berg

I like fresh starts. Like a second chance all wrapped up in forgiveness and love, New Year’s Day is fast approaching and we are all getting a do-over.

When I was a little girl, my older sister and I would play basketball in the driveway of our childhood home with our dad. We would play games like Around the World and Horse. Being the youngest on the basketball court, I was not the best shot. When it was my turn to shoot the basketball, I would muster up all the courage and strength I could, and let her fly.

A lot of the times, my shot did not even hit the rim of the hoop, and ended in an air ball that hit the garage door. That’s when my dad would say “Do-over,” as he tossed me the basketball and let me shoot again, sometimes from a closer distance, sometimes he would even lift me up so I could make it.

There was nothing like getting a second chance. As an eight-year-old girl, I understood that. I cherished those do-overs, and took every advantage of them. Eventually, I grew stronger and older, and learned to make the baskets on my own. But I never forgot the blessing of my do-overs.

New Year’s Day is sort of like a do-over. We set new goals for the year, forgive ourselves for the mistakes we made in the past year, and take another shot at getting it right. It’s as if God is whispering in our ear, “Go ahead, take another shot. You can do it!”

God has blessed me in 2010 beyond my wildest expectations (as always). I have drawn closer to Christ as I try to walk where He leads me. My husband, Mike, myself, and our four children are all healthy and well. We are surrounded with family and friends, have been blessed with more than we need, and certainly more than we deserve.

I have girlfriends that I trust with my life, women who know me better than I know myself, and they love me in spite of all of my flaws.

I am blessed to be able to write this column and share my life with all of you every week. The fact that you enjoy reading it is like cake icing in my mouth, all sweet and yummy.

I have been able to teach at Malone University this year, and have become friends with so many amazing students, faculty and staff there. I get to go to chapel every week at work and worship the Lord. I love that!

I also have made many mistakes in 2010, too. I let anger rule my heart, lost patience with my children, and did not always reach out to those in need around me.

And so, I like fresh starts. New Year’s Day is a do-over like no other. It’s like a second chance all wrapped up in forgiveness and love.

This New Year’s Day, what would you like to do-over?

God is tossing you the ball, moving you closer to the hoop, lifting you up on His shoulders and whispering in your ear, “Go ahead, take another shot. You can do it!”

So, muster up your courage and strength and let her fly!

Happy New Year to you all!

Pick up your copy of Trish’s book A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts-Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday online or at a bookstore near you.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Wishes For You

Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Last minute gift ideas

There can be pressure going on to buy some last minute gifts, and I know I have experienced that moment of panic. I am a big fan of flowers and that is how I sometimes solve the last minute gift problem. Poinsettias glow with color and are available now for only 6 to 8 dollars and up. You probably see displays of them at drug stores and grocery stores and in garden centers. Last year I bought one and gave it the new neighbors at Christmas, when I went over to meet them. Other favorites are red and white plant bouquets and flower arrangements. See how easy that is?

Remember that the book we wrote, "Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts" is available at many stores and on Amazon and, and when I looked today I see Amazon promises delivery by Monday! Our book has many upbeat stories in it that will be fun to read in the days after Christmas.
Some favorite stories in our book are about celebrating Christmas with two adopted children (this one involves a purple stocking), camping in the Florida Everglades with a pet chihuahua, a child selling cards for needed money, and seeing a prodigal son again.
Merry Christmas One and All, as we celebrate the birth of the Holy Babe tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Simple Story - By Trish Berg

It is a simple story. A story told for many years, from generation to generation. A story you may know but hardly take the time to ponder. A story that begins and ends with love.

It began when God spoke love into this world, into the lives of a young girl and her betrothed. Into our lives as well. It began with Mary and Joseph.

I can hardly imagine what Mary and Joseph went through, the trust and faith they lived through their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A journey from being who they were to who God wanted them to become.

A journey they did not choose. A journey that chose them.

And so they walked by faith into their marriage. And they journeyed by faith to Bethlehem on the promises from God delivered by an angel.

After they had traveled farther than any of us have ever traveled by foot, they must have been exhausted. Many believe it was about a four day journey totaling eighty miles. And after taking on such a journey, they were not welcomed with open arms. They were rejected. There was no room for them at the inn. There was no home for Jesus.

Since it was time for Mary to deliver her Baby, they made their temporary home in the stable -the cold, dark stable. Their family became the cattle, oxen and sheep. And when baby Jesus was born, he was laid in the stone manger kept warm by the sweet hay.

And so it goes.

If the story ended there, we would be left wondering. Wondering who Jesus was and why Mary and Joseph made the trip to Bethlehem Wondering why the world rejected Him before He was even born. Wondering He would become. Wondering what all of it meant for us.

But the story does not end there.

God placed a star in the sky to mark the place where Jesus was born. His sent His angels to shepherds who were watching their flocks by night to tell them of Jesus’ birth, to share with them who Jesus was.

The star shone in the sky. The angels sang of God’s glory. The shepherds went to find the Baby in the manger. The kings came bearing gifts. God’s love became real.

It is a simple story. A story told for many years, from generation to generation. A story you may know but hardly take the time to ponder.

It began when God spoke love into this world in the form of a Baby in a manger. It continued through Jesus’ life as He shared God’s love with us, through the love he exemplified on the cross for us. And it continues today in the lives of all who believe.

We may not be traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but we are each on a journey from who we are and who God wants us to be.

A journey we may not choose. It is a journey that chooses us.

It is a simple story that begins and ends with love.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah. 9:6) Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Very Last Minute Doable Gift--even the 25th

Each year I try to do for or gift something to someone who hadn't ever received a gift from us. It might be a customer that we especially connected to that year or it might be someone in need of help financially. I've already done that this year, but who knows if someone comes to mind--even on Christmas Day--I could still honor them with this very last minute gift.

Some online companies are offering E-Mail gift certificates that you can order on Christmas Day and those will be sent to the receiver via email.

One such company is I sometimes buy books for people, but it's really nice to let them choose a book they've longed for or download a book to an electronic reader.

Gift certificates to bookstores do quadruple good and much more: Besides the nice gift, they support writers and authors who, for the most part, make less than a dollar for every book sold. They also get people reading, and a book increases knowledge or entertains--they expand our minds, and, after all who wants a small mind.

Here's a direct link to purchase a gift card by email. I'm not being compensated to tell you this, just sharing friend to friend.
Thank you for all your comments as the Word Quilters posted Christmas hints since July of this year.

Warmest Christmas wishes to you and yours.    

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Makeup Bags To Go

My husband and I have stepped foot on all seven continents and almost completely circumnavigated the globe over the 20 years or so that we have been avid travelers. When it comes to packing, we have learned that less is. . .less to carry.

When it comes to toiletries especially, you need to decide just exactly what is essential. To save weight and space, check out the samples aisle of your local drugstore (CVS, Walgreen's, etc.). You will find smaller items that will make do for your trip even if you can't find just exactly the same brand that you normally use. It is also the place to find those liquid carry-on items that are no bigger than 3 ounces to get through security at the airport.

