A Little Boy’s Calendar

A delightful Christmas project for my soon-to-be-three grandson.
Cowboys and horses get Gavin’s heart thumping.
This calendar came in the mail from one of my financial planners.

I decided to personalize it for Gavin.
It has his birthday, his folks’, his grandparents’, his ‘greats’,
and all ten aunts’ and uncle’s birthdays marked
with colorful stickers.

I put questions from a child’s catechism on the top of the page
and the answers on the bottom.
After a year, he’ll know the first 12 Q & As.

I thought a way to mark the completion of each day would be fun.
Immediately I discarded the thought of a Sharpie marker.
I don’t want his Mommy to hate me!
What about a water-color kid’s marker?
Still, the risk of a mess was huge.
They had to be big enough for his little fingers,
but not too big for the calendar box.
I found these primary colored dots.
They are attached to the back of the calendar
with a huge plastic paper clip (not shown).

(Daddy-Dad is Gavin’s best attempt at saying Granddad. It’s
now what his maternal grandfather is called.)

Small Children’s Catechism
Chris Schlect

1.  Who made you?
2.  What else did God make?
       God made all things
3.  Why did God make all things?
       for His own glory
4.  Why do things work as they do?
       God has so decreed it.
5.  How do we learn about God?
       God reveals Himself.
6.  Where does God reveal himself?
       in His word and in nature
7.  What does God reveal in nature?
       His character, law, and wrath
8.  What more is revealed in His Word?
       God’s mercy towards His people
9.  Where is God’s Word today?
       The Bible is God’s Word.
10. How many Gods are there?
       There is one true God.
11.  How many persons are in the Godhead?
12.   Who are these persons?
          Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

A Carol and a Poem

Adeste Fideles (O
Come All Ye Faithful) is a favorite carol.  It was the first carol we
learned in Latin.  A few years later I discovered Athanasius, who
fought valiantly for the deity of Christ.  Every time we sing
“Ver—–ry God, Begotten, not created” I get choked up and say a
prayer of thanks for Athanasius, God’s gift to the early church. 


In addition to Athanasius, I will think of translations when we sing that verse. 

This, from Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill:

This early exaltation of Mother and Child already demonstrates the innovative Christian sense of grace, no longer something reserved for the fortunate few — the emperors and their retinues — but broadcast everywhere, bestowed on everyone, “heaped up, pressed down, and overflowing,” even on one as lowly and negligible as a nursing mother. In the words of a famous Latin hymn,

“God…is born from the guts of a girl.”

The hymn is “Adeste Fideles,” composed in the eighteenth centry (in a very medieval spirit) by John F. Wade. The full text of the cited quotation is

“Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine
Gestant puellae viscera”

The second line was unfortunately translated in the nineteenth century by Frederick Oakley as “Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb.”

~     ~     ~    ~     ~

A Christmas poem by C.S. Lewis from A Widening Light

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
   Give me an ox’s strength.

Among the assess (stubborn I as they)
I see my Saviour where I looked for hay;
So may my beastlike folly learn at least
   The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence
   Some wooly innocence!

Simple Pleasures in December

~ Good Words

The First Church’s Christmas Barrel  
by Caroline Abbott Stanley
People!!  Trust me on this one!
It. Is. Excellent.
Free. Download.
Do. It.

A favorite quote from this short story:
[missionary couple talking, husband to wife]

“There isn’t one woman in a hundred that could have managed so well.”

She snuggled up to him. “That pays me–if I needed pay, which I don’t.
It was a work of love and–well, maybe a little necessity.
You told me once that I had a genius for poverty.

And God knows it has had no chance to lie dormant,”
he said bitterly.

~ Good Smells

3 sticks cinnamon – broken, a handful of cloves, a few bay leaves,
sliced orange and sliced lemon
add water and simmer, replenishing water as needed
reheat the next day
and the next…

I have some lemons which are past their prime.
This puts them to perfect use.

