Saturday, November 29, 2008

Volunteer Early and Often

When our family was grown and beginning to go out on their own into the world, Christmas Day was not always a convenient time for everyone to be together. Our last to get married, Rob, and our youngest son, Don, would often be the only two home and we would hold off our family celebration until the rest could join us a few days later.

One year Rob suggested we use the day to reach out to others by going to one of the places in our area that serve meals to the homeless and less fortunate on Christmas Day. I thought it was a great idea and just after Thanksgiving that year began to make phone calls to various organizations to volunteer the four of us for Christmas Day.

One by one I checked off the names on my list. Each response was, "We appreciate you volunteering but we have all the volunteers we can handle. You need to call much earlier in the year if you want to help out on Christmas Day."

I was stunned. I had never heard of any volunteer organizations turning away people who were willing to, well, volunteer. Instead of serving a meal to the homeless that year, we gathered together people we knew who did not have family close by or had no family to share their Christmas. It was a wonderful time of fellowship for all of us.

I guess the moral of the story is if you want to serve the homeless a meal choose a time when the help is truly needed. Obviously at the holidays everyone wants to help. And our alternative at Christmas is still a great idea for bringing lonely folk together.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Giving

Today, the day after so many families have a Thanksgiving feast, is an appropriate time to share from our plenty with those who have less.

Paul wrote during his journey to Jerusalem, in his third missionary trip that “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

A catastrophe hit almost 20 years ago, in the county where my family lives, and homes were destroyed and people died in mud slides. A volunteer set up a command post in a local church, and she graciously coordinated help efforts. This volunteer group of Christians continues to work year round to help people in the area in need. All money donated goes directly to help people; there is only one paid staff member. Churches and volunteers do all the rest; mailings, phone calls, delivering food and Christmas celebration items, from Christmas trees and poinsettias to gifts.

Each year my husband and I contribute to this group, before Thanksgiving, and every year has its challenges, including this year’s economic slump. Many people that volunteer with this local group were helped in a previous year. There is adopt a family, gifts and food to home bound seniors, and huge holiday feasts for all who want to take part. Small loans and gifts are offered to pay rent or utilities, or to fix the family car so the owner can get to their place of work.

We each do a small part, and taken together, it adds up to a huge amount of giving. We give of our gifts that God has freely bestowed upon us, and find joy in doing this. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Holiday Food Drive

Holiday Food Drive

Helping Hands does exactly what its name suggests. This local organization has served the community of Rockwall (the town where we live) for nearly ____ years, providing food and clothing for needy families. I’ve seen those kinds of situations up close and personal on more than one occasion, so I realize the importance of supporting local groups.

My home church, Lake Pointe Church, sponsors a food drive every year in late November and early December—to help provide families with what they need for the holidays and all year long. All food donated—one week they collect rice and beans, another they ask for peanut butter and pasta, etc.—goes directly to local families through Helping Hands.

Our family loves to get the shopping list every year and do what we can to help those in need.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Give Unto Others

my faithful readers!

Do you participate in holiday food drives? Typically my family either gives to a food collection or we serve a meal to the homeless at a shelter. Either way, the joy comes from giving -- it really is more blessed to give than to receive.

by Brenda Nixon

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mrs. Christmas

If anyone could be labeled "Mrs. Christmas," it would have been my mother. I think I've posted often of things connected with her at Christmas--her early shopping for one and her cherry cheesecake tarts. Mom had a way of stretching Christmas out especially when it came to decorating. She would start with the mantel and often unrolled a large piece of cotton swabbing (this was before they made it into all those nice little balls) across the top of it to make it look like snow. Then she'd add little houses or angels or miniature trees. It was never the same way two years in a row.

On the front door that opened directly into our living room and was rarely used, she would tape all the Christmas cards. As I grew older, that became my job. One that I was very proud to do.

Decorating the tree was one of the last things to do since growing up, we always had a live tree. There were some ornaments that Mom absolutely cherished and those were always hung by her and high enough in the tree not to be knocked down by over-zealous children reaching for gifts. I don't remember when she bought them, but I do remember the box of a dozen colored glass ornaments in the shape of teapots. Each was a shiny color, red, blue, green, gold, and had a little sprig of flowers or Christmas greenery painted on the front. It sticks in my mind that those were her favorites. Maybe because they were so delicate or maybe because we were never allowed to hang those until we were grownups.