Now since this is Crafty Saturday, here is a link to a site that has more than 18 different kinds of makeup bags you can sew. One in particular would be great to roll up and tuck in your suitcase and would make a great gift item for someone who travels.
[Posted by Karen Robbins]

Friday, December 17, 2010

Surfer Statue with Santa Hat

This week we are offering holiday travel tips, and my only tip for this is to take only a carry on bag.
I've done this for years, not checking in luggage, and A. They don't lose it or damage it, B. No waiting in the baggage area to pick up your luggage and C. Check in is faster.
Since my tip is rather tiny I share here 2 photos I took last week, of a surfer statue. Someone put a Santa hat and leis on him, and he is looking out over the ocean toward Hawaii.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Travel Tips for Around Your Neighborhood

Did you hear the one about the blond who heard that the majority of car accidents happen within two miles of your home? ..........She moved.

Many people travel long distances over the holidays by car, train, and air, but most traveling is done locally and not just the few days around Christmas, but daily. Truly, this time of year is a little hazardous to your car fenders and you. With planning you can make the roads a safer and friendlier place during the holidays with these tips to help you from now until Christmas.

  • At the beginning of your day, start a list of the local stops you need to make. Route yourself so you travel the fewest miles or the least congested miles. Make plenty of lists, essential to avoid a quick run to the stores or malls. God bless you if you have to go to the malls after the 15th.
  • Be a friendly driver. If someone lets you merge into waiting traffic, wave a thank you. Allow those having a difficult time merging into traffic to go in front of you. Even this small gesture of kindness brings its own rewards.
  • Plan your meals from now until Christmas. Buy early. Bake and relax at home while others scurry about for last minute ingredients.
  • Play Christmas music when traveling. Cheeriness will invade your heart.
  • Have you put off mammograms, dentist visits, or yearly checkups? Often those offices are slow this time of year. Make an appointment now to take care of your preventive care.
  • Moms, the kiddos will be out of school soon. It's easier to push a grocery cart single-handed than with three children in tow. If you can afford to, shop early for those everyday needs.
  • Keep a bottle of water and a healthy snack on hand in your vehicle, to avoid fat-laden burgers and drive-thru lines. Or pack a brown bag lunch, and sit in your vehicle and have lunch. That down time just might relax you enough that a forgotten errand comes to mind and you save an extra local trip to stores.
Safe travel to you and yours. HONK IF YOU LOVE CHRISTMAS.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Creative De-Stressing

When I was a florist, the holidays were truly a time of stress. Not only did I have all the usual Christmas preparations, I also had tons of orders to fill for flowers and fruit baskets in the shop. Whenever I was beginning to show signs of stress my friend, Chris, who worked with me always suggested I go home and bake to de-stress. That was what she did and we could always tell when she was over stressed. Plates of goodies would show up on our workbenches.

Now baking would be more stressful for me than many other things I could think of. Crocheting is probably my best way to deal with stress. I can whip up an afghan in no time if I'm working off nervous energy or anger or stress.

If baking or crocheting are not on your list of de-stressers, here are some other suggestions (crafty, of course):
  • Painting- Acrylics are easy to use or even watercolors. If you don't feel creative, get a paint by number. Some of them are really easy and a good distraction.

  • Embroidery- Pick a really simple kit and make an ornament, a card, or a runner for your table.

  • Put together a jigsaw puzzle. There is something calming in this and to make it crafty, get some clear coating made especially for jigsaw puzzles and coat the puzzle so you can frame it.

  • Grab your camera and take a long walk. Take some pictures of landscapes, then zero in on things a little closer and capture something unique or unusual. Try photographing textures or patterns. Or pick a theme and take pictures to fit the theme.

If all else fails, buy yourself a roll of bubble wrap or a pack of bubble gum and pop it!

[posted by Karen Robbins]

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Bingo--Copying with Closeness at Christmas

I’ve eagerly anticipated this blog post for some time. Unlike my multi-talented co-authors, I didn’t receive as much craft or artistic talent. I know my limitations as a decorator, cook, and home-entertainment guru.

Though I’d love nothing more than to be able to fashion napkin rings out of fresh holly boughs or whip up a gourmet dessert out of pantry staples like chocolate chips, powdered sugar and Ranch Style beans, I probably couldn’t teach you anything new in the holiday entertaining department. However, I do have a helpful holiday hint for you this year.

My terrific tip is crafty, as in clever and innovative—no hot glue or grapevine wreaths required. It’s relational, not hospitable.

Though I’ve searched I’ve been unable to find the original magazine article containing this idea. Suffice it to say I read about it in a Christmas issue of one of the popular women’s magazines.

The helpful article contained instructions for making and playing Holiday Bingo. The grid is similar to regular Bingo except you fill each spaces with something relatives say or do that drive you crazy.

Intended as a coping mechanism, I suggested it to a friend who has—to put it mildly—a challenging relationship with her mother. My friend, whom I’ll call Anne, had to think of 24 annoying things that she predicted her mother would say or do during the holiday visit.

“Only 24?” Anne joked.

“Yeah. Sorry to limit you.” I was beginning to feel her pain—which, I suppose, was the whole point of the exercise.

If her mom said or did something my friend had noted on the Bingo grid, Anne could mark off that area. I did the same. Naturally, the idea was to see which of us could get Bingo first.

This simple game accomplished several things.

First, it completely changed Anne’s outlook on her mother’s behavior. Anne found herself laughing at her mother’s previously annoying or hurtful behavior, instead of dissolving in tears when her mother criticized her parenting abilities. Instead of being irritated when her mother belittled her for talking about the incarnation of Jesus, Anne laughed sneaking off to mark that section of her grid. Though Anne’s circumstances, resolving to be kind to a critical, overbearing mother, had not changed a bit, her perspective certainly had.

Second, her mother’s visit was pleasant, not just bearable. Anne smiled constantly and listened more intently, chuckling to herself about mother’s predictability, shallowness and critical spirit. What a change from previous visits!

Third, it gave Anne something to look forward to. Instead of dreading Christmas shopping, cooking, and sitting down to meals—all of which meant conversation with her mother—Anne eagerly anticipated them. After all, each gave her more opportunities to win.

Now you must know that I have great relationships with both my parents and my in-laws. However, being nothing if not a helpful friend, I agreed to help Anne, who so desperately needed to be lifted above the mire of depression, anger and bitterness that typically enveloped her during the holidays.

At first it was a challenge to come up with enough fodder for my grid. (Wink, wink.) I had to enlist the help of my husband, Bret. Once we got started, the items—comments and behaviors—seemed to come easier. Here’s a sampling:

My dad encourages a healthy—as in big, not health conscious—appetite. Without asking, he’ll plop anything from pancakes to biscuits to the last piece of Jimmy Dean sausage onto your plate. (Unfortunately this behavior isn’t limited to holidays.)

My mom seems to lose presents every year. She likes to buy The Perfect Gift, and then hide it so well she can’t find it when it’s time to wrap presents.

My father-in-law can hardly carry on a conversation without mentioning C.S. Lewis, Oswald Chambers or what he himself is teaching in his Bible class at church—sometimes all three.

My mother-in-law, an extremely accomplished shopper, claims she can’t think of anything to get my sons. What she really means is, she can’t buy them clothes from her favorite little boutique.

These items and more graced our Bingo grid.