~ Good Tastes

A simple, fast, delicious recipe:
Costco meatballs
one jar grape jelly
one bottle Chili sauce

Combine jelly and sauce, heat.
Pour over meatballs and warm them
in oven or crockpot.

I am aging prime rib roast in the fridge, per Cook’s Illustrated and brother Dan.
It dehydrates and forms a crust which I’ll shave off before I cook the meat.
Simple. Scrumptious.
Christmas is the only day of the year that I fix prime rib.
If you are interested, message me and I’ll send you the instructions.

When our hunters get an elk, we make hamburger jerky. Yum!

Have you ever used whole nutmeg?
Here are three whole and one partly-used nutmeg.

You run it across a Microplane Grater / Zester for fresh nutmeg.

Perfect on hot oatmeal, on hot chocolate, hot butternut squash soup,
beef stroganoff, or hot buttered rum!

Second Sunday of Advent

For the herald’s voice is crying
In the desert far and near,
Bidding all men to repentance,
Since the kingdom now is here,

O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way!
Let the valleys rise to meet him,
And the hills bow down to greet him.

~ from Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

I hesitate to post the words to songs because reading them without having the tune in your head is just not the same experience as humming the tune (inside or outside your head) while you read the words. 

And I just love this tune.

Cyberhymnal is a great resource, but there are times when I have a hard time getting over the tin or the reverb sound.  Besides, on this one, ahem, they don’t have the “correct” tune, meaning the one I prefer!  (Which is Freu Dich Sehr with a syncopated rhythm)

I just tried to record the tune on our piano – it sounded disastrous!

I guess  y’all are just going to have to trust me.  Enjoy the words….

King’s College Choir


Christmas at King’s College through yourmusic.com: $27.96/free shipping

While we’ve enjoyed special programs of King’s College,
we’ve never had a Christmas CD (let alone four!) of them to enjoy.
This jewel came in the mail while I was on my road trip.

Let the (choral) music soar throughout the rooms!
Cleaning toilets/ironing/making meals with this music is a privilege!
My throat has more lumps than gravy.

If I were a cat, I’d be purring…

What is your most delicious Christmas music?

A Widening Light

This month the daily poetry readings are from A Widening Light, a lovely collection of poems on the Incarnation edited by Luci Shaw.  HT to LaurieLH who posted a poem from this collection and set my fingers clicking for the source. 

I am ga-ga over this book.  It has many poems by L’Engle and Shaw, The Nativity by C.S. Lewis (I promise to post it soon) and many other names which may or may not be familiar; I’m highlighting one of the poems in our Christmas letter.  This collection will come out again at Eastertide. 

Here are the last two stanzas from the opening poem by Myrna Reid Grant:

Child, Light to my soul-shadow, my confusion,
Coming sweetly, and so small,                     
Growing within, a stealth, a mystery—          
I am moved by this simplicity.                      

Transfixed with thanks, folded in love,          
I cannot adore enough.  I cannot speak.      
Like trees and snow and stars and street,    
I too am silent in the widening light.            

Cheap Imitations

It’s Advent and I’m angry annoyed. (Sigh)  I’ve been constructing a flaming jeremiad in my mind all weekend.  What began as a peculiar oddity – a mild embarrassment -, a massive inflatable Grinch next door, grew with the addition of a huge plastic inflatable Santa across the street, and has now gathered into an avalanche of lawn kitsch.  Apparently, bad taste is expanding. The cheap, plastic, lighted inflatables now come in groups: Santa bands (Santa in sunglasses, a penguin drummer, saxophone-playing reindeer, and a polar bear cradling a guitar) and Santa trains are proliferating along the block.

We had a blizzard yesterday.  While the wind howled and blew the darling Santa band onto their backs, I stood at the window and prayed imprecatory psalms.  This morning the deflated pieces sit in a puddle of plastic waiting for their owners to come home and blow them up.  How I have longed to blow them up myself. 

