Advent Verses

I found this great article in a Christmas edition magazine from Better Homes and Gardens. (2000)

For a quiet time activity that teaches the true meaning of Christmas, gather the family and share the Bible readings below. This compilation of verses includes the prophecy and birth of Jesus, interspersed with favorite Psalms.

Day 1 –Micah 5:2-5a

Day 2–Psalm 72, A Prayer for the King

Day 3–Isaiah 11:1-6

Day 4–Psalm 121, A Song of Ascents

Day 5–Romans 15:12-13

Day 6–Isaiah 7:14-15

Day 7–Isaiah 9:6-7

Day 8–Psalm 98,  Sing a New Song

Day 9–Luke 1: 26-38

Day 10–Luke 1: 39-45

Day 11–Luke 1: 46-50, 56

Day 12–Matthew 1: 18-25

Day 13–Luke 2: 1-7

Day 14–John 3: 16-17

Day 15– John 1: 14-18

Day 16–Luke 2: 8-14

Day 17–Isaiah 12: 5-6

Day 18–Luke 2: 15-20

Day 19–Psalm 100,  A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Day 20–Matthew 2: 1-6

Day 21–Numbers 24: 17

Day 22–Matthew 2: 7-10

Day 23–Matthew 2: 11-12

Day 24–Proverbs 3: 5-8

Day 25–Psalm 145,  My God and King

Take A Ride

The only money that this activity will cost is a little gas money.  Take your special someone….or the entire family, to look at Christmas lights.  Most cities and towns decorate for the holidays. If you’re lucky, you might find whole neighborhoods that go in together to put on a full light extravaganza. It is fun to see which neighbor has the most “over the top” display, or which one is “Christmas classic”.

Check out your local paper to see if there are any Holiday light shows or house tours going on in your area. I know when I lived in Knoxville, TN. we had the Victorian House Tour. I loved it! Several houses in Old North Knoxville would be decorated for Christmas. The owners were gracious enough to let us, “looky loos”, into their homes to see their turn of the century houses adorned with beautiful decorations.

There are also Christmas parades that don’t cost anything to watch….but are plenty of fun!

Plenty of things to do around town…things that don’t cost much, but would be full of Christmas memories.  Go look…and have fun!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I wanted to share something my friend Adela recently wrote for her Facebook status……

This Thanksgiving, we may think we’re poor, feel like bums, insecure.
But in truth, our riches astound. We have friends & family we love, We have guidance from heaven above.
We have so much more than they sell in stores, We’re wealthy, when push comes to shove.
So add up your blessings, enjoy what you’ve got; Realize ….it’s a lot,
And you’ll make all your cares go away!! HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY EVERYONE!!

Bargain Christmas

Now, I admit I might be a little slow….but, I did not know until recently that Goodwill had shopping online!  If you love Ebay, you’d love too!  I’ve been a fan of Goodwill for years, but I always just went to the store to shop.  (I have an addiction to   comfy T-shirts with crazy slogans on the front) Anyway, I’m getting off task here…. so, on a recent jaunt to the store I noticed a big sign out front that said shoppers should check out their online site.  Never one to turn down a deal I did as they said and was pleasantly surprised.

Now, if you are a mall shopper, and the thought of recycling items makes you ill then maybe you should not continue reading this post. If trash to treasure makes you uneasy or finding a hidden gem is scary….then this is definitely NOT the blog post for you.

BUT, if you are like me and are up for some treasure hunting and like to use your creativity for good, then you’ll love today’s Christmas experiment post.  I personally love old things. Things with a story. Things with character. I’m not a big fan of the mass produced if it can be helped.  So, I noticed when browsing the site today that there are lots of holiday decorations for cheap. You can go online and bid for an item–similar to the whole Ebay thing.  I noticed some vintage Christmas balls for the tree, still in the original boxes. Talk about character. They looked beautiful.  They would be perfect for the tree if you don’t have young children or pets that would grab them….or in a pretty bowl to set on your table. Or to hang from your windows with a bit of ribbon.  I also saw a ton of nativity scenes.  (Why anyone would want to get rid of their nativity scene is beyond me.) How about pieces for a Christmas village or the piece de resistance…a box of  four Christopher Radko ornaments? (a guy who designs and makes gorgeous glass ornaments) Some stuff is kitchy and not really what I’m interested in, but a true “yard sale junkie” loves the thrill of the hunt for that one thing that makes it all worth while.  You know what I mean.