How did the game turn out? Well, Anne beat me. In fact, she finished in a matter of hours, not days. But she continued to play, adding “Xs” every time her mom exhibited one of the predictable, hurtful behaviors—each one giving her a smile instead of another dagger to the heart.

And my husband and I never had such a fun Christmas!

We plan to make this a generational tradition. I have no doubts that someday my three children will develop their own game about Bret and me to make spending the holidays with Dear Ol’ Mom and Dad bearable.
I could suggest a few behaviors to get them started.

Now it’s your turn to share: What would you put on your Bingo grid?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Traditions in 20 Countries

Florine Church contacted us to share this post about Christmas traditions in 20 countries, including Ethiopia, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Japan and more.
Here is part of the article:
Although few in number, the Christians in China celebrate Christmas with a variety of traditions. The holidays kick off with fireworks, festivals and feasting. Many fill their homes with evergreens, posters, bright paper chains and cut-out red pagodas to put on the windows. Paper lanterns are hung and Christmas trees, or "trees of light," are decorated with flowers, lanterns and red paper chains. People often throw parties on Christmas Eve and celebrate Christmas Day with a big meal at a restaurant. Even Santa Claus or Dun Che Lao Ren, meaning "Christmas Old Man," is said to fill children's muslin stockings with treats on Christmas Eve.

To read the article about Christmas traditions in 20 countries you can visit:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tips to Simplify Christmas


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.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Personal Loss or Stresses at Christmas

This week, we will discuss ways in which you can downsize worry at Christmas or be more sensitive to those who have had a tumultuous year. Here are my tips:

  • Prepare early. Use small increments of time to stay ahead of your schedule. Make a list of what you expect to do. Trim it down and stick to it. Your family would rather have you in a good mood than to have an additional activity or one more doo-dad sitting on a table. Doo-dad, wonder how that became a word? Is it a word?
  • Not everyone is in a celebratory mood this time of year. Due to illness, death, or finances, they may be in more of a blue mood. Be sensitive to their personal pain. If you don't know what is going on in someone's life, a question like this might help them share and help you give an appropriate response: "How has this year been for you?" 
  • Your regular workload continues through the holidays, so keep up with it, but you might consider lowering your standard just a bit. Your kitchen floor doesn't have to be clean enough to eat off of it -- that's what the table is for. A few crumbs under the cabinets can be your charity to the critters that scurry at night. You can starve them out in January. 
  • Consider doing less celebrating and less gift buying and less eating. You'll go into the new year a step ahead of those who over-killed Christmas.

Do you have a favorite tip you can share with us? Or tell us about foods you prepare ahead of time and freeze. Like you, we need to slow down and enjoy the season, too. May this week be blessed for you and yours....Cathy

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hats Off to a Themed Christmas Tree!

Themed Christmas trees are fun to do once in a while. When we lived in a home with a family room and a living room (and I had lots more energy) I did a themed tree each year in the living room. Years ago, I also recycled styrofoam cups by melting them and shaping them into little ladies' hats as favors for a ladies banquet. These would make a great themed tree as well. With some tulle and beads for garland and a few silk flowers and baby's breath placed around the branches, you will end up with a beautiful Victorian-looking Christmas tree.

For the hats you will need:

Styrofoam cups (if used be sure to wash and dry thoroughly)
dark coated cookie sheet (will not melt properly on plain aluminum or stainless)
small silk flowers
small beads
small/thin ribbons
hot glue gun

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Place a test cup upside down on the cookie sheet and set in oven. It will take about a minute before you see a change and about 1-2 minutes more before you have something that looks like a mini-hat. The test cup should give you a good idea of timing but don't put any in the oven and walk away. Also, be careful of the fumes that may build up in the oven. Don't continually inhale them directly. Remove test cup from oven and let cool on the cookie sheet. The cup will stick to the surface until it is completely cooled.

Now you're ready for a batch of hats. Place the cups upside down about 1-2" apart on the cookie sheet. Remember not to walk away from the oven! Watch them melt and pull out the sheet of cups at the appropriate time. Let them cool completely on the cookie sheet and then remove them and do another batch. Some of the cups will be a bit distorted but most should come out looking like little hats. All will be a little different.

When you are done melting your cups and they've cooled, begin the fun. Decorate each with the beads, ribbons, flowers, etc. and be sure to add a ribbon, string, or wire for hanging on the tree.

If you like, you could also use acrylic paints to add more color to your hats.

Hats off to you crafters! Karen Robbins

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Tree trivia

Here are three questions about Christmas tree history.
Which American President began the ceremony of adding electric lights to the outdoor White House Christmas tree and having a ceremony when lighting the tree?
Herbert Hoover?
Calvin Coolidge?
Theodore Roosevelt?
The answer is President Coolidge in 1923.

When and where was tinsel invented?
Tinsel was invented in Germany around 1610 and was originally made from silver by machines which stretched the silver into paper thin strips.

It is fun to visit Christmas tree farms. How many states in the United States have these farms?
The answer is 50 since there are Christmas tree farms in all 50 states.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Twas the Week Before Christmas by Trish Berg

'Twas the week before Christmas, when all through my life,

whispered my Christmas to do list, giving me strife.

The gifts that were bought from Santa himself,

Were not yet sitting up high on a shelf.

The children were fighting over this and that

And I could hardly imagine what had caused their spat.

Another day of parenting, another quest for peace,

As Papa and I tried to make the chaos cease.

When down in the basement arose such a noise

I tripped over my feet and recovered with poise.

Away to the dishwasher I flew like a flash,

tore open the door, and was hit with a splash.

The dishes were wet, and hot water spilled

I knew that this faithful old machine had been killed.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

but miniature marshmallows stuck in here and there.

With forty little fingers so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment who had made them stick.

More rapid than eagles, my temper it came,

and I whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now Hannah! Now Sydney!

Now, Colin and Riley!

Come into the kitchen

And don’t you be smiling!

To the top of the stairs!

Come big kids and small

Now come in here, come in here

Come one and come all! “

As food crumbs and bits that cover my floor

Stuck to the bottom of my feet and followed me out the door.

I searched for my children, and shouted again,

Then I saw their faces and the guilt set in.

And then, in a twinkling, my anger began to fade

As I saw them prancing in with joy that God made.

As I swallowed my words and was turning around,

Down the stairs they all came with a child like bound.

They were dressed all in PJ’s from their heads to their feet,

and their clothes were all covered with peppermints sweet.

They looked so innocent, so young, and so merry

That the anger in my heart was soon light as a fairy.

Their eyes--how they twinkled! Their dimples, how merry!

Their cheeks were like roses, their noses like a cherry!

They were cute and sweet, and had the joy of an elf,

and I laughed when I saw them, in spite of myself.

A wink of my eye and a twist of my head

Soon gave them to know they had nothing to dread.

I spoke not a word but went straight to my work.

And grabbed them and hugged them, then turned with a jerk.

And pointing to the kitchen and nodding my head,

Inviting them all in for cocoa and bread.

I sprang to the cupboards, to my kids sang a song,

And in they all came all singing along.

The dishwasher was not as big a deal,

As the way my temper would have made them feel.

So I learned a big lesson that cold December day,

And am trying very hard to put screaming away.

And each night this week when the chaos abounds

I’ll try to remember how true joy is found.