I’m trying to “put the best possible construction on the situation,” a phrase I learned in Bible school.  My neighbors want to celebrate.  They enjoy a good party.  It’s just that their plastic Santas are such a cheap imitation.  Who wants margarine after you’ve tasted butter?  Peter Kreeft (pronounced Krayft – I have to keep reminding myself) reminded me this weekend that evil cannot create, it can only imitate. 

Culture has very much to do with the human spirit.
What we find beautiful or entertaining or moving
is rooted in our spiritual life.
~ Kenneth Myers in All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes

I’m convinced that G.K. Chesterton has some wonderful quotes apropos beauty, culture and Christmas.  The only problem is that I haven’t read much Chesterton, and the quote sites only go so far.  I skimmed All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes looking for a quote and realized that I need to give this book about popular culture a slow and thorough reading. 

Meanwhile the best antidote to the very real frustration I experience is humor.  I need a way to look out the window and laugh instead of grimace.  It’s just plastic, for Pete’s sake!  I need to turn the music up, keep the good smells wafting, read through my collection of Advent poems, and remember it’s a season of joy.

If I can laugh at this video, thanks KGB, which slaughters a great hymn in a number of ways, I surely can laugh at the Santa Band.  (Why would anyone pair Christ the Lord Is Risen Today with Amore? That is beyond the beyonds.) Any other suggestions?  *A great post by Nancy Wilson relevant to the subject*

Bread-and-Butter Gifts

A bread-and-butter gift is a token gift that you usually give en masse to folks on your list.  Your neighbors, your friends at church, your co-workers, your spouse’s co-workers, your neighbor’s co-workers, your paper boy, your hairdresser, your Great Aunt Matilda…  Token is the operative word.  I like to think of weird things and I usually manage to humiliate one or more of my children.  I just bet some of you could come up with some ideas just as strange as these.

~ Great, fun, (and cheap) books

Food and Drink costs $1.50/Music $2.00
Save 25% on orders more than $40 (exp Dec 15)
Free shipping with $50 order
Dover Publications Coupon code: DH25

~ Parchment Paper
I bought a case of 1000 at a restaurant supply store.
I took 20 pieces, rolled them up, with a  paper explaining  it,
and tied them with ribbon or raffia.
This was met with squeals of exultation or blank stares.

~  Teresa’s Pan Spread
I got this recipe from a friend who cooks for large groups regularly.
Equal parts: Crisco, vegetable oil, flour
Beat in mixer on high speed until smooth.
Keep in fridge.
I use it in cooking all the time, in place of No-stick cooking spray.
I bought cute little pastry brushes to go with the jar.
[Moth-ER! I can’t beLIEVE you are giving grease to people as a gift!]

~ Al’s Sweet Hot Mustard

4 oz. dry mustard
 (buy this in bulk at health food store)
1 cup white vinegar
2 cups sugar
8 eggs

Mix mustard and vinegar and let sit for at least 8 hours.
Add sugar and eggs.
In double boiler, stir over steaming water until it thickens.
Store in pint jars in refrigerator.
I double the recipe and make several batches.

~ Hamburger Jerky

12 pounds (elk) hamburger
2 – 3 T liquid smoke
1 T tenderizer
3 T onion powder
2 T lemon pepper
2 T seasoned salt
2 T garlic powder
4 1/2 T red pepper flakes
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup Yoshida’s Gourmet Sauce
1 T hot sauce

Mix well and load into a jerky gun.
Dry in food dryer.

* * * * * * * * *
This year’s token is Hot Fudge Sauce.
The others are ideas for the future.

~ Hot Fudge Sauce

1 C sugar
1/4 C baking cocoa
1/4 C corn starch
1 C boiling water
1 T butter
1 tsp real vanilla

Combine sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch in a saucepan.
Add water and cook over medium-high heat  slowly until thick.
Remove from heat an stir in butter and vanilla until smooth.
Already I’ve messed up a big batch! Yikes!
It took so long to thicken, I started reading blogs…
Next batch, I’m simmering instead of medium-heating.

