Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Room for Him?

"And she brought forth her firstborn son,
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
and laid him in a manger;
because there was no room for them in the inn."
Luke 2:7

Interesting. No room. 

Did that stop Mary?


She made room for Him.

This Christmas, I encourage you to make room for Jesus in your home and heart. 

Intentional effort.


Reread His birth story.

Give intangible gifts to others.

Have family prayer.

Return a favor.

Share joy.


Forgive a wrong against you.

Befriend someone.

Visit the elderly.

Extend hospitality . . . not just to your home but, in your heart. 

We are so grateful for you, dear readers, and wish you a most blessed Christmas 2013.

~ Brenda Nixon

Thursday, December 19, 2013

White Elephant

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

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

It was that pesky white elephant gift we'd been passing around for years! The item itself wasn't as funny as the fact that the stupid thing kept popping up each Christmas at our annual White Elephant gift exchange. 

From one year to the next, I couldn't remember who was bestowed the honor of taking home the offensive possession but, each year we all circled our chairs at a new party and hoped we were not the one "blessed" with it. 

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

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

Question: What's the funniest White Elephant gift you received or gave away?

Brenda NixonCo-author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Over the Hill and through the Woods to

My husband is famous for saying, "Let's drop by Cecil and Helen's house . . . see if they're home."

We know our friends and their schedules well enough that we're pretty safe when we make an unexpected house call. I've learned to appreciate drop-in company most of the time, and Christmas usually means visitors will be in and out more over the holidays. Here's some tips I learned about keeping a house company ready. . .or making folk feel welcome even when the house is a mess.

I heard this tip years ago, and I've found it to be a good one. Keep your mirrors and appliances shiny, and the gleam will catch your visitor's attention, making a good first impression. and it will make you feel better, too. Take a spray bottle of Windex, a roll of paper towels or some lint free rags and only do the household mirrors, wipe down TV screen, (whatever is recommended for yours), the fridge, front of microwave, etc., even washer and dryer if company will see them. Go do that now. There. Do you feel better about your housekeeping?

I like to take a few minutes each day to tidy rooms. Round up any stray items and return them to their places. Also, during the holidays set a clear cookie jar filled with home baked goodies in a prominent place. Place something cheerful by the door guests enter--a plant, a heartwarming slogan, or a colorful welcome mat. When someone knocks or that doorbell rings, smile and greet any guests who happen to phone ahead or simply drop by.

What if your house looks like it has just been burglarized and unexpected people are at your door? Clothing, newspapers, and shoes clutter your sitting area. Dust has settled on the end tables like the down on a thistle. Be gracious. Say as little about your mess as possible. You might make your guests feel bad for dropping in. Err on the side of gracious hospitality and put your all-I-want-for-Christmas-is-a-neat-house ego on hold. Choose to be a blessing to all who seek your company. What a compliment. They wanted to come see YOU!

Enjoy the merriment this week as we move into the count down--10 days until Christmas ....Cathy Messecar

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Costly Christmas?

Do you find that the errands, gifts, extra groceries, cards, and charitable giving make your Christmas costly? Well, this time of year does increase spending but, it doesn't have to break your bank.

Order on Amazon.com
Although there are tons of tips in our Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts I'd like to share one little idea to increase the meaning of Christmas without the money. 

What's more special than giving something homemade, personal, and affordable? Teach your children to make handprint cards for teachers, grandparents, pals, etc.

Using an 8.5 x 11" sheet of cardstock, folded in half (like a card), trace Dad's handprint with a red colored pencil. Next have Mom trace her hand in green inside the outline of Dad's. Then, using a different color pencil for each child, trace his/her handprint around the large one of Dad and Mom. 

By using a different color for each family member, the card is joyfully colored plus gives distinction to each person. You can shade inside the handprints or leave them plain.

Next, print the name of each person or glue a small picture inside his/her handprint. What a unique keepsake!

Open your "card" and write a Merry Christmas greeting to your recipient. You can buy large envelops at stationary or craft stores that will fit your homemade card. But to save more money, simply use giftwrap and a glue stick to make a colorful envelop.