In the tiny little moments, in the cocoa and cake,

In the smiles they give and the pictures I take.

For they are just kids, and though the mess is real,

So is the time that each day seems to steal.

So when I tuck them in their beds so softly tonight,

I’ll whisper in their ears, "Mommy loves you, forever, sleep tight.”

Be sure to visit

Monday, November 29, 2010

5 Money Saving Tips for this Year and Next

1. Invite your friends to a Christmas D├ęcor trading party in your home. Set the date for early December. Have each guest bring 1-5 decorations that they’ve outgrown or that no longer suits their taste. Serve light refreshments. Each guest gets to exchange their decorations for an equal number of items.

2. Explain that each child in your household will receive three gifts, the same number that the baby Jesus received.

3. Trish Berg, my co-author, submitted this one to our collection of ideas, and it can create family fun and strengthening of relationships with little expense: Several weeks before Christmas collect your children’s favorite books or maybe those which rarely get read. Check out a few library books and buy one or two inexpensive new books. Wrap them and place them in a basket under the tree. Let your children choose one from the stack each evening for you to read as a family.

These next two hints are things that will help you next year.

4. This season, watch for Nativities that are on sale, buy up a few and gift those for wedding gifts this next year. Hint: you could add a copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts for the newlyweds’ first Christmas. m

5. The final tip is to buy supplies to make Christmas tree ornaments, three different ones, on sale of course, after the holidays. This next summer when you see your children growing weary of summer activities, bring out one of the ornament projects. Next season, you’ll have a collection of handmade ornaments that they can gift to Bible class teachers, friends, or other people they want to give a gift to. Be sure and save a set for each child and you, too.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Presentation, As Important As Taste

If you have followed my posts, you'll find that I am not the cook/baker among the Word Quilters. My best recipe for chocolate chip cookies comes from the refrigerated section of the grocery store and has a little dough boy on the label. I do make a mean cake at Christmas and Easter though. I have a daughter-in-law who likes a white cake with fresh strawberries as the filling between layers. Of course my cake is from a mix, my icing from a can, and the coconut topping from a bag. I slice up the strawberries and place them between the layers as I'm icing the cake. If it will be consumed quickly--which is usually the case, I place fresh strawberries on top as well.

In trying to be crafty (it is Crafty Saturday) I came up with this alternative that I think I'll try out myself this year--sugar frosted fruit. After all, presentation is as important as taste. Most of you are probably ahead of me on this but if not, here's how it goes:

You'll need a beaten egg white in a small bowl, extra fine sugar in another small bowl, a paint brush used only for food, and your fresh fruit--strawberries or grapes or raspberries or blackberries. Wash and dry the fruit on a paper towel. Set out another paper towel for the finished project to dry on. Now take the paint brush and coat the piece of fruit with the egg white. Then either dip it in the sugar or use a teaspoon to shake sugar over the top of the fruit. I would think the later would work best to keep the sugar dry.

Use as a garnish on your cake top or other desserts for Christmas dinner.

Now, if you get to this before I do, let me know how it went and if you have any other helpful hints I can use, pass them along.

Happy delicious crafting! Karen Robbins

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sour Cream Cheesecake

Sour cream cheesecake is delicious, I promise. To save time you can buy a graham cracker crust, preferably a nine inch crust that is two inches deep, or any size crust.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
With an electric beater mix 2 eggs, 12 ounces cream cheese, one half cup sugar, one tsp. lemon juice and one half tsp. salt
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cinnamon and let it cool to room temperature.
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix one and one half cups sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, one half teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt. Pour this over the first layer and bake for 5 minutes, then refrigerate it for 6 or more hours before serving.
The layers with different tastes make it very tasty.
What is your family's favorite dessert at holiday time?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chocolate Cream Pie Made Easy -Trish Berg


1 Keebler graham cracker ready crust pie crust
1 (4 serving size) pkg. Jello chocolate instant pudding and pie filling
1 c. cold milk
2 sqs. Baker's semi-sweet chocolate, melted
3 c. thawed Cool Whip whipped topping

Prepare pudding with 1 cup milk as directed on package with electric mixer. Gradually blend in chocolate at low speed until smooth. Then fold in whipped topping. Spoon into pie crust. Freeze until, firm about 4 hours. Garnish with additional whipped topping and chocolate curls, if desired.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Crafty Idea for the Charity Gift Tree

Many shopping malls, stores, and churches at this time of year put up Christmas trees with paper ornaments that have a name or description of a child on it for you to take, buy a gift for, and return for distribution to the child. Since it's Crafty Saturday, let's consider a gift of creativity. What child, young or old, doesn't like markers, colored pencils, watercolors, paper, fancy templates, fun hole-punches, stickers, etc.? Why not consider putting together a crafty box of supplies?

Or if you want to shortcut the process, check out your local craft store for craftkits. There are tons of choices from making jewelry to paint by number to wood projects. Just remember that the child may not have an adult to help them with the project so you want to make it something easy and age-appropriate.

While you are at it, mention that you are looking for a gift for a charity tree and perhaps the store would be willing to give a discount or add something of their own for you to add to the tree gift.

If this is something that you do on an annual basis, remember to shop the sales after Christmas!

Happy crafting! Karen Robbins

Friday, November 19, 2010

Love in a shoe box, Samaritan's Purse

My favorite holiday charity focuses on children in need, and is called Samaritan's Purse or Operation Christmas Child.
Every year my church participates in this shoe box project and we fill more boxes each year.
You fill a shoe box with suggested gift items, first choosing if for a boy or girl and then selecting the age group, zero to five, six to nine or ten to fourteen.
The boxes are delivered to very remote areas of the world  or to American children, with a small booklet in the appropriate language about the birth of Jesus. I think the deadline for filling a shoe box is November 22, which makes sense since many boxes go to remote areas. At the website you can type in your zip code to find the closest place for you to take a filled box.
How much love could I squeeze in to a shoe box? It turns out A LOT :)
I picked a boy, age 6 to 9 and put in the box: new brown striped tee shirt, monkey Beanie baby, 2 metal cars, toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, pens and note book, and a bag of bubble gum. This is a fun family project which puts us all in the spirit of giving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Angel Tree--Giving to Families of Prisoners

One of my favorite things about Christmas has to be the spark it ignites in people’s hearts toward charitable giving. Young and old alike agree on this point: It’s a greater blessing to give than to receive. And Christmas allows us to do that in a variety of ways.

When my kids were small, they wanted to put money in the Salvation Army bucket—not just once, but every time we passed by one. I decided that if I didn’t want to go broke, I’d better get a roll of quarters at the bank. That way, instead of getting stuck having to relinquish my last $20 bill, I could be a hero each time: going in the store, exiting with a cart full of groceries, running in to grab that elusive gallon of milk. They loved dropping in their respective quarters and being rewarded when the attendant rang the bell.

Fast forward a few years—now those tots have morphed into teens. Instead of quarters in the Salvation Army bucket, they’re involved in feeding the homeless, rebuilding homes devastated by Hurricane Katrina, serving at a VBS in Mexico or sitting by the bedside of young AIDS patients in South Africa. But there’s still much to be done at home. In our affluent community, we still see many who struggle financially. To that end, I love Angel Tree. Angel Tree is a faith-based organization that seeks to give children, whose parent(s) are incarcerated, an opportunity to enjoy Christmas. The national organization partners with local churches to make needs known to individual members. These folks then shop or provide parties for the underprivileged children.

