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