Check out some of the other ideas in our book and have a Merry, money-wise Christmas!  ~ Brenda Nixon

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Our Christmas Book

We gals who write these Christmas blog posts wrote a book together.

Today it is on sale on Amazon for only $13.59 Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts: Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday

There are lots of reviews there that make us smile to read them.
One reader wrote there:
"This charming book creates a beautiful harmony from the unique voices of its six authors. It would make a great "open before Christmas" gift. It's homespun look and content are a reminder that the holidays are a time to celebrate and enjoy, not to stress over!"
Post written by Terra Hangen

Friday, December 6, 2013

What's Your Quote?

Merry Christmas to you, our dear blog readers!

I thought it'd be fun to exchange some of our fave Christmas quotes. I'll go first . . .

There has been only one Christmas - the rest are anniversaries.  ~W.J. Cameron

This is the message of Christmas:  We are never alone.  ~Taylor Caldwell

The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God.  ~ C.S. Lewis (his first name was Clive)

Got a fave quote to share? Leave it below in our comments section.

If you haven't done it yet, put our A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts out as a lovely coffee table book!  ~Brenda

Monday, December 2, 2013

'Tis the Season

Everywhere you look there are colored lights, decorated Christmas trees, wrapping paper, and the sound of seasonal songs. I love it!

If you've read our book (see right) and our bios, then you know we each have different interests aside from writing... or differences in writing. We each live in different states. But we've come together to pen this tome to help you cherish your family and simplify the holidays.

One American group that doesn't decorate their homes, drag a tree inside the house, or tune the radio to hear constant music, is the Amish. Since writing A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, I've become personally acquainted with some Amish, our daughter married a fine young man who grew up and left the Amish, and my husband and I have hosted several individuals transitioning from Amish to English life.  

I've been on a vertical learning curve about this complex, cloistered culture. Today, I blog about the Amish, specifically the most conservative orders -- Old and Swartzentruber. So what I share does not reflect all Amish. Rather than describe here their Christmas behaviors, read a bit about them in my post  "Amish Christmas." Click the link to my new blog and enjoy!  ~ Brenda Nixon

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hats Off to Themed Christmas Trees

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, poinsettias
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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Yummeee, Orange Cocoa Sandies Recipe

Orange Cocoa Sandies. If you like the flavor combination of chocolate and orange, these will more than please your taste buds.

Years ago, a segment on a local news show included "Mr. Food." This fellow in a chef's cap would share simple recipes. One morning he told the audience the following recipe, and I've used it ever since. It's a chocolate variation of the almond flavored cookie known by these two names: Wedding Crescents or Pecan Sandies.

Let me know if you try them and how you like them. You may roll them in cocoa powder or confectioner's sugar.

Orange Cocoa Sandies

1 cup (2 sticks butter, softened)
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar, divided
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon orange extract

Preheat over to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat the butter, flour, 1 cup confectioner's sugar, the cocoa, pecans and extract for 2-3 minutes, or until well blended. Drop by teaspooonfuls about 1 inch apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until set. Allow to cool slightly, then dust with the remaining 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar. Serve, or store in an air-tight container until ready to serve. 
Recipe posted by Cathy Messecar

Friday, November 15, 2013

Family Prayers for Christmas Card Senders

Christmas Card Prayer Basket - Trish Berg

Wow, it's hard to believe November is already here, and Christmas is just around the bend.

As you prepare your Christmas card list, choose cards and get organized, I wanted to share a neat tip with you.

Over the month of December, you will be receiving tons of Christmas cards in the mail. Some of you may hang your cards over doorways or place them on fireplace mantels. Those are all neat ways to decorate your home with love.

But here's another thought.

You can place all your Christmas cards in a basket, and every night at supper, have each person in your family randomly draw a card out of the basket, and then go around the dinner table and pray for those families by name.

Then return them to the basket, and know that your prayers were heard.

It's a simple, faithful way to live out your faith in front of your children, and hold up your family and friends in prayer in a real concrete way. Trust God to choose the right cards for you, and know that your prayers are making a difference.