This amazing ministry allows us to share the love of Christ by ministering to an often-overlooked demographic, families of prisoners. Imagine the fear, uncertainty and loneliness inherent in such a situation. Then compound that by the glitz and glitter of the holiday season. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can bring joy and a momentary excitement to children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without a parent. By purchasing gifts or having parties for needy kids, we offer them a little hope during the Christmas season. Plus, it teaches our own children the importance of giving.

Check with your church. If it's not already involved, maybe you could step up to lead. Visit for more information.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gift a pair of goats, chickens, or buy a mosquito net

My husband and I have donated to Christian Relief Fund for years because we know the founders and in this past financial report they only used 7% of their donations for advertising and administrative work. 

Do you have an older member of family or anyone you could honor by donating in their name? Through CRF, you can give Christmas gifts to a child for $10.00, or sponsor a child per month for $35.00, or give farm animals (chickens $15.00, a goat $65.00 [pair$130.00], dairy cow $500.000, emergency food for $35.00, life-saving medicines for $50.00, clothe an orphan for $30.00, save a life with a mosquito net for $10.00, build a home in Haiti for $4,000 or share the cost of homebuilding, or help the helpers (CRF needs to upgrade their technology to expand efforts to help more children). You could send a child to elementary and High School or Univeristy (from 275.00-1,200 per year), or change a life through vocational training at $250.00 or share the costs. Or share the good news with a gift of $5.00 to bring Bibles through the hands of missionaries.

Click Christian Relief to check out their organization.  They are members in good standing with the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Holiday Inn - Crooning with Bing

Here's a golden oldie that many people forget about when they are lining up their Christmas movies. Back in 1942 (before my time!) Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire got together to make the movie Holiday Inn and gave us one of our most beloved Christmas songs, "White Christmas," which Crosby later used as the title to his remake of the movie in 1954 (during my lifetime).

With that in mind, I thought you might enjoy some ideas for making snowflakes should the real ones fail to show for Christmas.

Stick-on snowflakes for windows:

Using a pencil, draw simple snowflake designs onto a piece of wax paper. Trace over each design with glitter glue. Make nice, thick lines so the snowflake will be sturdy. Let dry completely overnight. Gently peel the snowflakes from the paper. If the glue is still wet, turn the flakes over and allow to dry more.

Use as window clings or add to gift packages.

Pasta snowflakes:

Save up those leftover uncooked pasta shapes for this project. On a piece of waxed paper, arrange the shapes to make a snowflake shape. Glue the pieces together. Let dry completely and finish by spraying with glue and sprinkling with glitter.

Snowflakes to munch:

Using flour tortillas and a pair of clean sharp scissors, fold the tortilla in fourths and cut as you would to make a snowflake from paper. You may need to warm the tortillas a bit in the oven to make them more pliable.

In a fry pan, add a very little oil and fry the tortilla until crisp. Top tortilla with powdered sugar or cinnamon and sugar.
[posted by Karen Robbins]

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Christmas Story, our family's favorite movie

Oh my, this is a funny and touching movie, with many scenes in it that are seared into my memory. Some years it is on tv constantly, and we bought a copy for backup. The setting is a town in Indiana in the 1940s, during the Christmas season. This is a story from the point of view of Ralphie, a nine year boy.

You may have your favorite movie moments from A Christmas Story. The scene of the boy whose tongue freezes to the flagpole, and Ralphie with the bar of soap in his mouth are not possible to forget. For funny scenes the younger brother was so swaddled in his snowsuit that when he falls down he can not get up on his own. To keep him warm his mom put so many layers of clothes on him that he cannot put his arms down at his side.

Amazing scenes, and add to this Ralphie's desperate craving, nay need, to own a Red Ryder carbine action BB gun, and Ralphie hearing "you'll shoot your eye out" so often from every responsible adult. He poured out his heart in an essay he wrote for school about how he should have the rifle, hoping his teacher will concur.

The dad is called The Old Man and he has a whacky pride in the bizarre lamp that he won. I have seen replicas of the lamp for sale in catalogs.

Sit back and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Silent NIght, a 2002 Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie

I bought "Silent Night" in one of those DVDs that has four movies in it. Here's a few comments from Amazon viewers:

5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous mother

Strong story line: A mother who would not allow circumstances to control her life! Love this story! I have watched it numerous times since purchasing it from Read more

Published 8 months ago by David Mikolajczyk

5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Movie

This movie hit a lot of bases. It showed how people could come together even when they're normally of opisition of one another. Read more

Published 9 months ago by Grizzly Adams "Rick"

5.0 out of 5 stars Must See Family Movie

Silent Night, is a movie for the whole family. It so impressed me that I ordered a copy for each of our six grown children. Read more

Published 9 months ago by Kaye Salverda

4.0 out of 5 stars Touching and well done

This is a touching and well done film that shows that hatred is never the answer. It takes place during WWII and American soldiers and German soldiers must share a home for the... Read more

Published 10 months ago by Penny Zeller, Christian Author...

5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT Movie

Never hearing of this movie I came across it in a four movie DVD christmas collection. I must say of the four movies included on the DVD this one was "TOP NOTCH". Read more

Blog readers, let me know if you've seen this movie? Would love your comments.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Favorite Christmas Movie - Trish Berg

Well, this is difficult for me as I am an avid Christmas movie fanatic. So ere is my top 5 list:

1. It's a Wonderful Life - Nothing beats this classic black and white tear jerker. I watch it 5 times every December. If you have not seen it, you MUST! It is inspirational, and even my kiddos love it!

2. Miracle on 34th Street - Both the old black and white version and the new re-make version. Both are inspirational and will bring back the excitement of Santa.

3. Arthur's Perfect Christmas - Yes, you may think this is lame, but I LOVE THIS PBS CARTOON movie. It is just so, well...PERFECT!!!

4. A Christmas Carol- Any version (Except the Muppet one...) Very inspirational.

5. Home Movies - Spend some time watching all of your own home movies from Christmases past. My kiddos love reliving the memories.

Whatever you watch, pop some popcorn, make some hot cocoa, snuggle up with the ones you love and enjoy the time together.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gingerbread Cookies For The Tree

Gingerbread cookies make wonderful tree decorations. Not only do they look decorative but they add a wonderful aroma to your Christmas celebration. You can make them in the traditional gingerbread man shape or use a different shape for a themed tree.

6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup shortening, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.

2.In a medium bowl, mix together the shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until they are completely absorbed. Divide dough into 3 pieces, pat down to 1 1/2 inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

3.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Use raisins for eyes and a piece of red licorice for a mouth. Buttons down the front can be either raisins or cinnamon candy.

5.Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. When the cookies are done, use a plastic straw to make a hole at the top for a ribbon or string hanger. Cool cookies on parchment paper or clean newspaper.