So, go have some fun. Check it out.  Even if you don’t want to buy anything right now….you might get some good ideas.  Who knows you might find the perfect holiday piece, for very little money. With a little TLC you could give it an entirely new life….at YOUR house for Christmas.

Holiday Drinks

A couple of years ago my aunt gave me a Christmas book. ( It is Jeanne Bice’s Quacker Factory Christmas book. ) I love it!  It’s a simple book filled with family stories and loaded with great recipes and decorating tips for the holidays. Right up my alley, so to speak.

I thought I’d share with you, two of her drink recipes.

Donna’s Hot Chocolate—- this is a slow cooker recipe. I love to make it and have the family and I  dip into the pot through out the day. Nothing is better than a mug of hot chocolate on a cold wintry day!  Also great to take to a Christmas party, or to have available after a day of sledding, or an evening of Christmas caroling in the neighborhood.

1 box instant powdered milk (8 quart size)

1 pound box Nestle’s Quik

One 6 oz. jar non-dairy creamer

1/2 cup powdered sugar

(the ingredients might cost a little extra money up front…but it makes a lot of mix so you will get many, many cups of hot chocolate out of this in the long run.)

Mix the dry ingredients and put in a container until you need it. ( I use a large tupperware container–the one that is used to keep cereal in.)

To use:  add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dry mix per cup of water in your slow cooker and mix it well. Turn the slow cooker to low, and let it simmer.  ( I give it an hour or two….but just taste test it to see if it is hot enough for you:)  You might wish to top with some whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Cider in a Slow Cooker—makes about 8 cups, but is easily doubled or tripled.

2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon whole clove

1 teaspoon allspice

8 cups apple cider

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 sliced orange

Put cinnamon, cloves and allspice in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it to form a bag.

Warm the brown sugar  and cider in the slow cooker until the sugar dissolves. Add the spice bag and place the oranges on top. Turn the slow cooker on low and simmer at least 2 hours….Just remove the spice bag before serving.  Enjoy!

By the way, both these drinks are yummy to consume….but also make your house smell absolutely delicious while they are simmering in the crock pot!

I found some more stuff to share for the Christmas Experiment…..guess you’ll have to check it out tomorrow!!!

Family Picture Wreath

People, the Christmas Experiment is like a snowball. The more I get rolling the bigger it gets!

I saw a super neat idea the other day for a unique indoor Christmas wreath.

Go find an old wire hanger. We all have these hangers around the house….somewhere. (I now prefer the plastic kind, but I still have a ton of the wire ones around….most in the hall closet.)  Bend the wire hanger into a circle to make a form for your wreath.  You can either use original family pictures (of various sizes) or if you don’t want to take the chance of messing up your pics, you can make color copies of them (if you have a copier).  Either take some scotch tape or some of that sticky tack  stuff to attach your pics to your wire wreath form.  Arrange the pics so some overlap others.  If you are feeling extremely festive you can get some ribbon and make a bow to hang from your wreath.  Hang your wreath in a place that it is easily visible to visitors. Family will have a fun time looking at your creative wreath full of family memories from years past.

(P.S.) This can also be done with the fronts of Christmas cards if you are just too squeamish to use your actual pictures.  Christmas cards will also be colorful and fun to look at:)

Simple Country Pleasures

The simplest of pleasures is sometimes just a kind word spoken to others……

Great little One! whose all-embracing birth
Lifts Earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to Earth.
~Richard Crashaw

“The first fall of snow is not only an event, but it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up to find yourself in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment, then where is it to be found?”  —-J.B. Priestley, novelist and playwright

“At Christmas play and make good cheer, for Christmas comes but once a year.” –Thomas Tusser

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” –Dr. Seuss

“Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.” –Peg Bracken

“The only blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart.” –Helen Keller

“Remembrance, like a candle, burns brightest at Christmas time.” –Charles Dickens

Christmas In Black and White

I will admit I am a huge fan of black and white movies.  Christmas movies are no exception.