Some years after I was married, Mom decided to sort through her old ornaments and get rid of those that were tarnished. There were only two little teapots left. For the record, I do not remember breaking any. It must have been my brother. (How's that for sibling rivalry?) The teapots were tarnished pretty badly. One was gold and the other green.

Today, you cannot tell the color of either teapot. They have taken on a reddish-brown patina but they still look as delicate as ever. They are placed each year in the center of my dining room hutch where no one can touch them. They are there just for me. A reminder of Mom and how much she loved Christmas and sharing it with her family.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Favorite Decorations

Our topic is favorite Christmas decorations and I choose “the sum total of sparkles, lights, color, and the smell of pine boughs.”

Holiday towels with snowmen on them, decorative stockings hung in unexpected places, 15 wooden nutcrackers marching across our fireplace mantle, our door wreath of gold jingle bells, two nativity sets, and the star of the show: the tree.

Our tree usually reaches to the ceiling and is always topped with an angel in a white gown, who holds a candle-appearing miniature light, and the tree branches are weighed down with an incredible assortment of ornaments.

Like me, do you exclaim “My sister gave us this ornament” and “You made this one”? Some ornaments were made of dough in the 1970s and painted with model car enamel paints and include Mrs. Santa with cotton balls for her hair, the worm Ouroboros, and a red apple with a cute caterpillar smiling at us.

Lots of cat, bird and angel ornaments and two Christmas spider ornaments with a legend behind them. The mysterious Christmas pickle ornament, put in a tucked away spot, and our new this year LED Christmas lights. I chose the small round bulbs for the LED lights, for a change of pace.

So, I admit that my favorite decoration is “all of the above.”

What is your own favorite or first decoration you display? I would enjoy reading your comment here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Favorite Decoration

Favorite Decoration

Many years ago, when Bret and I were newlyweds, his maternal grandmother—affectionately known as Mama Madge—gave us a beautiful snow globe with a music box base. This gift represented to me that I had reached adulthood, started a new family with my husband, begun my own traditions in my own home. We still have that globe. Nope, even as klutzy as I can be, I haven’t broken it yet. (Knock on wood.) And since Mama Madge went to be with the Lord several years ago, the gift has taken on even more meaning.

I’m also supposed to tell you that—hands down—my husband’s favorite decoration that belongs to his mom is a set of four pillows that spell out N-O-E-L. He didn’t like them for their beauty or softness to cradle his head while he watched TV. No, he liked to irritate his mom by rearranging them to spell L-E-O-N or L-O-N-E or E-L-N-O.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christmas Every Day

My favorite Christmas decoration to set out really should be out all year long. It's a ceramic nativity with a striking iridescent coating of azure blue.

The reason I say it should be out all year is because of it's unique beauty and because the message of the nativity should be in our hearts all year.

What's your fav Christmas decoration?

by Brenda Nixon, co-author A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Decorating Imperfection - Trish Berg

When it comes to Christmas decorations, I enjoy putting out the homemade, handmade decorations from my children. Imperfection at its best.

They look crooked, have Christmas spelled "Chrstmis"and are usually made of paper, markers and ribbons. But they hold what is most dear to me - the love of my family.

Don't try to make your home look perfect. It isn't. It is lived in, by the people you love the most in this world.

Let your children help decorate this Christmas. String some popcorn. Made a homemade garland out of construction paper rings. Make candy canes out of pipe cleaners. And let your children decide where to hang them.

Some homes may look perfect on the outside, but they seem cold on the inside. Every light is in the right place, every ornament hung to perfection. But where is the clutter that comes with living with and loving children?

I am a neat freak, and if left to my own devices, my home would look like it was ready for a photo shoot form Better Homes and Gardens. But I am not left alone. Praise the Lord!

God has blessed me with a husband and four amazing children.

So you won't find perfection here. Nope- Not even close!

If you come to my house around the holidays, you will see pretty white lights on the banister, wreaths on the doorways and stockings hung with care.

But you will also see hand drawn pictures of Santa, Rudolph, and evergreen trees as my children help decorate our home with their love.

Martha Stewart would be so jealous!

