Monday, December 29, 2014

THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!

Did anyone notice that this Christmas was “different?”

About a week after Remembrance Day, Christmas music exploded out of our local radio channel, CHFI FM 98.1, and Christmas specials bombarded the plasma screen all throughout Christmas and right up until New Year’s Day. Almost every house on our street was lit up with Christmas displays and around the neighborhood there were more Christmas lights than ever before. Department stores had more selection of Christmas décor, with more tasteful items both traditional and modern, and even shoppers were happier.  

Personally, it was one of the best Christmases I can ever remember having. When the Christmas music started playing I got out all my lights and décor and put up the outdoor lights. I found my Christmas card list and started addressing the envelopes, all the while humming Joy to the World and Holy Night, Silent Night, and got those mailed by the last of November. I had our home all decorated by the middle of November with brightly colored balls, twinkling lights, a Nativity display, and a miniature lighted village, not to mention the foil garland hanging from the ceiling and all the plastic canvass patterns adorning the walls. I sat at my computer with a cup of Starbucks Peppermint Hot Cocoa and did my online shopping the first week of December, and we cut down our tree at the tree farm by the weekend. I started and finished all my Christmas shopping and got all my baking done by the following week. I even had all the trimmings for our feast a week early. I did it all at my leisure with a skip in my step and a smile on my face, and I never stressed about money or credit card debt; I bought what I wanted to buy and my son, husband, and I were ecstatic about our gifts under the Christmas tree on Christmas Day. We had so many things to awe and amaze us, and the best part was that we spent time together talking and laughing and playing games the whole day long. It had been a long time since I felt at peace like that. It was a wonderful Christmas. 

I called my younger oldest brother in Nackawic and he seemed to agree, speculating that it may have been the low cost of oil that contributed to the phenomena. When I spoke to other members of my distant family in Atlantic Canada, they were happy and content with their Christmas experiences, despite the absence of snow, and not one person complained that “Christmas is not like it used to be.”  And regardless of the current price of a stamp, I received many a Christmas card.

It was convenient that Christmas Day and Boxing Day fell before the weekend; it gave everyone a four day holiday to spend at home with family and that would put anyone in a good mood. 

Yes, the Spirit of Christmas was strong in many folks this year. I saw it in the happy faces of children when I was out and about, I heard it at the Christmas Eve mass at my church when angelic voices of the choir were lifted to the heavens, and I experienced it at home with my family; the looks of surprise on their faces opening their gifts, the fun and laughter while spending time together throughout the entire season, the twinkle in my son’s eyes while assembling the Gingerbread Carousel on Christmas Eve, and the never-ending signs of love and affection that seemed to flow from heavenly places. And when I was up alone in the quiet hours after midnight, I watched the twinkling of the lights on the tree, and I gave thanks for the food in the fridge, the clothes in our closets, the car we drive, the finances that sustain us, and our warm, safe, home. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

LET GO OF FEAR


The following is from one of the blogs I follow. This message was in my inbox this morning and it's one of those things that you just want everyone to think about, especially with the new year approaching as we all try to make the new year better than the last. Sign up today for the daily tidbits of enlightenment; the address is in the bottom right corner of the picture. 










 Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
 Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
 It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
 We ask ourselves,
 Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
 Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
 Your playing small does not serve the world.
 There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
 so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
 We are all meant to shine, as children do.
 We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
 It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
 And as we let our own light shine,
 we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
 As we are liberated from our own fear,
 our presence automatically liberates others.
 - Marianne Williamson

 When you find your path, you must not be afraid.
 You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes.
 Disappointment, defeat, and despair are
 the tools God uses to show us the way.
 - Paulo Coelho

 If a man is called to be a street sweeper,
 he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted,
 or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.
 He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts
 of heaven and earth will pause to say,
 here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
 - Martin Luther King, Jr.



© Permission

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

CHRISTMAS RECIPES

The following recipes are my favorite Christmas recipes that have been passed around in my family time and time again. All are fairly quick and easy to make. 



BANANA BREAD

Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

3 bananas 
2 eggs              
1 cup of sugar              
½ cup of butter                           
Chopped nuts, if desired.
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Mix together bananas, sugar, butter, and eggs until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan and place in oven for 1 hour. Bread is done when knife pierced in the middle comes out clean.



LASSY BUNS

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

1 cup of melted butter
1 cup of molasses
½ cup of milk
1 egg
4 1/2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of cloves
1 cup of sugar
Pinch of salt

Mix together molasses and butter. Add milk and egg, stir. Mix in remaining ingredients. Roll out on a floured surface to a ½ inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, or use the top of a drinking glass if you don’t have cookie cutters, and place on a greased cookie sheet. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes. Cool completely before serving.



SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

1 cup of butter
¼ cup of sugar
¼ cup of icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 cups of flour

Cream together butter, sugar, icing sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. Work in flour. Knead into a ball and chill ten minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thick. Use cookies cutters or top of a drinking glass to cut out. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool. Decorate as desired.



SNOWBALLS

½ cup of butter
1 cup of milk
2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons of cocoa
½ teaspoon of vanilla
2 cups of unsweetened coconut
2 ¼ cups of quick cook rolled oats

Mix butter, milk, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla in a pot on medium heat. Slowly stir until mixture comes to a boil. Let boil for about 3-4 minutes then remove from heat. Add coconut and rolled oats and mix thoroughly. Let cool. Form into balls and roll into sweetened coconut. 



HOLIDAY BARS

Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

Base:

1 cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups of flour
½ teaspoon of salt

Cream together butter, eggs, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix until smooth. Spread into an ungreased 13x9 inch pan and bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool.


Top:

1 package of chocolate chips
½ cup of butter
2 cups icing sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 package of small colored marshmallows
¾ chopped nuts

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat in a pot on low heat. Stir constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and add icing sugar and egg. Beat until smooth. Fold in marshmallows and nuts. Spread over cooled base and chill. Cut into squares.




Lemon pie, cupcakes, shortbread, snowballs, holiday bars, and fudge. Yum Yum Yum.

Monday, December 1, 2014

KEEPING OUR RELIGION


About a month ago, just before Halloween, I went to the post office to post a small bubble envelope with a few Halloween things in it for my little nephew who lives in Newfoundland. 

“Hi, how ya doin’? I said to John, the man working the cash. 

“I’m good, how are you?” He smiled.

“Not too bad, hangin’ in there. How’s the old ticker?” I asked.

“I’m still standing,” he said with a chuckle.

John had had heart surgery the year before and was out of commission for a while, but he was back to work and doing just fine. 

“How’s it going with you? How’s the back doing?”

“Oh, I can’t complain, some days good, some days bad. It is what it is, right?” I said.

“Yeah, all we can do is keep going the best we know how.” He had accepted his fate just as I had accepted mine. 

I handed him my package. “Regular post, John.”

He entered the information in the computer. “That’ll be $18.05.” 

“What!”

He looked up at me, not surprised by my reaction.

“It went up again. You haven’t sent a package in a while, huh?”

“No, the last time I sent a package back home was last Christmas.”

“It went up a lot this time. It’s $1.00 for a stamp now, $1.13 with tax.”

“Wow, I don’t think I’ll be sending any packages home this year. That costs more than what is in the bag.” I got out my bank card and finished the sale.

John snickered. “You say than every year.”

“Yah, I know, but this year, I dunno. Maybe I won’t send Christmas cards either. I’m always short on cash since I stopped working.”

He gave me the receipt. “It’s not easy for a lot of people, the way things are going these days. But, you know, you can’t give up sending Christmas cards, that’s part of our religion. I see people coming in here all the time sending their cards for Diwali, Kwanzaa, and Hanukah, not too many sending Christmas cards. If you don’t send Christmas cards, you’re not spreading the Word of God, you’re not keeping your religion. Think about it. The next thing you know Christianity will disappear. It’s up to Christians to keep Christmas.”




The Nativity


I looked at him, dumbfounded at his profound words. “I never thought about it that way before,” I managed to say. “Thanks, John.”

He smiled and nodded. I left the store with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat. God works in mysterious ways.

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I don’t do anything else to spread the Word, to keep my religion. I might go to church once a month, and my home church does receive a monthly donation, but, other than that, there’s nothing else. 

Every year since as far back as I can remember I have sent Christmas cards and have added to the list year after year. Last year, I sent out about 75 cards and never once thought about it as “spreading the word.” I was doing it because it was just something I did as a part of Christmas, never really thinking about it. It was what I did to wish all my friends and relatives a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It’s funny how something can become so tedious that its meaning is forgotten. And when I told John I wasn’t going to send any cards, something else came into play, the Spirit of God if you will, and I was given a new perspective. 

So every week thereafter I bought a package of stamps and last week I bought some Christmas cards. Sparkling lights, shiny tinsel, and colored bells fill my tiny home, and today, I will be spreading the Word of God by getting my cards ready for mailing. 







The world's first commercially produced Christmas card, designed by John Callcott Horsley for Henry Cole in 1843.



I have noticed that in recent years the number of people who send a card back has diminished, not that I expect a card back; I’m wondering maybe others need a new perspective as well. So I’m going to print this little story and put it in all the cards and hope that all my relatives and friends find a new perspective, too.