~ BBQ Sauce

1 T liquid smoke
2 # 10 cans ketchup
5 lbs honey
2 C prepared mustard
2 C vinegar
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 C Worcestershire Sauce

~ Sheri’s Homemade Chai Mix
12 tsp tea leaves

Grind, but not too fine:
24 cardamom
6 sticks cinnamon
24 cloves

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 cup sugar

Mix together.

To use:
3 T mix + 2 C water
Boil 10-15 minutes
Add 1/2 cup milk.
Strain and drink.

~  Healthy Vinaigrette

Recipe here.

~ Brenda’s Poppyseed Loaf

Message me, if you’d like the recipe.
It’s too long for this.
But oh my, it is my husband’s favorite.

~ Lemon Curd

Recipe and photos here.
Limbolady recommended this *with a box of gingersnaps*!

Giving with Grace

photo taken yesterday by son Collin

I wrote here about the problem.  Some friends of mine can help with solutions.

Alyssa is a natural shopper.  She finds wonderful bargains and is always looking for potential gifts.  Shopping, after all, is a skill. Alyssa knows which stores to avoid and which stores to patronize.  She instinctively knows where to look; she also knows when to shop; finally she knows her recipients.  She finds treasures on the after-holiday clearance shelves, she has good taste, and she considers her loved ones when she shops.  When she finds a product she particularly loves– socks, tea or gardener’s hand-creme– she looks for a supplier with the best price.  Alyssa doesn’t spend outrageous sums: she knows how to convert two dollars into a small plant or a special candle that says, “I appreciate you.” Alyssa keeps a gift drawer and usually resists the impulse to give her treasures prematurely. 

Chloe is creative.  Chloe always gives a piece of herself.  She used to scrapbook, but now leans more toward computer graphics and photography.  Chloe jumps in the deep end: her first quilt was a queen-sized duvet for her husband’s parents. When she sits down, she picks up her yarn and needles.  Chloe gave her college-age kids and their best friends a shipment of homemade cookies every month  as a high school graduation gift.  Chloe listens.  When her friend mentioned how much she’d like a tea cozy, Chloe converted a scrap of peculiar fabric into a way-cool cozy.  When Chloe’s pastor’s wife went through a series of medical procedures, Chloe wrote a note of encouragement to her each week. 

Clarissa, by the way, does it all.  It would be fun to hate Clarissa, but it would also be impossible. She’s just too wonderful.  Clarissa is the queen of gift baskets.  Clarissa does everything by dozens.  She reupholsters furniture in her spare time.  She probably plays the trombone in secret, just for fun. She makes cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. Ask Clarissa how she gets it all done and she shrugs as if you’d asked her how she manages to breathe. 

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Alyssa, Chloe and Clarissa are composites of friends I admire, friends to imitate.  For the Alyssas, the Chloes and the Clarissas of the world, giving is a hoot.  A pure whacked-out joy!  Sure, they get stuck at times – but they look at those sticky situations as a fun challenge.  If they were sitting across the table from you this morning, perhaps they would give you these tips. 

1.  Take time.   Gift cards are the closest thing to instant gifts; they are certainly appropriate at times.  However, we usually underestimate the time it takes to put a (non-gift card) gift together.  Undoubtedly we don’t figure in the time it takes to coordinate all the gifts of the Christmas season. By not planning ahead, we are caught wandering WalMart on December 23rd.  If  you work on this throughout the year the time is spread out into smaller chunks.  The discipline of thinking, exploring ideas, making plans, executing them, cleaning up afterwards: it all takes time.

2.  Give time.  A phone call, a cup of coffee together, a free afternoon to work together on a project: these are all precious gifts.  Last Wednesday I received a piece of bad news which paralyzed me while I processed the emotions.  I needed to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, but couldn’t get moving. My perceptive daughter-in-law suggested that we go grocery shopping together.  She didn’t need to shop; she sensed my paralysis and wanted to help me through the fog.