Enjoy this Christmas season - every bit of it!

Blessings-Trish Berg, Co-Author

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Be the first on your block

This week, the Word Quilters will share a bit about the first Christmas decorations we put out each year.

When our family was younger, we lived in a very small two bedroom house on the family farm. For some reason, we didn’t get into the habit of putting up a tree early; we put a tree up about 10 days before Christmas, and no more than 15 days before. But of course, our kids wanted decorations out earlier. I solved the dilemma by putting up strands of colored lights around two doorways, our front door and another door leading off of our small living room. I put up those lights early in December, and we’d turn off all other lights at night when we watched TV.

So, this happy habit has continued up until today. In this second, larger home, I place lights around our breakfast room window, and also on two shelves of teapots, where I weave greenery and lights around the tea things. I also put a strand along my counter top behind canisters, breadbox and coffee maker. A few years ago, they looked so pretty, a multi-colored light fest, that I left them there throughout the year, and when we had dinner guest, or I needed cheery surroundings, I plugged them in. I surrounded them with sprigs of dark ivy, so they didn't show unless I turned them on. If you scroll back in the early blog entries, there’s a pic of my port wine countertop with the multi-colored lights.

We are downsizing and moving into a new home in a couple of weeks. When building, I asked the electrician to put a plug up at the top of my kitchen cabinets, and a switch to that plug near the kitchen sink alongside the other on/off switches. You guessed it. I’ll lay rope lights or several strands up there near the ceiling for gentle lighting. I haven’t decided on the color, yet. The sparkle of lights is a beloved tradition of Christmas, but they can help create ambiance at other times of the year, too.

Gotta love those twinkle lights!!!

Do you use strands of lights in your home throughout the four seasons? If so, how?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Where Did I Put Those Presents?

It's in the genes. I thought I would never become my mother but it's happened. I start shopping for Christmas. . .well, right after Christmas. Usually those are for the big kids--novelty gifts that I wouldn't spend the money on but are fun to see them receive.

Around September my mother would hand my kids catalogs and tell them to circle what they wanted for Christmas. I try not to do that with my grandchildren. I remember that most everything in the catalogs got circled. While I don't often start out to shop that early, if I do happen to see something that catches my fancy for a gift, I purchase it.

I've also been known to buy something while traveling. Books are a great find when you go to unusual places. Often there are books there by local authors you don't normally see in bookstore chain stores. This year, I found a book on whales in Hawaii that has Japanese as well as English text for our bilingual granddaughter. (Shhh. Don't tell.)

The problem I have had in the past though is remembering that I bought the gift and/or remembering where I stashed it. I've solved that with my little pocket-sized notebook. Each year I start a section of a notebook and list all the names, one family to a page. I then carry that with me or keep it handy at my desk for writing down what I've purchased. I have designated a special place at home where I stash the gifts (I'd tell you where but then I'd have to. . .well, you know). I now have a record of what is purchased and when it's time to wrap, all of the gifts are in one place.

Am I the only one who's had this problem? By the way, the adult Sunday school class I used to teach thought this was so funny that they purchased a lifetime supply of little pocket-sized notebooks for me!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Saving Money Shopping for Christmas Cards

If you are like my husband and I, you love a bargain, and this season is a time for shopping, while looking for money saving ideas.
Right now Christmas cards are on my mind, and I see that my local drugstore has them on sale, buy one box get one free. Now I really love that concept.

On the other hand, at they have many many choices of cards available, and some of the boxes cost only $3.99. Shipping costs about $3.99. On the right of the screen, click on Christmas cards. They offer so many that they put the cards in categories by subject and I see a gorgeous wiseman card here that I may purchase. You will find categories of angels, birds, African American, Christmas trees, Spanish, nativity, and more.

Oh dear, I do enjoy a bargain, plus beauty in the cards I send, and where we shop is a vote to support that store so our decisions actually affect this world.
We bloggers in the U.S., Canada and around the world are blessed with many gift choices. I enjoy shopping at a mix of stores, local and online.
So shop, save money too, and consider the stores you will support.
Please leave a comment here with bargain ideas if you care to share with us.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shop Smart

Shop Smart

Thieves are known to target holiday shoppers. After all, many shoppers are distracted—talking on cell phones—and/or carrying large or unwieldy packages. Also, they’re carrying brand-new items, such as toys or electronics. This combination can spell danger for someone who’s not paying attention.