If cookies will be consumed after hanging on the tree, you might want to wrap them in clear cellophane wrap or thin plastic bag. Gather the wrap at the top and tie with ribbon that can be used as hanger as well. If you don't wrap cookies, they will definitely need a dusting unless consumed quickly.
If you will not be eating the cookies, you can add a little extra spice for that little more wonderful ginger smell.
[posted by Karen Robbins]

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nanaimo Bars, Rich Chocolate and Butter Cream

A friend at work introduced me to the sinfully delicious chocolate Nanaimo bars. She brought them in to work to share at Christmas and we all went into transports of joy as we tasted them.
There is chocolate and butter and sugar galore in these treats, which originated in the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.
The recommended size for the pan is 8 inches by 8 inches, sprayed with vegetable oil or covered with parchment paper. The recommended custard powder is Bird's, which you can find online or in specialty shops, or you can substitute vanilla pudding powder. I bring the butter to room temperature before beginning. I don't have a double boiler, so instead I use a larger saucepan with water in it, and a smaller saucepan which sets on top, leaning in to the larger pan.
Ingredients for bottom layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1/4 cup white sugar, 5 TB cocoa powder, 1 egg beaten, 1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans, 1 cup shredded or flaked coconut.
Melt first three ingredients in double boiler, gently whisk in egg, stir in rest of ingredients, and press in to greased pan. Refrigerate for about an hour.
Ingredients for second layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, 2 TB cream or milk, 2 TB vanilla custard powder, 2 cups confectioners sugar.
Cream together 1st three ingredients, then add sugar and when mixture is smooth spread over bottom layer.
Top layer:
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (one ounce each), 2 TB unsalted butter.
Melt these slowly and when a bit cooled pour on top of middle layer and chill in refrigerator.
To prevent the top layer of chocolate from cracking when cutting, use a sharp knife and bring to room temperature before cutting.
This recipe gives about 16 servings and I read that they are about 300 calories, but I don't know for sure about the calories.
Prepare to be very popular when you share these Nanaimo Bars.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nutmeg Logs - Trish Berg

This is my mother-in-law's recipe, and we love the sweet, run flavor.

Nutmeg Logs

1 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon rum flavoring
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream softened butter with the flavorings. Beat in the sugar, then mix in the egg. In a separate bowl, stir the flour, nutmeg, and salt. Mix with the butter/sugar mixture. Shape the resulting dough into snakes about 1/2 inch in diameter, and cut the pieces to 3 inches in length. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Frost with rum frosting. Make grooves in the frosting with a fork, and sprinkle ground nutmeg on the logs while the frosting is still moist.

Rum Frosting
1/3 cup soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon rum flavoring
2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Make A Small Gift Box

Here is a great idea for making a pretty gift box.
  • Take an empty tea bag box or similar small box, carefully pull it apart at the seams and flatten it out.
  • On scrapbooking paper or card stock or other decorative paper that is stiff, use a pencil to trace the outline of the flattened box on the backside of the paper.
  • Cut along the traced outline.
  • Make folds that correspond to the folds on the original box.
  • Use double sided tape or glue to assemble the box.
  • Place gift inside and finish with a pretty ribbon.

[posted by Karen Robbins]

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gift Tower

My kids are big fans of specially wrapped gifts. In fact, my youngest son, Reese, once lamented that “whoever invented gift bags took half the fun out of Christmas.” With that in mind, I continue to challenge myself to wrap creatively.

Gift towers always go over well. Wrap related items, such as a dollhouse, doll, accessories and clothes, from largest to smallest—stacking them one on top of the other. Tape of hot glue them together so they won’t topple over. An added bonus: the shape is reminiscent of the Christmas tree.

Now, please share any creative ideas you have. I can’t wait to read them.

Leslie Porter Wilson

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Inexpensive, unique gift wrap ideas

Holiday Gift Wrapping can be Fun and Inexpensive:

1) Buy a large roll of plain brown paper. Write messages on outside: "Open me first." "What's inside?" "Don't Shake."
Write clues to content: "What's furry and squeaks?" Or cover package with huge question marks. Or let children in your family make hand prints, draw Christmas scenes, or silhouette cutouts after Thanksgiving meal, and then use paper to wrap Christmas gifts.

2) Use items you would normally throw away as gift containers. Drop a set of fancy measuring spoons into a plastic lidded empty baking powder can. Use leftover spray paint on the outside of coffee cans, and then tuck gifts inside. Use the newspaper plastic sleeves for oblong gifts. My newspaper comes in pretty blue wrappers. Use several tucked inside each other to hide gift.

3) Last week I mentioned this one, buy those store logo reusable shopping bag and gift those and your gift.

Got any good gift wrapping ideas? Share them with us this week. It's two months until Christmas...just a heads up...Cathy    

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eco-Friendly Gifts to Make

One of the best gifts I ever got was a pretty fabric bag to store all the plastic bags I seemed to collect from grocery shopping. Plastic bags come in handy for all sorts of things from transporting wet bathing suits to packing shoes in a suitcase to keep them from soiling the clean clothes. Here's an easy way to make one:

You will need a piece of cotton fabric-about a half yard, 6"-8" of 1/8-1/4" wide elastic, cording about 18"-24" long, sewing machine, thread, scissors, safety pin. The "about" measurements allow for you to use up scraps or hit the remnant bin at the fabric store.

Put two sides of material right sides together and sew a seam so that you make a long cylinder leaving the seam open two inches at top and bottom. At the top sew a hem or casing for the cording to pass through. Tuck the raw edges in to finish off the opening where you will pass the cording through using a large safety pin. Tie the two ends of the cording together (if you want to get fancy, you can add a large wooden bead here as well.

At the bottom, make another hem or casing and pass the elastic through. Either tie the ends together tightly or sew them. This should close the bottom enough to keep the bags inside but yet allow you to pull one at a time out of the bottom. If you give it as a gift, be sure to put some bags in it to demonstrate its use.

Another gift idea is to make reusable grocery bags either from scratch, or buy some inexpensive ones at the grocery store and personalize them with your own appliqued designs either sewn on or by using iron on appliques.

[posted by Karen Robbins]

Saturday, October 16, 2010

No-Sew Fleece Pillow

Not only am I a Word Quilter, I'm also a Quilt Quilter. Hmmm. That sounds funny. One of the best places to find fabric for quilting or crafting is in the remnant bin. I love finding treasures. It is there that I suggest you look for some fleece for this no-sew pillow project which is a great gift for just about any age. You will need two pieces of fleece-3/4 yard each. Or two pieces of fleece that measure 25" X 25" for a 14" pillow. (Pictured here are several fleece patterns from JoAnn Fabrics online.)

Here's the list of supplies:

Two pieces of fleece 25"X25" (be sure you don't include the selvage in that measurement)
One 14" pillow form
Sharp scissors


  • Place the two 25" squares (no selvage) "wrong" sides together if you can figure that out. Some fleece looks the same on both sides. Secure with a few pins.
  • Cut a 5"X5" square out of each corner.
  • Now cut 5" long fringe that is 3/4" wide on all four sides. It might be easiest to measure the five inches in from the edge and place a strip of masking tape there to use as a cutting guide.
  • Tie a piece of back fringe to a piece of front fringe all around three sides. Make the knot right at the 5" mark. Some fleece tends to stretch more one direction than another so you might want to turn one of your layers so that a stretchy side is matched to a less stretchy side.
  • Insert your pillow form and finish tying the fourth side. It may be easier to tie every other one and then go back and finish the inbetween knots.
  • Voila! A beautiful pillow ready to be wrapped and given to a beautiful person on your gift list. And if you can find remnants and/or sales, your pillow should easily be less than $25!