Pinterest Pinner Kimberly Pedroche, bundles her cards by years and displays them each Christmas.
As always, enjoy the journey-Trish
Psalm 118:24

Thursday, November 14, 2013

First Christmas in New Culture

Hey friends, thanks for reading our A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts book-inspired blog.

This year is my first Christmas without my daughter, Laura. Why? She's teaching for two years in the middle-eastern country -- Azerbaijan. She's on a steep learning curve about the Azeri language, culture, and landscape. While I'll desperately miss my sweet Laura, I'm glad she has opportunity to travel and make a positive difference in the lives of her students.

Her tiny country is bordered by the Caspian Sea, Russia, and Turkey (She's going to spend Thanksgiving Day in Turkey, eating turkey in Turkey). She once had opportunity to visit their mud volcanos. Yes, vocano-like formations with warm, runny mud!

Would you like to discover a few cultural differences she'll experience this first Christmas? She will miss
  • Coffee - there's no Starbucks and most of the country's expensive coffee tastes weak to her.
  • Plastic bags - we live in a disposable country but over there, even a small baggie is valuable.
  • Riding her bicycle - adult women are not to ride bikes.
  • Timely Transportation - they have public transportation but, keeping their schedule is optional.
  • Quick Eats - A drive-through? No way! Azeri people make eating a long hospitality event that is always indoors around a table. Laura found out one day, while noshing her lunch on a park bench, that eating outdoors is frowned upon.
Since the country's religion is Islam, she won't be celebrating Christmas in our traditional way.

Have you spent Christmas in a new culture? Leave your comment sharing about your first and what your learned . . . or missed.   ~ Brenda Nixon

Monday, November 11, 2013

Versatile Pine Cones

Versatile Pine Cones

By Karen Robbins

Whether you buy them by the bagful or pick up your own outside, pine cones are one of the most inexpensive and fun ways to decorate for Christmas. Put out a bowlful of cones as a centerpiece. If you purchase the scented cones, it will also fill the room with wonderful cinnamon or pine scents.
Or fill large glass containers/vases with the cones. I take old small colored glass ornaments and sprinkle them in as well. Usually one side gets tarnished and as I layer them with the cones in a large vase, I turn the shiny side out.

From Dollar Store Crafts site, let your little ones make their own miniature Christmas trees with three items: pine cones, small pom-poms, and glue.

Do you have a favorite place for cones in your holiday decorating? Let us know. We love to hear your ideas.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Recipes Treats for Cats and Dogs

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.
Recipes posted by Karen Robbins

Saturday, November 9, 2013

And the winner of our Christmas book is ....

Cue the fireworks and celebration, as the winner of a copy of "Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts: Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday" was selected using random.org
Snap That AKA Joyful is the winner. Her blog is snapthatpenny.blogspot.com and she lives in Canada. Please contact me with your mailing address Joyful! She left a comment on my blog, Terragarden one of the two places you could leave comments.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Christmas Book Give Away

Hi Friends,
One of the "Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts" writers is giving away one copy of our book on her blog.
Terra Hangen's blog is at http://terragarden.blogspot.com and to enter to win just leave a comment on her blog or on this blog. For two chances to win, leave one comment on each blog.

Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

The winner will be selected and announced on Nove. 9. The selection will be made with random.org. I want the winner to have this book well before Christmas since it is a fun and helpful book for planning, cooking, making simple gifts, reading some classic Christmas poems, etc.
Posted by Terra Hangen

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nanaimo Bars Recipe, 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.
Recipe posted by Terra Hangen.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rudy Day

The 25th of each month is designated by Christmas devotees as Rudolph Day, affectionately called Rudy Day.