Here are a few hints for smarter holiday (or anytime) shopping:

Park smart. Scope out—even if you have to wait for it—a good parking space. It should be well-lit and close to the entrance. Would-be attackers will avoid you if they’re afraid of being seen by other shoppers, employees, or mall security.

Use the trunk. Store purchases in the trunk. Don’t give thieves a chance to window shop inside your car. If you don’t have a trunk or you run out of space in it, hide things under a blanket or box you’ve placed on the floor in the back seat.

Prepare yourself. Make more frequent trips to the car so that you can always have one hand completely free. Before leaving the inside of a store or the mall, get ready. Hold all bags in one hand. Have your car keys in the other hand. Experts recommend fanning out your keys between your fingers so that you could scratch or punch an attacker.

Walk with purpose. Know where you parked and walk straight to your car. If you’ve forgotten, hit the panic button or unlock key. The sound might deter an assailant, as well. Hold your head high and look around you as you walk quickly.

Make noise. Sing or talk to your kids—even your baby—to deter a potential attacker. If you’re alone, talk out loud. They’ll assume you’re either talking on a cell phone or acting crazy—or both. They won’t want to approach if they know you’re capable of making noise.

Load quickly and carefully. Place items on the passenger side or in the trunk. If you have a bench seat, slide across to the driver’s side. Thieves attack most often on the driver’s side, frequently parking beside their victims. If you must enter on the driver’s side, look into the window of the car parked next to yours.

Ask for help. If you’re older, disabled, trying to juggle multiple items and/or shopping with children, don’t hesitate to ask a mall security guard to walk you to your car. That’s why the mall hires extra workers during the holidays. Can you imagine an attacker approaching you while you’re being escorted by security?

The real key is to be alert, aware of your surroundings. I should know; I’ve been the victim of grand theft auto, a home invasion and a mugging!!! Please, please, please be careful—but not so paranoid that you can’t have fun.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brenda's Black Friday Shopping Tip

We stood in the crowded parking lot, the darkness just turning to dawn, steaming cups of coffee in our hands and laughing with the others what idiots we were to be waiting for a store to open at 4 AM.

Are you the avid bargain hunter who crawls out of a warm, cozy bed and braves the cold, black night to drive to your favorite shopping spot? My mom thinks it's stupid; I think it's sorta fun. But I don't have to scan the newspapers for sales and do my Christmas shopping on Black Friday every year.

But here's a life-saving, mentally healthy tip: keep your kids home. They do not need to be drug out of sleep, hastly dressed, and plopped into a cold van just so you can find a bargain. Puleeze, take 'em to a trusted relative or friend the night before if you must hit the stores early. As I share with my parenting audiences, shopping is an adult activity. Don't take a kid to the store, stuff him in a cart, and constantly tell him to stop crying or to be quiet. It's no more fun for a kid to do adult shopping than if you had to spend the day in the colored ball pit at a McDonalds.

Let's make Christmas shopping fun for everyone.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm Making a List and Checking it Twice by Trish Berg

I truly think Santa had it right with the list making thing. I started years ago, making a Christmas gift buying list. I do it in Excel, with each person I am buying for in the left hand column, and then start with each cell to the right with ideas for gifts for them, and if I can, prices in the next column over.

I can then add the price column total at the bottom and see where I am spending wise. Then I can go back up and adjust my shopping list as needed to make sure that I stay within my budget.

And when a gift is bought then I check it off, and subtract it from what I have spent, so I know what I have left yet to spend.

Christmas shopping can truly get out of hand if you are not careful. We convince ourselves that this gift will make that person happy, and in turn, make us feel good about ourselves. When the reality is that over-spening on Christmas will only create self-absorbed and self centered children, and a feeling of disappointment when otherts don't react how we want them to when they open their gift.

For example, one Christmas about 15 years back, I was working way too hard to make my sisters-in-law like me. My husband, Mike, was an only son with 3 sisters, and I thought I could buy my way into their friendship circle. Sounds stupid now, but hey, I was desperate back then.