[Posted by Karen Robbins]

Friday, October 15, 2010

Handsome Santa Claus

 My friend is a very talented Tole Art and Folk Art painter, and this is the Santa that I have, that she painted. I share here a small version and a medium version photo of her beautiful painting work.
I received this Santa this week, which is why he is available for this photo, and not packed away in the attic.
What new decorative touches are you adding for this years Christmas decor?

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Fave Child's Book and a Gift under $25.00


Elbert's Bad Word is not a Christmas genre book, but it's a perfect gift for a child age 4 and up. My 12 year old grandson recently saw the book in our home and said, "I remember this book. You used to read it to us all the time." I read it to them all the time because they requested it all the time. One day at a grown up party, Elbert heard a bad word, and it was about the size of a gnat so he stuffed it in his pocket. But the bad word grew. When Elbert had a croquet mallet land on his big toe, the bad word sprang out big, ugly and hairy. The pictures are really attention getters for children. The story teaches children how to use other strong words when they need them, but not bad words. Wonderful! Wish adults could rid themselves of bad words too. Look for Elbert's Bad Word here.

A gift that I will purchase this fall for my husband and son who travel often is compact binoculars, specifically the Bushnell Powerview 13-2514 8x21 Binocular. I searched and found suitable ones here with comparative pricing. These compact binoculars, about the size of a small digital camera, may also be used to bird watch or can be taken to concerts when you're in the "cheaper" seats (no cheap seats at concerts it seems). They are just under $25.00 even with tax included.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Craft Books for Kids

While our theme for the week is children's books for the holidays, for Crafty Saturday, I'd like to suggest a book that might help get you and the kids started on making some gifts. Gifts Kids Can Make, by Sheila McGraw has some easy gifts to make and even instructions for home made wraps.

Looking for some good ideas for gift giving for the youngsters? How about come craft books? I ran across a series of books called, Look What You Can Make With. . . The series uses paper plates, household items, paper bags, etc. This might be a great gift idea for a teacher as well. (Search at Amazon and you'll easily find the series.)

Another idea--cookbooks for kids. Again if you search Amazon or Barnes and Noble, you'll come up with quite a variety from Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, and other sources. When I was a kid, I had a kid's cookbook that I used well into the first years of my marriage. Some of the recipes were so easy and so good, I made them often.

All of these kind of books teach kids to follow instructions that can be a great help to them in the future--like when they are in their chemistry lab in high school or college.

[Posted by Karen Robbins ]

Friday, October 8, 2010

Children's book Cup of Christmas Tea

This week we are chatting here about favorite children's Christmas books.
One of my favorites is "A Cup of Christmas Tea", written by Tom Hegg and illustrated by Warren Hanson.
This charming story written as a poem covers the visit of a young man to his ailing great aunt, and how his reluctant arrival turns into a joyful time together.
One verse goes "A week before, I got a letter from my old Great Aunt. It read: Of course, I'll understand completely if you can't ... But if you have some time, how wonderful if we ... could have a little chat and a cup of Christmas tea."

I bought a hardcover copy for a very reasonable price of ten dollars and this book is providing my family with many years of reading around the Christmas tree. There are audio versions available too.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Treats For Our Special Friends

Because we are on the road so much, we no longer have furry or feathered pets at home that need a great deal of care while we are gone. We do however have finned friends. Our salt water aquarium contains a yellow tang, a pair of clown fish, and a blue tang as well as a brittle starfish, a sea cucumber, a pair of cleaner shrimp and lots of crabs and snails to help keep the tank clean of alga. They do pretty well on their own with an automatic feeder and timed lights.

While our fish do exhibit some notice of us, they are not the tail-wagging or purring receptions other pets offer. For those who would like to reward those tail-waggers, here is a recipe for dog bone treats.

Dog BonesIngredients
•2 cups whole wheat flour
•2 cups soya flour
•1 cup wheat germ
•1 cup corn meal
•1 cup dry nutritional yeast flakes (from Health Food Store)
•1/2 cup cooking oil
•1 egg
•1 3/4 cup water or broth
Place dry ingredients in large bowl. Blend. Mix together egg, oil, and water. Add these ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until all ingredients are well blended.

Divide dough in thirds. On floured surface, roll out to 1/4" thick. Cut out dog bone shapes. (Optional -- prick tops three times with toothpick.) Place on well oiled baking sheet.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 25-30 min. Biscuits should be well browned on the bottom. Don't store in an air tight container. Makes approx. 4 doz.

And for those purring friends, here's a treat for the holidays.

Cheese Ball Treats
•2 tablespoons of margarine
•1/2 cup grated cheddar or cheddar jack cheese
•1 egg white from a large egg
•1/2 cup whole wheat flour
•1 teaspoon of fresh chopped catnip or 1/2 teaspoon of dried catnip

Combine the first three ingredients until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine flour and catnip. Add the flour mixture slowly to the first three ingredients, mixing until a soft dough ball is formed. Separate into 1/2-inch pieces and roll by hand into small balls. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake at 300 degrees F for approximately 25 minutes. Yield: Approximately 12 balls. Cool completely before serving.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cats and Christmas

This week we are chatting about pets and the holidays here. Our family has always had cats, or maybe the cats have us and allow us to pamper them.
For Christmas all that our cats request is tuna. Tuna that people eat, like Bumble Bee or Chicken of the Sea, no canned catfood for them.
Of course I created a Christmas stocking for them, by buying a plain red felt stocking with wide white trim at the top, in the same size as the rest of our family stockings.
At the top in the white area, I wrote "CATS" in Elmer's white glue and then sprinkled on lots of glitter. This stocking hangs from our fireplace mantle with the "people" stockings.
The Cats stocking looks pretty and sparkly and our kitties are happy with it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Call Now to Reserve Your Pet’s Spot

If you’ve ever been caught scrambling to locate a place to keep your pet while you travel over the holidays, you probably don’t need to read today’s post—unless you just want a friendly reminder. The point is, if that’s ever happened to you, you’ve probably already made arrangements for your dog or cat or hedgehog by now.

We endured this painful—yet-oh-so-rewarding—learning experience a few years back when my husband and I got our wires crossed. I thought he was taking care of boarding arrangements. I thought he was. You see the problem. So, please learn from our mistake. Look up the number for your pet’s bed and breakfast or and dial them today or ask your trusted neighbor. You can always cancel later if your plans change, but it’s much more difficult to add a reservation as the holidays draw near.

You want to make sure Scout or Sadie has excellent care, right?

Leslie Porter Wilson

Monday, September 27, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small

This week's theme: pets at Christmastime: do you do anything special for yours?

Over the years, our household has had four farm dogs--one at a time--Benji a beagle, Honeybun an Irish Setter mix, Cyrus a purebred hound (loved to hear him bay), and finally Dugout (found abandoned in a baseball dugout), a mix but definitely some pit bull. Dugout loved children and he loved my husband. My husband uses a John Deere front end loader tractor to load his dump truck, and Dugout got in the habit of sleeping in the loader, and he wouldn't let anyone near the tractor except David or me.

