Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Christmas in July...The Conclusion


I just wanted to thank everyone who visited during Christmas in July.  I hope you enjoyed everything I shared with you this month.  I wish it could have been more, but this year turned out to be more busy than previous years.

I hope you will join me in late November for the Sharing the Joy event and the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge.  It's always fun every year! And, of course, stop by for Rudolph Day every month on the 25th.

I leave you with this wonderful poem by Norman Wesley Brooks that exactly sums up my feelings about Christmas....

Let Every Day Be Christmas

Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.

Peace on Earth, good will to men,
kind thoughts and words of cheer,
are things we should use often
and not just once a year.

Remember too the Christ-child, grew up to be a man;
to hide him in a cradle, is not our dear Lord's plan.
So keep the Christmas spirit, share it with others far and near,
from week to week and month to month, throughout the entire year!

--Norman Wesley Brooks, 1923-2002

Always in spirit....

Monday, July 30, 2012

Christmas in July: Ryan's Favorite Christmas Cards


I'd like to welcome my good friend, Ryan from Wordsmithonia, to the blog today.  He is sharing with us his favorite Christmas cards!

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I'm sure Michelle can tell you that I'm a Christmas freak. Actually, I'm pretty sure anyone that knows me can tell you the same thing. I have to be a Christmas fanatic to listen to Christmas music in the middle of summer. Of course, I only do it when it's really hot outside and I need something to take my mind off the heat. If you don't believe that it works, try it. Close your blinds/curtains and put on some of your favorite Christmas music. You will be cool in no time.

Because I'm such a Christmas fanatic, it's hard to single out a favorite aspect to write a post about. But don't worry, I have something in mind. I thought about listing some of my favorite songs, but I already did that for Michelle before. Then I thought of doing a movie, but I did that the first year Michelle started this blog, which by the way, isn't she awesome for doing! What I decided upon was to touch on something that I look forward to every Christmas. I'm talking about Christmas cards. I love sending them out to my friends and family, and I love getting them in the mail. They are the reason I rush to the mailbox everyday during the Christmas season.

Every year, for at least 10 yeas, some of my favorite cards to send out have featured some wonderful illustrations from Edward Gorey. Yes, that Edward Gorey. The guy behind The Gashlycrumb Tinies, the wonderful opening for PBS Mystery!, and some of the most "Gothic" inspired, playful illustrations ever. You would think that his work wouldn't make great Christmas cards, but that is where you would be wrong. Now Granted, some of them are a bit darker in tone than the standard Christmas fare you find in boxes of 50-100 at Wal-Mart.

If I remember right I found my very first box of his cards at a Borders, actually I think that is where I bought all my Edward Gorey cards from. It was right after Christmas and I found a box on the clearance table. I knew, just from looking at the picture on the box, who's work it was. Gorey has such a distinctive style, you can't mistake him for anyone else. That first card was "Christmas Dragon and Friend." I think it's still my favorite of all the cards I've sent out. Now I'm sure that Michelle doesn't want me to show every single Edward Gorey Christmas card I've ever used, so I'll show you a few of my favorites instead.





Just in case you're curious, I do send other cards every year as well. I know some of my older relatives do not want to have a Christmas card of someone decorating a tombstone. Sometimes those cards are more traditional, featuring a snow covered church in a birch forest. Others are a bit more artsy, Japanese wood blocks. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do this year though. With Borders closed, I'm not sure where I'm going to be able to find the Edward Gorey cards. I have seen them at Barnes & Noble, but they tend to be cards I've already used. So we will see, this may be the first Christmas in a very long time that didn't include Edward Gorey in the festivities. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I won't have to know what that feels like.

*************

I hope Ryan is able to find the cards he loves.  *fingers crossed*

Always in spirit....

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Christmas in July: Weekend Lit


This post is dreadfully late! Again, another apology from me.  I hope you enjoy looking through all the wonderful books coming out this holiday season.  I see quite a few titles I would love to get my hands on.  I hope you've enjoyed Weekend Lit during Christmas in July.  The feature will return in November during the Sharing the Joy holiday event.

You can click any book cover in the slide show to find out more about the book on Amazon.