So, at a local craft show, I bought my sister-in-law, Lisa, the most beautiful and extremely expensive Christmas gift. It was a snowman pitcher with 6 matching mugs. It was ceramic, hand crafted, and gorgeous. It was the kind of gift set I would have loved to have had myself.

It cost well over $80, and we were only supposed to spend $30-40. Yep, overspent to try to find joy and friendship.

So, Christmas Eve, my grandmother-in-law handed out her gifts to everyone, and she gave Lisa this antique Santa ceramic pitcher set with matching mugs that Lisa had grown up with. Kind of like a piece of her childhood.

Now, Grandma had no idea that I had made that purchase, or that I was giving Lisa a snowman pitcher and mug set. So, as Lisa oood and cooed over the Santa set, my heart broke.

I went home and cried for hours. Wasted tears, you see. I set myself up for failure in overspending. Over reaching.

Christmas morning, I did give Lisa the snowman set, and she thanked me. I think she liked it, but it was most certainly not magical. And it did not buy her friendship.

Lisa and I have become friends because we have taken the time to get to know each other, not because of any gift we bought one another.If I had only known or realized that back then, I could have saved the $80, or graced my own counter with the snowman pitcher set.

So, as you begin your Christmas shopping, don't look for gifts to fill the holes in your life. Give gifts that are well within your budget that will make people smile. But don;t seek joy there. Simply give out of love, and let that be that.

Seek your joy in the baby in the manger. In the gift that was given to us all and the everlasting life we have in Christ.

And make lists. Stick to them, and know that 5 years form now, you probably won;t remember the gifts you gave or received. But you will remember who you spent time with.

Enjoy the journey-Trish Berg

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bank Accounts and Baubles

This week we will give shopping tips to early shoppers. Mine are a little out of the Christmas box, and have to do with next year and wedding showers and summer boredom and kids. But you will need ot do your shopping now to help you with those things this next year.

Early Shopping tip # 1

One of my firends, buys (on sale of course!) extra nativity sets during the holidays. These are what she gifts to newlyweds or if she is invitied to a wedding shower. Shop now, if you like this idea. You probably will not find these in July. She buys four or five and she said the bride and groom are always touched when they open a gift that will bless their FIRST Christmas together.

Very Early Shopping Tip #2 (for 2009)

Mothers of elemntary age kiddos know that by the second week of summer some children may already say the "B" word, "I'm bored." Here's where your planning ahead will come in handy. This Christmas find instructions and the supplies (on sale of course!) that your children will need to make 3-4 ornaments. Tuck the supplies away until summer. Write a note on your June 2009 calendar page reminding yourself that you have the supplies and where you stored them.

The first time your sweet angel says the "B" word, whip out your supplies for one onament. Make this a fun, fun event. Hint that there are more ornament making days ahead, but don't tell them what they are. Spin the mysterious into these events.

Allow your children one project, then in a few weeks another, and so on until all the ornaments are made. These can be used next Christmas as Bible class teachers' gifts, for Scout Leaders, neighbors, etc. Make it a festive summer day, by serving them snow cones, if your refrigerator makes crushed ice, or ice cream or yogurt. Just make their refreshment something cool and KOOL. Play favorite Christmas music.

Don't forget to wirte on your November 2009 calendar that you have the ornaments. Hope these tips help. Do you have any staid or new tips for early shopping or planning ahead. We'd love to hear your hints for keeping the holiday calm. Or let us hear about the best early bargain you've ever found?

Cathy Messecar

Saturday, November 8, 2008

KISS Those Christmas Letters

Christmas cards are one thing I buy at post holiday sales each year. My Christmas letter that is included with each is fresh and new however. The secret to getting your Christmas letter read by others is to KISS it!

Keep it Simple and Sweet!

  • Keep it simple: Too many details get the reader bogged down and bored. Give them just enough to know what happened and if they really want details, they'll ask you. A picture is worth a thousand words and with all the at-hand technology we have now, you can say more with one good picture than a thousand words.

  • Keep it sweet: We all have tragedies and perils and tough times but most people don't want to dwell on that at Christmas. They have enough of their own. If you have a bit of bad news to pass along, mention it and move on. Again, people who care will respond and contact you for more detail or to share their sympathy.