I love spending afternoons or evenings watching holiday movies during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Watching movies at home is A LOT cheaper than actually going to the theatre. You can make your own popcorn at home if you want the “ambiance” of going to the movies. (and just as a side note I saw on the news this morning, research shows that a large movie theatre popcorn is a whopping 1700 calories! Staying at home to watch movies can save you A LOT of calories! Hey, I’m just trying to keep you informed.)

I started a tradition with my son when he was about 5 years old.  Every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving we would pull out all the Christmas decorations. As we were decorating we would drink hot chocolate and watch “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  Now my son is 14 and just the other day he asked me which day next weekend, were we  going to make hot chocolate and watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” and decorate the tree? Children love tradition….and so do adults!

When I got remarried and gained a new husband and two new children we made some new traditions of our own. This year, even though all our kids are teens I’m thinking we might have a cookie baking/decorating day. It might be a messy endeavor with all the “help” in the kitchen….but it will be something to remember.

So, why not get the family together for some classics? Here is a list of my “must see” Christmas movies. Hope you enjoy!

The Bishops Wife— starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. 1947 (there was a remake called The Preacher’s Wife starring Whitney Houston–I liked it, but not near as much as the original.)

Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn—starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. 1942 (the film where audiences first heard the now classic, “White Christmas”.)

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas—starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.1954 (an all time favorite. Who doesn’t love it snowing at the inn in Vermont?)

Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life—starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. 1947 (another favorite that reminds me each year how blessed I really am. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets it’s wings!” )

Miracle On 34th Street—starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, and Edmund Gwenn. 1947 (this movie won three Academy Awards in 1947. I know they made a remake of this movie, but nothing is ever as good as the first!)

Christmas In Connecticut— starring  Barbara Staywyck, Dennis Morgan, and Sydney Greenstreet. 1945 (funny movie)

A Christmas Carol— starring Alastair Sim. 1951 (although there have been many, many versions of the Charles Dicken’s classic, the 1951 version is deemed the best)

Along with the classics, there are some movies that I really enjoy that have been made more recently.

Prancer—starring Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman, and Abe Vigoda. 1989 (can reindeer really fly?)

Prancer Returns—starring John Corbett, Stacy Edwards, Michael O’Keefe, and Jack Palance. 2001 (the sequel to the first Prancer movie)

The Christmas Shoes —starring Rob Lowe and Kimberly Williams. 2002 (this movie is based on the #1 hit song “Christmas Shoes” by Newsong.  It is a real heart- tugger.)

The Christmas Blessing—starring Neil Patrick Harris, Rebecca Gayheart, and Angus T. Jones. Rob Lowe makes an appearance. 2007 (sequel to The Christmas Shoes)

The Christmas Card—starring John Newton, Alice Evans, and Edward Asner. 2007 (I found this movie last December and absolutely LOVED it. I am a real sucker for the romance movies anyway. The gist of the story is a soldier in Afganistan gets a Christmas card…that changes his life. Now, doesn’t that make you wonder? You have to get this movie!)

Hope you enjoyed the movie list as part of the Christmas Experiment. Keep checking in to see what is next!

Give A Cup Of Cheer

This is the simplest of things to do for Christmas….but sometimes the things that are the most simple, simply mean the most.

Give everyone in your family a cup or mug from the kitchen cabinet.  Or you could use jars if you have them on hand.  These will be their “cups of cheer” during the holiday season.  Make sure they are each labeled with the person’s name. (Just use some masking tape or something that is not permanent—unless you want to go all out and permanently mark or stencil them.) Have the mugs setting in a community area of the house. (Kitchen counter, living room table etc.) Take a piece (or more) of construction paper and cut it  into thin strips (leave the strips near the mugs). Each member of the family then writes something they love about the other family members on separate strips of  the paper and puts the paper sentiment in each person’s mug. The point is to do this and slip it in the person’s mug of cheer without them seeing you do it, sometime throughout the day. The person can check their mug periodically or at an assigned time during the evening….whatever works for your family members.

Everyone loves to know that they are loved and appreciated. What parent’s heart doesn’t melt when a child writes something sweet to their mom or dad or tells them that they are loved? What child doesn’t love to read that their mom or dad thinks that they are awesome? ( I don’t care if they are 2, 12, or 20 they still love it!)  It could be something as simple as, “I love the way you helped me put the groceries away. You always know when I could use a helping hand.”  to ” You have the most dazzling smile. I just love when you share your smile with me!”  or “You rock when it comes to baking cookies!”  You get the idea.