All of those farm dogs are gone and we decided that we'd not get anymore. But what special friends they were. We liked to treat them to those packets of Moist and Meaty, especially on holidays. Also, we always try to give our farm cattle a little extra alfalfa on Christmas morn. And we see many critters who travel from one wooded area to another across our yard. We continually see a rabbit, probably not always the same one. Hawks, owls, coyotes, deer--we see or hear some of these nearly every day.    

We keep bird seed and water out for our winged friends year round. The dirt dobbers even like to get a sip out of the bird bath and go make their mud homes in the summer. I plant Zinnias and the Monarch butterflies are winging their way to Mexico and visiting every day now. In general we have a friendly place for domestic and wild thangs throughout the seasons.

Do you give a special treat to your pets on Christmas day?  

Saturday, September 25, 2010

With Every Christmas Card. . .

Christmas carols and hymns are an integral part of our Christmas celebration. The sounds of the season fill my husband's car from Thanksgiving to New Years. When the kids were really little, they would join in with us as we sang to the songs on the radio. Later they would just sit and sigh and put up with us. But it was another way for them to learn the story of Christmas--to see that it was more than just a gift-giving/receiving holiday. That it was a celebration of the birth of Hope.

Back when I was twenty-something and had more time and energy to expend, I handmade my Christmas cards. Often I used a hymn or carol as the theme to my card. Today, it is so much easier to make those cards with all of the nifty scrapbooking supplies, stencils, and card stock available in craft stores. Or my favorite now, easy-to-use computer programs like Word and/or PhotoShop that allow you to create your own card in a jiffy.

Here's a quick idea for Christmas cards from your computer.

You will need:

Letter-sized parchment paper with matching envelopes
Your computer and printer (color optional)

1. Open a Word document and change the page layout to landscape. Make the margins .5 all the way around. (You may get a warning notice when you go to print that the margins aren't big enough but run a test page to see how it prints.)

2. In page layout, choose three columns. Your envelopes are most likely business sized so we will make a tri-fold card.

3. Choose an old favorite hymn. You can find lyrics on the web if you search for the hymn. You can copy and paste either directly to your card or in another doc to copy the words from.

4. When you look at your page layout, remember that the column on the right will be the cover of your card. Move your cursor to that area, click to center the text and enter your hymn. You may have to play with font size and type of font to get it to fit. If you want it to fit horizontally, use a text box and the tool that allows you to change the direction of the text.

5. The left side of your page will be the second page of your card. You can either continue the hymn on here or say something like "Wishing you and yours. . ." (We'll finish the message inside.)

6. Now make a second page. You can do this easily by going to the bottom of the first page and inserting a page break. This way you get a second page with the same layout. The center column of this page will be the inside of your card. Here is where you will finish your message, "A Blessed Christmas!"

7. Run a test page and do the tri-fold to be sure you have everything placed well. And don't forget to Spellcheck!

The rest is up to you. If you have a color printer, you may want to add some clip art or even a picture of you and/or your family. It's another way to share your favorite hymn or carol without having to sing a solo. Let's face it, you really don't want to hear me sing "Oh, Holy Night."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Admit It, I’m Shallow

A couple of weeks ago, we shared our favorite popular Christmas song, and today we expand this to our favorite hymn or carol. I wish I could tell you my favorite had some deep, hidden or spiritual meaning. I wish I could tell you that hearing it changed me from the inside out in a positive way.

But nooooooooooo, I love “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” And I enjoy it less for its lyrics or tune and more because it brings back fond memories of the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Remember? The kids begin arguing over the Christmas play—who gets to do what and when. In the middle of the ruckus, Linus dons his blanket like a shepherd’s head scarf, picks up the staff and shares the story of Jesus’s birth from Luke 2. The kids quiet themselves and listen to Linus as he shares the real meaning of Christmas. After, the whole gang lifts their voices to the heavens as they belt out none other than “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

Call me crazy, but I get chills just thinking about it.

Leslie Porter Wilson

Monday, September 20, 2010

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer Tra-la-la-la-la La-la-la-laaaaaaa

I goofed. Two weeks ago, when we posted about Christmas songs, I was supposed to share my favorite "popular" song. One not related to the birth of Christ, but the jolliness of the season. So, while my other dear co-authors remain on the right track (8 track, surely not), I'll tell you my favorite popular song. Mine is a dark Christmas song: "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." 

Three of my grandchildren live on the farm near us in their own home, but we're about a quarter of a mile apart. At a very young age they heard this song and their parents started making up stories about additional things that happened to me walking to their house. I'm a good sport, and I've feigned tears and a loveless life when they start singing the song or their versions. But our outrageous sessions always end in laughter and hugs and kisses. If that's what results from singing that dark Christmas jingle, then bring on the reindeer!  

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Tevye struggles to keep to tradition in Fiddler On The Roof. I can relate to his struggle. Life changes. Kids grow up and choose their own way to go--their own traditions. It always seemed that just about the time something became tradition at our house for Christmas, it changed.

Decorating the tree is one example. When the kids were little we put the tree up on Christmas Eve making it appear that Santa had brought it and his elves decorated it. As time went on and it became more difficult to hide the tree, we put it up and let Santa's elves decorate. Then when the boys started getting older and knew about those elves, we let them stay up a bit to help decorate. As they got to be teens, we put the tree up early and then everyone got to decorate. When I gave in and we turned to an artificial tree, we put it up even earlier. Now it goes up Thanksgiving weekend when everyone is home and the grandkids are here. Hmmm. There's never been a take-down-the-tree tradition though.

One tradition that was started by my aunt and was truly appreciated was her gift of a Christmas ornament each year for each of us. When our boys got married, there were enough ornaments collected over the years for them to have a good start on their own tree decorations.

Now my aunt's ornaments were purchased but this being Crafty Saturday, you might want to consider a handmade ornament. One of the best places to make a really nice ornament is at a ceramics store. There are lots of them in malls and shopping centers where you can pick out some greenware or unpainted ceramic ornaments and with the paints they supply you can create a keepsake. Some of them have paints that dry with a glossy finish and others will fire them in a kiln for you. Take a friend along and enjoy an afternoon of creativity!

Here are several links to help you locate a store:

Paint Your Own Pottery

The Painted Penguin

Color Me Mine

Friday, September 17, 2010

Our tradition of opening presents

Opening gifts at Christmas is part of most families' traditions, and often there are two distinct times to do this.
Many families open gifts around the tree on Christmas eve. This photo shows our Christmas tree and cat, Bigboy, on Christmas eve, 2008.
My family opens the presents on Christmas morning.
Which camp is your family in?
My husband grew up in Ohio and I grew up in Wisconsin and custom there in our families meant waiting for Santa Claus to come in the night, come in through the chimney and bring gifts. This meant we waited for Santa and opened gifts on December 25.
Many families choose the other option and open gifts Christmas eve.
It was SO hard to sleep Dec. 24, listening for sleigh bells in the night. One night a neighbor ran around our house ringing sleigh bells, which was very thrilling for my sister and I to hear. Since we did not have a fireplace, Santa came in through the front door, which we left unlocked for him.