On the receiving end of those Christmas letters. . .to stress-less, I save all the Christmas letters in one place and when I have time after the holidays, I read them through. That's also the time when I can respond appropriately to what I find there. I even have some friends who don't send out their Christmas letter until after the first of the year. That way they're sure to be read.

Are you a lover or hater of Christmas letters?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Reindeer and Christmas Cards

One year at a craft fair I bought a wooden unpainted reindeer Christmas card holder.
Every year since then we put the deer on top of the teak cabinet that holds our tv, and put our Christmas cards in it.

Of course special cards are set up standing next to the deer, especially those with photos on the cover.

Our address book sits in it too, and some of our cards to send out, as the cards roll in, and we write more to send.

I love Christmas cards, especially when they include a note or letter. They are so beautiful, whether of a Holy Family, or a Christmas stocking or a dog in the snow.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Creative Christmas Cards

Yippee! My favorite topic is finally here. I’ve been waiting to blog about this subject for—oh, about 18 weeks now. For some strange reason, Christmas cards are near and dear to my heart.

Throughout the years, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with Christmas cards. I love to get LOTS of them every year and catch up on the lives of people I don’t see very often. I examine every photo, seeing how much kids have grown or what exotic locales friends visited that past year. I display cards in creative ways in our home—using clothespins to attach them to a piece of jute strung above our fireplace.

But (There’s always a but, yes?), I doubt any other thing exists—besides maybe my grandmother—that can make me feel as guilty about my lack of preparation or creativity. I want so badly to be like my friends Mary K or Kelly, whose cards I receive Thanksgiving weekend. Their families pose expertly for the camera—this is so not their first time to do this!

Alas, my Christmas card routine goes something like this: I start the family newsletter in August or September with every intention of getting it finished early. I tell myself I just need a few tidbits of information from my husband and kids to complete my mission. I never obtain said tidbits, and end up fabricating some other drivel instead.

I usually print labels at 11:30 p.m. the night before we leave to go visit family. Then, if I remember to pack postage stamps, I put together the photo, newsletter, envelopes, labels and stamps in a make-shift assembly line in the front seat of our van on the way to Colorado. It’s lovely . . . really. Especially when Bret takes a curve at 60 (Who am I kidding? It’s 70!) mph and my precariously balanced materials sail around the car’s interior.

But I still try. And I still covet the cards, newsletters and photos of supermom giants who manage to send out unique greetings by the first week of December.

One such mom is Andrea Burke. I laughed ‘til I cried when I got this picture from their family. Andrea’s the one with the long, black locks; I think she could sit on her hair during this time period.

Andrea had this to say about obtaining this particular pic:
“Happy Asa kept waving his arms and creating bubbles that are hiding Casey’s face. I didn’t know Casey was dealing with that until the pics came in. This photo was taken by Kelly Marley, a neighbor who had just returned from water skiing. (She was already wet and didn’t mind!) We could only get one shot per ‘dunk.’ [If any of your readers decide to do this,] the photographer needs goggles. Plan ahead. We didn’t shoot the picture until September 15th and it was a little chilly.”

Might be a tad late for this year (unless you’re a bonafide member of the Polar Bear Club), but there will be another Christmas in ’09! And this photo is exactly what I mean about being creative. I encourage you to be like Andrea or a Mary K or a Kelly. Plan ahead. Think outside the box when it comes to Christmas pix. Forget forcing the family to sit at the hearth and opt, instead, for a fun shot that showcases your collective personalities.

Just for fun, ask someone to climb a ladder or get on the top of bleachers. Then have your family members lie down in a circle or form the first letter of your last name. We’ve got a perfect name for that—W for Wilson! Why, oh why, haven’t we ever done that? Or build a pyramid. Or photo shop your heads on to glass ball ornaments on a shot of a Christmas tree.

Other ideas:
Take a photo of preschool kids while they’re sleeping. Put as the caption: “Silent Night!” OR, stop pressuring yourself with trying to attain the pristine family photo.

Capture your kids in action—arguing, wrestling, laughing, just being themselves.
I snapped this one of Molly & Reese (at 3 and 2) when they wouldn't cooperate to get a happy shot!

Laugh it up; goodness knows they do. And the possibilities are endless.