The idea is that on the 25th of each month you pause and think about organizing for Christmas. You might want to buy a gift on sale, make gifts or make home decorations, or anything else you like to do ahead. Here on our blog, every day is Rudy Day, since we give Christmas celebrating tips from July to January. So enjoy your own Rudy Days in the months to come, as you prepare to celebrate the day Jesus was born.
Do any of you use Rudolph Day to help organize for the holidays?
Posted by Terra Hangen

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Embrace Frugal Gift Gathering

I should have changed my middle name to Tightwad a long time ago. I not only come from a long line of penny-pinchers (Can you say rinsing out store brand plastic zipper bags?), but the reality of a more challenging economy has boosted my resolve.

That being said, my frugality extends to Christmas gift as well. My family has adopted several creative themes throughout the years to relieve the financial burden:
• Exchanging gifts bought at a garage sale or flea market—nothing new allowed!
• Shopping resale stores and Goodwill for designer clothing. Find out what days they stock their shelves and be there when the store opens.
• Recycling gifts (We’ve all been given a great gift that just wasn’t us. Pass it along to a family member who could really give that item a good home.)
• Shopping at the dollar store (We did this a lot when our kids were small. I’d give each of them $10 and let them go crazy. The cool thing was, they worked hard to find gifts that fit the recipient. For example, duct tape for my husband who loves to do projects around the house.)

If I absolutely, can’t-possibly-get-out-of-it, must shop retail, I peruse flyers and slick inserts and clip coupons. Some places (even besides Wal-Mart) will accept other stores coupons on identical items. I’m excited that my kids (19, 16, and 15) have come on board with our family’s frugality. (Earning their own income and saving for cars and college might have spurred them on a little!) An added bonus? Good stewardship never goes out of style.

Now it’s your turn to brag. What great deals have you found? Where do you shop for bargains?

Leslie Porter Wilson

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nutmeg Logs

This is my mother-in-law's recipe, and we love the sweet, rum 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
Written by Trish Berg

Monday, October 14, 2013

Presentation and Making Sugar Frosted Strawberries

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!
Post by Karen Robbins

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sour Cream Cheescake Recipe

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?
Recipe from Terra Hangen

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chocolate Cream Pie, Easy

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.
Posted by Trish Berg

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review of "Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts", delightful, creative

Susanne Lakin posted this insightful review of our book on Amazon, and I want to share it with you here. Susanne writes Christian fairy tales / fantasy under the name C.S. Lakin.
Here is the review of "Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts" she posted.

"This delightful, creative gift book is chock full of personal memories, thoughts about Christmas, recipes, anecdotes, traditions, and Scripture. Some of the simple stories and verses brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart. I read this book in August--as far from the Christmas holiday as could be, yet I found it worked a wonderful magic in my heart, centering me in reminder that the spirit of Christ is something we need to consider and let live in us each day of the year.

This is a terrific book to give as a gift to just about anyone. The scrapbook theme and layout makes it perfect for picking up and reading just a few pages at a time. Every home should have a copy sitting out on their coffee table year-round!"
Posted by Terra Hangen
On sale on Amazon at this link only 13.49.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Five money saving tips for this Christmas

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.

5. The final tip is to buy supplies to make Christmas tree ornaments, three different ones, on sale of course, after the holidays or any time. This fall when you see your children growing weary of autumn 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.
Written By Cathy Messecar

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lemon Crumb Muffins Recipe

Here is the recipe from The Pine Tree Barn Restaurant. I have these baking in the oven right now, and they are so yummy!

2 c. Butter (melted) 4 c Sugar
2 c. Sour Cream 6 c. flour (we use Softex Pastry Flour)
8 Eggs ¾ t. Baking Soda
2 T. Lemon Juice ¾ t. Salt
5 Fresh Lemons Cooking spray

1 ¼ c. Sugar
1 ¼ c. Flour
1/3 c. Softened Butter

Sift sugar and flour together. Add butter. Work into dry ingredients until crumbly. Yields 2 ½ Cups.

Lemon Glaze
½ c. Sugar 1/3 c. Lemon Juice
Stir together until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Grate rinds of lemons and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, then add sour cream, butter, and lemon juice. Continue to whisk until smooth. Fold lemon rinds into egg mixture. Fold all dry ingredients into egg mixture. Blend well. Spray muffin tins and fill with batter. Top each muffin with 1 tablespoon streusel and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove muffins from oven and immediately poke each several times with a toothpick. Drizzle top of each muffin with a scant ½ tsp. lemon glaze.

