Count Down to Christmas

One of the traditions at our house is to watch a holiday DVD each day, starting Thanksgiving and ending with our last one on Christmas Day.   We have a great collection of holiday DVD’s.  We have collected them since we got a DVD player years ago.   As a result our collection is large enough that we don’t watch the same thing every year.   There are some perennial favorites that we watch nearly every year. Others make the rounds every two or three years. We try to add something to our collection each year .  We watch Amazon and the local bargain bin at the local discount stores for ones that we don’t have.Occasionally my mom will give us one to add to the collection.  So our collection continues to grow.

This is our first year without any live TV, and so we have come to realize that there are some classics that we would watch on a broadcast TV that we don’t have.   So we will add those to our list to continue to collect.

Very few in our collection are classics, but they make for nice entertainment for an evening.   They tell the same story  from different points of view. The story is always a variation of  peace on earth, let there be love, Christmas is family and goodwill to all.    A reminder for all of us this holiday season.

 

Holiday Intolerance

happy holidays

My brother once said that once in a while I write about things that are controversial.    This may be one of those times.

I have watched folks get their underwear in a bunch because some people choose to say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas.  I am talking about a tight bunch, maybe even a knot, and they have no problem telling anyone who does not use the phrase Merry Christmas they are wrong, lost, heathen, you pick your word.

Biblical scholars are quite uncertain about the actual date when Christ was born.  I acknowledge that December 25th is the day most, but not all Christian faiths, choose to observe the birth of Christ.     So greeting friends and associates who practice the Christian faith or hold Christian beliefs  with a greeting of Merry Christmas is perfectly correct..    Statistically they say about 70-80% of the US citizens say they are Christian.  So saying Merry Christmas is pretty safe.

On the other hand  nearly 30% of the citizens practice something other than the Christian religion.  I feel blessed that I had the opportunities to meet co-workers and neighbors who were in the 30%.  This life experience has made me a Happy Holiday girl.  I make no apologies.   I wish everyone peace on earth, good health and a happy holiday no matter how they celebrate it.    I have no interest in insulting a person  by suggesting their religion/belief system is wrong and mine is right.   It is to me more than tolerance; it is acceptance.    I have not seen the red phone to God, to let me know which religion is right.   So I seek to understand, find similarities and understand differences.

So the next time you consider telling someone that happy holiday is a wrong greeting, consider this, are you behaving in a Christian fashion?

Most Busy Time of the Year

Oh my did I set myself up for failure planning to blog everyday during this holiday season.  Obviously it isn’t going to happen.    The holidays for are very busy days for so many of us, for me it isn’t so much the holiday as it is work.   This is the the preparation season for my employer’s most significant event of the year.   Already my days are long and most nights when I quit my stack of to-do’s is bigger than it was when I started.    I am not complaining but it makes me thankful that we simplified our Christmas years ago.   We participate in that which we enjoy and skip the rest.

That is my reflection today, what things can you skip?   Does it take to much time and bring too little enjoyment for yourself or others?   Is it money that you can’t really afford to spend?   Do you do it because you always have or it is expected, what would happen if you did not do that this year?  Could you skip one thing this year and would it make the holiday a little better for you?

How many Christmas Cookies do you really need?

Diana's-personal

I spent Saturday and Sunday in my own little world baking to my heart’s content.     After a few years of not allowing myself this time I was unsure if would enjoy it.   Did I stop because my job “took too much of my time” or did I use my job as an excuse to stop an annual ritual I did not enjoy.

I spent Friday night picking one classic recipe from previous years and the rest came from cookbooks and the internet.   If I was going to turn over a new leaf, let’s get out of the box as well.   If I had quit because it was no longer fun, maybe it was making the same cookies year in year out.   I was going to make things that no one had ever seen in a cookie box of mine before.

Saturday came and I plugged holiday movies in the DVD player and set my kitchen up for baking.   I baked cookies and more cookies.   I finished off supplies I had to the point that Saturday night meant a shopping trip for more flour, sugar and eggs.  It had been a great productive day.  I had made my one classic and some new ones.

Sunday morning came and my kitchen was restocked.  My second and final day of baking  was to begin.   My first question of the process began when my husband tasted one of my beautiful new cookies made on Saturday.   I had thought they were nasty yucky, but my husband is like Mikey he will eat anything.   He spit it out.   This was the pivotal moment was I going to let this stop me.   Lucky for my cookie recipients  despite the baking disaster, I was not deterred. Sunday would bring more Christmas movies and many more batches cookies.

Sunday night brought the  reason I do all of this, to give it all away.   I got out my containers, put notes on each as to who they belonged to and how cookies of each variety that meant.   I took each batch and divided them up between my boxes, making sure each box got enough that everyone in each family got a taste.   If there were a few left over I would think what family would really like this cookie.   I had this silly moment of “did I bake enough varieties?”   I am not sure how many Christmas cookies you need, but am sure that  this number is the perfect number for me.  There were Fudgey Bonbons,  PB&J Blondies , Snow Cap Meringues,  White Heavenly Hash, Cherry Macaroons, Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars, Italian Lemon Drop Cookies, Dave’s Christmas Crunch Cookies,  Peppermint Bark and Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal..   Once they were divided up in to containers, I got out my collection of priority mail boxes and made them ready for shipping.   They left our little post office in Montana on Monday destined for family and friends.