3.  Take courage.  So many socially awkward scenarios wouldn’t be awkward if we weren’t afraid.  Know what you can afford and work within your boundaries. It’s okay to give someone a small gift in comparison to the large(r) gift you received, if that’s what you can manage.  The world will not end if you are given a gift – an expression of love – and you receive it graciously without reciprocating.  

4.  Give freely.  Free of expectations.  Free of the need of reassurance.  Free of manipulation.  Free of guilt.

5.  Take off your own desires.  Especially for people who are, um, different.  So often we selfishly give what we would like to receive, with little regard for the pleasure of the recipient.  A mature giver recognizes differences and works at discovering the preferences of others.  It’s a wide, wide world and thank goodness we’re not all alike.

6.  Give what you love.  This contradicts the words above.  You have to know your loved one.  Christmas is a great time to share the books, music, food, clothing and products you’ve discovered over the past year, if the recipient is inclined towards books, music or products.     

and two tips about gracious receiving…

7.  Take care not to dissemble.  If you lie, and say you love fruitcake, you may get fruitcake every year until you die.  I always chuckle at Judith Viorst’s line: “Dear Aunt Agatha, My mom said to write you and let you know how much I enjoyed the gray slippers you gave me.  Not much.”  When the gift doesn’t appeal to you, focus on the giver: it was thoughtful of you… it was kind of you… Wow! You remembered  our family! … Honesty and kindness do not live on different continents. 

8.  Give thanks.  Gratitude is so becoming. It takes a little effort and planning.  I still struggle with this one, often falling down on the task because I start writing thank you novels instead of thank you notes.  Be specific.  Generic thank you notes that don’t even mention the gift are lame.   

My favorite gift, the bread-and-butter-gift, tomorrow!

What would you add to this list of give and takes?

Victims of Prosperity

I’m trying, really trying, not to make this a rant.  I’m just saying.  There is a difference.  As I type, I am trying to keep my written voice low and steady.  No screamin’ meamies allowed. 

This thought began in July when a house down the street from us put the makings of a garage sale on the corner of their lot with a sign that said, FREE. [Our Salvation Army went out of business (!); which means there is no local entity that accepts donations.] The pile sat there for day after day after day. Weeks later the lonely and neglected pile remained. Gracious, I thought, we have become such a prosperous people that we can’t even give away our stuff.   

This morning, while I was serenely sipping tea and soaking in the heat from the wood stove, I received an SOS call from a relative who was shopping, totally bereft of gift ideas for certain loved one.  “I feel your pain,” was about the best I could do. 

It has become the national question: 
“What do you get for the person who has everything?” 

The problem is that everyone on my list, down to my grandson, fits that description. 

Our lack of want is stealing some of the joy, don’t you think?  We’ve become victims of our own prosperity.

Because I’m not a shopper, I’m not a good gift giver.  I’d rather clean toilets than shop in a store full of grimacing people listening to tinny canned music.  And if I give into the temptation to procrastinate I find myself in the most loathsome position possible:  wandering around WalMart on December 22nd, looking for some plastic thing made in China to wrap and give.  Blech.

Because I’m not a good observer, I’m not a good gift giver.  I really don’t remember which colors my daughters (in-law) love to wear.  Or what makes my mother-in-law’s eyes light up.   An organized person would have a little notebook and  keep track throughout the year.  An observant person would know without the notebook…

The fact is that it is easy to get gifts for people who share the same tastes and interests that you do.  When you see/read/smell/taste/drink something you love, you know that person would also love it.  Somehow, we often end up related to people who don’t share our tastes!  My friend put it well:  [insert name] and I always give each other hair products because we just don’t know each other very well even though we are closely related. 

Perfectionism can also block the way.  The search for the perfect gift, the one sure to delight, can keep us from getting something pretty good

Thus far, the problem.

The truth is that it is more joyful to give than to receive.  Do you remember the moment when you got it right?  When the gift was opened and then the eyes opened wide?  The little “o”, and the sucked in breath?  The wonder? The delight? 

Gifts should be an expression of love, not a tribute to obligation.  How do we express our love in a way that is fitting, true, full of delight? 

More to come….