Yield: 24-30 muffins ***Note: Batter can be kept up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
Posted by Trish Berg.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

East way to make no sew fleece pillow cases

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]

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hostess Gifts at Christmas or for Any Occasion

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

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

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gift bags to make now for Christmas

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]

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cheap Finds

Bargains are in my blood. Generations of Porters and Bentleys have haggled over pennies at flea markets and yard sales. My own parents bought freshly ironed and starched dresses for their baby girl (me) from garage sales in Highland Park, near where Southern Methodist University (SMU) is located. Cost: 25-50 cents apiece!

I conditioned my kids from an early age to spend Friday mornings driving around town, occasionally venturing into neighboring cities for hidden treasure.

Armed with Cheerios® and Capri Sun®, they quickly learned how to stretch a dollar—their allotted amount—into something special. The boys usually bought action guys (their term for boy dolls) or balls of any kind, while Molly spent her money on books or stuffed animals. We uncovered fabulous finds, some of which are still in our lives.

In today’s post, I get to share a few of my “Favorite Finds” with you. Sorry, gang, but no way could I limit this to just one! Here’s my short list:
• A yellow stepladder splattered with paint. I bought this from my friend Sarah Walker for $2.00. Today it houses candles and a basket filled with hand towels in our guest bathroom.
Baby-Sitter Club® books. For $5.00 my daughter Molly enjoyed hours upon hours of fun, wholesome reading material.
Black leather pants. They looked like they’d never been worn. It costs me more to send them to the cleaners than it did to purchase them! Price: $2.00. No kidding! I didn’t even negotiate. Though I rarely wear them in Dallas, they’re a godsend on ski trips.
A car bed. The toddler-sized homemade racecar lasted through both of our boys, helping them make the transition from crib to bed. Cost: $25.00. We used it for more than three years, then sold it at our own yard sale for $15.00!
A Coca-Cola® thermometer. I paid the “full price” of 50 cents and gave the vintage thermometer to my sister-in-law who collects all things Coca-Cola®. Imagine my surprise when I found the identical item—priced at $50.00—in an antique store.
A short wood shelf. Though it’s final coat is navy blue, light sanding revealed myriad colors underneath. All this $5.00 treasure took was a little sanding, then a wipe clean to make it suitable for our main hallway of our rustic, hill country-style home. (Hint: A rustic or shabby-chic decorating style makes it easy to incorporate garage sale and flea market finds.)
A piano keyboard. For $50.00, my daughter has been able to practice piano for going on three years. Would you believe the organized owners still had the operations manual, and the price included a portable stand?
• My all-time favorite: A Onesie® sleeper that looked like a tuxedo. We dressed both boys in it for their baby dedications at church. Both times, the outfit—inhabited by squirming, smiling baby boys—elicited grins and chuckles from church congregations.

At Charlie’s dedication, our pastor briefly “interviewed” us about the significance of our role as parents and the importance of that day. To my surprise he commented on the outfit, “This is certainly a special outfit. What can you tell me about it?” Like a deer in headlights, I froze—unable to come up with anything but the truth. “I bought it at a garage sale for a quarter,” I blurted out. The congregation roared. So much for coming off as a Spiritual Giant—ready to lead her young son into deep scriptural truths. Instead, I showed my true nature: Finder of a Good Deal!

Perhaps bargains are in your blood as they are mine. You detest paying retail—even if the item is on sale. Instead, we smart-shopping, bargain-hunting deal-finders resist the urge, letting somebody else buy it and break it in. Then we can swoop in and buy it at their garage sale the next season.