The only stipulation for the cup of cheer is that no negative comments are allowed. Stress to siblings that there will be no snarky sentiments allowed AT ALL. The point is to spread love. We can always find good in others if we choose to focus on the positive. No matter how cold it gets outside—the heart of your family members can always stay warm if each day they “drink” from their cup of cheer. This is for the month of December, but you might find it is a fun thing to do and keep the cups of cheer going…all year long!

Keep tuning in for more of the Christmas Experiment……..

Bringing Peace To Your Home for the Holidays

Today I’ve done some more “research” for my Christmas experiment.  I came across an article in “life:beautiful” magazine (Winter 2008-Wanda J. Ventling and Allan Edeker).  It was an excellent article on ways to bring peace home.  I thought, “what a great article!”  True peace only comes from the Prince of peace…which is Jesus Christ. I have fun celebrating around this time of the year, but I don’t ever want to forget that the real meaning of Christmas has everything to do with Christ, and nothing at all to do with the glitz and commercialism that society has created.

Some of the peaceful things that were listed in this article are:

1. Get lost in music. —— Do you know that calming music can lower your heart rate? A great thing to know if you are rushing around this Christmas season. Plus who doesn’t love Christmas music?  Don’t be afraid to sing. Even if you don’t have the voice of an angel–your family will applaud your effort. After all who doesn’t smile when singing Christmas songs?

2. Pray.—- You don’t have to carry your burdens alone. (Phil. 4:6-7) God knows this time of the year can be stressful. He wants to hear from you.

3. Avoid envy. —-We are all dealing with our own issues. Sometimes people that look like they have their holiday wrapped up in a pretty bow are the very ones that are becoming the most unraveled. Don’t fall for the deception.

4. Buy a good joke book.—  Share with your kids. Laugh out loud….laugh until you snort:)The cornier the better.

5. Spend within your means.— Don’t stress yourself out more by knowing that you’ve maxed our your credit cards. The bill will have to be paid. It is not worth it. Really. You know it is the truth.

6. Count your blessings. Put things in context. Even the poorest of us have so much to be thankful for!   There are always others who have it a lot worse then you do. Why not help someone else?

7. Smile. Not only does it make you look younger, it reduces stress and releases endorphins. Plus others will be drawn to you if you look like you are happy:)

8. Volunteer. Nothing better than helping someone else. Take the focus off yourself.

9. Get enough sleep. Rest restores. Enough said.

10. Make comfort foods. It will make you feel good to make your mom’s special Christmas cookies, or grandma’s yummy baked macaroni. Tradition is something everyone loves.

A couple of other great decorating ideas I came across………

Cut out pieces of white paper in 2 in.x 2 in. squares. (construction paper, printer paper, or small index cards cut in half or thirds) Punch a hole in the top of each piece.  Print a letter on each card with crayons or markers until you have spelled out “Merry Christmas”.  Take a piece of ribbon, yarn…whatever you have, and lace it through the holes.  Hang the word garland on a mantle, across a door opening, or above a child’s bed.  If you feel creative you can make several word garlands with other sayings such as “Winter Wonderland”, ” Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, or ” Twas The Night Before Christmas”. The garlands are simple but cute. Most children would enjoy helping with this….let them decorate their own.

If you love hot chocolate as much as I do you’ll love this little bit of festive creativity. What is better than having a steaming mug of hot chocolate on the cold winter days leading up to Christmas?  Try this little trick for the hot chocolate lovers at your house.  Make your hot chocolate as usual.  Add 2 big marshmallows on top with a little special something!  (The special something is this:  take a piece of paper (about 1in. x 1in.) and make a stencil.  Fold the little paper in half and cut out a half heart. Open it up and you have a mini heart stencil.  Put the little stencil on top of the marshmallow and sprinkle a little bit of the hot chocolate mix, or baking cocoa powder on the stencil….pull the stencil away and wa la! you have a little heart on the marshmallow.) Your kids and husband will notice the little touch. They will think you are so cool. And of course you will agree!!!

Stay tuned for more “Christmas Experiment” blogs!