I had a great time.   I was also glad it was all done, baked, packaged and shipped.    I had spent two days making gifts of the heart.  I am likely to do it again next year, it seems I had not lost my baking spirit after all.

In case you are wondering he disastrous Pumpkin Orange cookies went to the chickens.   Probably gave them a sugar high, but could not eat them, nor give them.

Christmas Cookies Again

I used to be one of those who would make dozens of different cookie recipes each Christmas Season to give  away.   I would daily bake  a couple of different batches starting the day after Thanksgiving.   I would end up with hundreds of cookies of all sorts and varieties.   On December 15th I would bundle up my hand crafted treasures and give them away.   I would drive all over town to deliver my boxes of homemade goodies.     I would prepare 20 or so boxes and mail them all over the US.        I learned when I lived in Jewish neighborhoods how to make some of their traditional favorites to include in my collections.  No one was left out, friends and family alike were given a holiday treat box.    I wanted people to know I thought of them and they were important to me by giving them a gift of my heart and hands.      I followed that routine for years and enjoyed every minute of it.   Then about four years ago I got a job where the busiest season for them ran from Thanksgiving until the middle of January.   It made making all those cookies a chore and took all the fun out of it.   I finally gave it up.

I have spent lots of time this year re-evaluating things and decided that I enjoyed baking for gifts and am taking it back.  I still have my job, after all it affords me many things including the ability to afford the expenses associated with baking.   But I have decided that I used to like to bake and I am going to try it again.  If I stop baking it will be because it isn’t any fun any more not because my job has over taken my life.   So this weekend I am doing a two day marathon of baking.   I am not sure how many cookies it will yield, but I am going to allow myself two days of baking , and see how it goes.  I will keep you posted.

I Feel Special

My husband and I don’t do Christmas, birthday or anniversary gifts, with each other, family or friends.     Instead we get gifts when we see something that speaks to us and tells us it the perfect item for some one and we want to share with them.   It is a statement that you are special.  My husband just told me I was special when I got my first bike in over 20 years.  I had been thinking about one, and looked at models for many weeks, but last Saturday it was coming to be.

I used to live in the city and ride my road bike daily back and forth to work.  It was one of my fittest periods in my life.   I made that commute  daily, and then carried my bike up three flights of stairs to my brownstone apartment.   Unfortunately I was part of an accident with someone who failed to yield.  That accident changed me, I no longer had the confidence on my bike and definitely had lost the gumption I needed to be out there with rush hour traffic and metro buses.

Over the years I have tried to get back “on that horse” more than once.   Finally I was ready and my husband let me know that he knew it too.   I now have a bike.

Today I rode it twice, taking little jaunts of 3/4 mile.   It shows that I have a long ways to go to getting fit enough to really go out there and do some serious distance.   The coolest part of it all is that this gift makes me feel pretty darn special.

Holes in Our Hearts

I seems the holiday season always reminds of the holes in our hearts left by those who have gone before us.  Those members of our family and friends who made our time her special.

My Aunt Linda and Aunt Nancy were sisters and best friends.   One of the things that the did was make Christmas candy together.   My Aunt Linda is gone now, but my Aunt Nancy still carries on the tradition of making sure that Christmas candy gets made and shared.   Her husband has turned in to her “master candy dipper.”  In spite of his support it isn’t the same.   Sister’s make you laugh in special ways that no one else can.

My Grandma Virtue and her best friend “Aunt” Hermine,  both gone, were a crafty couple of ladies.  Grandma was always thinking of things to make for Christmas and “Aunt” Hermine was her trusty sidekick.  One year they attached clear medicine cups with glitter on the rim to a Styrofoam ball and hung as a Christmas decoration.   Even  now I am not sure what made them think that was festive, but I can see them with their enthusiasm making them.   Another year they made tree decorations using left over flash cubes and jewelry the bought at  rummage sales.   I still have mine left, and it still hangs on my tree.  It sounds a little odd, but it was one of their better ideas.

My friend, Barb, lost her battle to ovarian cancer this spring, and I miss her when working  a design for my Christmas cards this year.   We always crafted with paper together.  Barb loved glitter and I wasn’t so sure ( I think it was those medicine cups).  She had an uncanny ability to know what what odd obscure thing to add to make it just a little better.     Her collection of ephemera was mind-boggling and she could find another used for it when we started brainstorming when working on altered art, cards, and even scrapbooks.

Vince Gill has a song on one of his Christmas albums about his brother who passed away called “It wont be the same this year.”  I really do like it because it a great song that is a tribute to all those who can’t be with us during this holiday season.