OK, now it’s your turn. What’s the all-time best bargain you found at a flea market, garage, yard, estate or tag sale, or a resale shop? Brag away!
by Leslie Wilson

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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.
posted by Trish Berg

Friday, September 13, 2013

Christmas Stockings Add Pizzazz to Any Room

Christmas Stockings Add Pizzazz To Any Room

In a family Christmas photo, the stockings are handmade by me, from felt, sequins and glitter.
I have a few extra Christmas stockings, in addition to the five that we hang on the fireplace mantle. By the way, why five stockings for four folks? One for each of our sons, one for my husband, Will, one for me, and the fifth one is for our cats to share. They don't mind sharing! Each Christmas morn they hope for a can of tuna (sold for human consumption, not cat food grade) and a bit of organic catnip, grown by my sister Sky in Wisconsin. Our cats are not disappointed, since they are VERY good kitties.

My easy decorating tip involves colorful Christmas stockings. One year at a dollar store I found a pretty red stocking that says “I Believe”. I bought several as gifts for friends, and an extra one for my family, and now each year I take a push pin and hang this Christmas stocking in the bathroom. Every year, at the end of the season, stores put Christmas stockings on sale, so that is a great time to buy more for your next year's decor, and keep a look out at craft fairs for stockings that appeal to you.

In the same bathroom I hang a handmade colorful stocking that I bought at a fund raiser. The person who stitched it created a very cute stocking, including a sleigh loaded with gifts and real ribbons. Hanging a few holiday stockings is such a quick way to add a Christmas glow to any room, even the sometimes overlooked bathroom.
By Terra Hangen  http://terragarden.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Easy Decorating Tip for the Craftfully-Challenged
A simple one I learned from my mom:

Doesn’t matter how many ornaments or decorations you have, everything has a greater impact if it’s grouped together with similar items. To that end, I set up all my Santas on a baker’s rack by our fireplace. A good friend collects nativity scenes; she has 15+ from as many different countries. Think angels, snowmen, small Christmas trees. Spread a square of gold or silver tulle on a small card table, set up your collection, and you’ve made a statement.

A more complicated one, but hands-down my kids’ favorite:

At the Wilson house, we set up a Christmas village every year. My boys have been a tremendous help with it because they have the analytical minds. They like planning and laying the groundwork (strings of lights underneath the layer of “snow,” designing city streets and surrounding hills). My daughter likes putting on the finishing touches: the people (ice skaters or carolers), animals (deer feeding in the “woods”), and everything that glitters (sparkling confetti, plugging in the lights). I just asked each of them, and the response was unanimous: They prefer setting up the Christmas village to decorating the tree!

Do you have a favorite decorating tip? If it's an easy one, all the better!
by www.LeslieWilson.com

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Brenda's Quick Deco Tip
How are my favorite readers? Have I a tip for you! Grab your dog (or kid, if you don't have a dog) and put on his Santa hat then snap some shots. Here's a pic of "my boys" Andy & Opie. I raised Andy then gave him to my older daughter. Opie (the one in the back with space eyeballs) is mine. They love Christmas because of the extra crumbs of food that fall to the floor while I'm baking or the extra guests who come to our home. Of course the dogs thinks people come just to see them!

Seriously, remember your pets during the holidays. Include them in family pictures or take them in the car when you drive around to look at pretty Christmas lights. Because dogs today are domesticated, they really aren't meat eaters like their ancestors, so you can "treat" them with a baby carrot, an ice cube to gnaw on, a piece of fruit or small piece of cheese. But don't overfeed your dog. . . or you may be cleaning up a mess you don't welcome in your home! Dogs have simple digestive tracks so they do not require a diet of variety, rather one of routine.

Here's one more pic of Andy and Opie . . . awwwwww

AND for your four-legged friends at Christmas, try this Doggie Biscuit recipe:
  1. 3 Eggs, slightly beaten
  2. 1/3 Cup milk (can use leftover chicken broth)
  3. 1/4 Cup molasses
  4. 2 Tbs cooking oil (use leftover chicken fat)
  5. 2 2/3 Cups whole wheat flour
    In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, molasses and oil (or fat). Gradually stir in flour to form a stiff dough. Place on a floured surface and roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with bone-shaped cookie cutter or any preferred shape. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. To make treats harder, leave in oven with heat turned off for additional 1/2 hour. Place your treats in an airtight jar or in a plastic freezer bag and store in the freezer.
Now it's your turn. Share how you involve your pets in the holiday hoopla.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wrapping Your Holiday In Lights

I LOVE Cathy's tip about decorating your kitchen in little white lights. In fact, I am, what you might call, a little white light addict of sorts. I hang those bright strands all over our century old farmhouse - on the banister; on top of my kitchen cabinets; on the barn beams in the high ceiling kitchen. Everywhere. AT night time from Thanksgiving to New Year's we are like Motel 6 - We'll leave the light on for you...literally. It is never dark here at night.