Now’s your time to shine, even show off. Please, please post your favorite—pix or stories—about your or someone else’s clever idea.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Show Me the Cards!

by Brenda Nixon, co-author A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts (Leafwood, 2008)

In the movie, Jerry Maguire, a frustrated sports agent gets into a telephone yelling match with his client repeating the phrase, "Show me the money!" That one phrase became the hallmark of the movie.

But, today I'm sharing a way for you to show me the cards! Christmas cards that is. Throughout 28 years of marriage, I've displayed my incoming cards numerous ways. Rather than let them pile up and collect dust somewhere, I prefer to put them out and admire the beautiful scenes, sparkles, and sentiments.

Take a long piece of twine and either tie or tape it to opposites of a picture window. Voila, you now have a place to string up your cards. Last year, we put our line of cards in the family room, where we spend most of our time. One year, it was in the kitchen. You can also string up the cards on the wall between two windows. Regardless of where you display those beauties, get them out and show me the cards!

If you have a copy of our A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, you’ll find the history of Christmas cards.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

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.

As always, enjoy the journey-Trish
Psalm 118:24

Monday, November 3, 2008

Christmas Cards and a late entry

My co-authors did a great job last week of giving you ideas for homemade gifts. I had my idea typed out but it was on the computer that isn't working so well, so you're getting my suggestion this week....PLUS we will be talking about Christmas cards this week.

First my idea for homemade gifts: So many times, especially for young couples, money is in short supply. And this year, many are in the same bank vault--the funds just aren't available.

I read the following tip from one of Emilie Barnes' books, famous for her home tips, teas and hospitality hints. Emilie had a friend who had suffered a great loss. Emilie could have invited her friend to lunch. She could have invited her to her own home for a meal, but she chose a route that provided an outing with a twist. She invited this friend to go to the park, telling her she'd supply the snacks.

Emilie made a simple tea party to take to the park. It wasn't elaborate, but she did just enough to make it an outing. She put hot tea into a thermos and few things to accompany the tea. I don't remember all she packed in the basket, but I'm thinking a few finger sandwiches, whole fresh fruit and scones with lemon curd might be nice, but don't focus on the food too much. The whole idea was to get her friend out into the shunshine, "Out in the Fields With God," like our suggestions for getting your family outdoors at Christmas Time., chapter three in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

Emilie's compassion and hospitatlity aided her friend's healing as she took in the vitality of God's green work, the natural world where cycles are evident in growth, leaves falling and leaves sprouting again. Do you have a friend who would benefit from one on one time with you in the great outdoors? Phone them, make a date, and pick a serene inspirational view. Pack a basket with hot chocolate and comfort food, and go by and get your friend. Who knows you may just help restore their soul.....

Second, this weeks topic Christmas cards: If you have a copy of A Scrapbook of Chirstmas Firsts, you'll find a history of Christmas greeting cards and a story about a fatherless girl which involved seasonal cards, and there's a great suggestion for ways to help your family connect with the folk who send you cards and family newsletters.

In our home, I display the cards we receive on a bought holder. It's circular, with wire circles overlapping which allow me to slip the cards underneath the wires. Mine has a metal cut-out angel at the top. When it's filled, it makes a wreath of cards from all the well wishes from our friends and family.

How do you display your cards? Do you send out a newsletter or cards? Have you decided to leave off mailing out cards? Share your traditions or a story about a special Christmas card.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

No-Sew Scarf

This is a great activity for young children and teens and costs little to make especially if you run into a good sale on fleece. I love these scarves because they are light weight, warm, and less bulky than many other scarves.

  • Find some nice fleece and purchase a piece as long as you want your scarves to be--at least one yard up to two yards.
  • Cut a length of fleece as wide as you would like your scarf to be--10-16". You may want to trim off the selvaged edge.
  • Decide how long you would like the fringe to be (5-8") and begin to cut 1/2" wide strips in each end of the scarf. To make this easier for kids, you may want to purchase a pen with disappearing ink (available at fabric stores) and mark the lines for them to cut.
  • For added fringing, I take bright colored yarn and tie strips to each piece of fleece fringe.
  • You can also add beads to the fringe or know the fringe near the scarf to add to the design.

Fleece is usually 50-60 inches wide so there is enough to make 4-5 scarves. Make some for gifts and keep one for yourself!

Have you made any other fleece projects?