I shared in my comment on Cathy's post another neat idea, about making a lighted Christmas gift out of a glass block (like a single glass block from a basement window), a strand of lights, and a bow. I purchased one at a craft show, but they are so simple and inexpensive to make.

I wanted to share a picture of this awesome Christmas decoration. And also give you the link with the instructions: www.thriftyfun.com/tf37245405.tip.html


And my ultimate favorite, simple Christmas decoration tip is this: If you decorate with an artificial Christmas tree, as you assemble the pole, wrap little white lights tightly around the pole, all the way up, as many as you can fit.

Then put the branches on as normal, and string the lights as normal on the branches. Your tree will have a 3 dimensional look,and will glow with lights. There will be no empty or bare spots, because the pole lights are top to bottom. It almost plays a trick on your eye, and make the tree look more beautiful than you can imagine.

And yes, I know, I need to seek help for my little white light addiction. My husband grew up with those huge colored lights on his childhood tree. So bless his heart, he lets me drape the tree in white lights anyway.

Which leads me to a question. Do you decorate your Christmas tree the same way your mom and dad did? Colored or white lights? Live tree or artificial? We tend to stay in our comfort zone, so I bet most of us do.

And what happens when you like white lights and your sweet hubby likes colored ones? Or he like artificial trees and you like live ones? Who wins???

We have solved that problem in the Berg house by using an artificial tree that we can put up the day after Thanksgiving and I can drape it with white lights. Then we purchase a very small live evergreen a couple of weeks before Christmas and put colored lights on that one. The kids then get to decorate it with homemade decorations, like paper ornaments, popcorn strings, paper chains, etc...

Both are unique, and both are beautiful.

And however we decorate our homes, what is even more important is how we decorate our hearts. Are we kind and loving? Forgiving? That beauty is beyond compare.

Boy, it's only September and I am so ready for Christmas already!!!! I wonder if there are any little white lights I can grab from the attic and......

Oh, no, here I go.....

Enjoy the journey-Trish

Monday, September 9, 2013

Frugal Christmas Decorating Tips

This week the Word Quilters will share simple Christmas decorating tips. The tips I've found most helpful over the years are the ones that yield lots of splash without much effort or money spent, so I have two for you today.

The first tip is to invest in a few flocked poinsettias. I bought two at least eight years ago--they still look great. Mine are traditional red. I store them in a closet with the bracts covered (plastic bag in climate controlled closet or old pillow case if in the attic).
I set them out early in December to decorate the hearth because our Christmas tree doesn't go up until mid-month. Terra, my verdant-thumbed friend, are you cringing that I don't have the live plants? Some years I do add a few live ones.
The second tip is to place a string of colored or white lights in a not-so-usual place in your home. My favorite place to plug in color is in my kitchen (decorated in red for 40 years, even our new home we're building--kitchen is mostly white and a bit of red again.) In my current home, my kitchen counter top is port wine Formica. On two wooden shelves of teapots, I weave a multi-colored strand of lights and then cover them with holly-type greenery. On the opposite long countertop, I place a multi-colored strand behind my canisters, coffee pot, bread box, etc., and cover it with ivy like greenery, allowing the cheery bulbs to show through.
A friend, who had a similar kitchen with ample counter space uses white lights and greenery, placing her Christmas miniature houses and figurines among the lights.

When you plug in strands of miniature lights and turn off overhead lights, even a small dwelling or a tiny dorm room will usher in Christmas ambiance.
If you have a frugal holiday tip, please post it for our readers.