  • Fun Christmas Crafts to Make and Bake: Over 60 Festive Projects to Make With Your Kids by Annie Rigg and Catherine Woram (8/2012)
  • Christmas Cookies by Parragon Books (8/12/12)
  • Susanna's Christmas Wish by Jerry S. Eicher (9/1/12)
  • A Patchwork Christmas: Three Christmas Romances with Bonus Handcraft Patterns and Cookie Recipes by Judith McCoy Miller, Nancy Moser and Stephanie Grace Whitson (9/1/12)
  • The Christmas Pony by Melody Carlson (9/1/12)
  • Christmas Roses by Amanda Cabot (9/1/12)
  • A Cascades Christmas (Romancing America) by Mildred Covin, Mary Davis, Debbie Lee and Gina Welborn (9/1/12)
  • The Christmas Bride (Love Endures)-Reprint-by Grace Livingston Hill (9/1/12)
  • Amish White Christmas Pie by Wanda E. Brunstetter (9/1/12)
  • The Little Amish Matchmaker: A Christmas Romance by Linda Byler (9/4/12)
  • Southern Living Christmas in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking for the Holidays (9/1/12)
  • Christmas At Holly Hill (Winds Across the Prairie) by Martha Rogers (9/4/12)
  • Prayers of a Stranger: A Christmas Story by Davis Bunn (9/11/12)
  • The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary's Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore's Christmas Pudding - More Than 150 Recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs by Emily Ansara Baines (9/18/12)
  • An Outlaw's Christmas (Mckettricks) by Linda Lael Miller (9/25/12)
  • The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas: How a Cat Brought a Family the Gift of Love by Julia Romp (9/25/12)
  • A Christmas Hope by Joseph Pittman (9/25/12)
  • Snowfall in Burracombe by Lilian Harry (9/27/12)
  • Unexpected Christmas Hero by Kathi Macias (10/1/12)
  • Love Finds You at Home for Christmas by Annalisa Daughety and Gwen Ford Faulkenberry (10/1/12)
  • A Merry Little Christmas by Anita Higman (10/1/12)
  • A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree by Janet Dailey (10/2/12)
  • The Christmas Star by Ace Collins (10/2012)
  • Naomi's Christmas by Marta Perry (10/2/12)
  • An Unexpected Angel by Janet K. Halling (10/9/12)
  • The Santa Letters: A Christmas Story by Stacy Gooch-Anderson (10/9/12)
  • The 13th Day of Christmas by Jason F. Wright (10/12/12)
  • The Snow White Christmas Cookie: A Berger and Mitry Mystery by David Handler (10/16/12)
  • Angels at the Table: A Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy Christmas Story by Debbie Macomber (10/23/12)
  • Christmas in Sugarcreek: A Seasons of Sugarcreek Christmas Novel by Shelley Shepard Gray (10/23/12)
  • The Christmas Plains by Joseph Bottum (10/23/12)
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present by Scott Abbott and Amy Maude Swinton (10/23/12)
  • Twelve Drummers Drumming: A Mystery (Father Christmas Mysteries) by C.C. Benison (10/30/12)
  • A Christmas Garland by Anne Perry (10/30/12)
  • Christmas in Cornwall by Marcia Willett (10/30/12)
  • What Happens at Christmas by Victoria Alexander (10/30/12)
  • Paper Angels by Jimmy Wayne (11/6/12)
  • Three Wise Cats: A Christmas Story by Harold Konstantelos and Terri Jenkins Brady (11/6/12)
  • The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen (11/6/12)
  • Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box: Everything You Need to Host a Christmas Cookie Contest by Gina Hyams (11/13/12)
  • Christmas at Eagle Pond by Donald Hall (11/20/12)
  • Christmas with Miss Read by Miss Read (12/1/12)
  • A Royal Christmas by Jeremy Archer (12/1/12)
Always in spirit....

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Christmas in July: Weekend Crafting


I apologize for not posting Friday Baking and Movies yesterday.  The time just got away from me.  The feature will be back in November when my Sharing the Joy Christmas event kicks off.  Be sure to stop by tomorrow for Weekend Lit.  I will be sharing the upcoming Christmas books being released this season.  Exciting!

Today's craft and the final one for Christmas in July is once again from The Christmas Book from Ortho Books.



This image is so bad (took it from the book with my phone) so I've included another image off the web that shows a more clear example below.



Heirloom Globes


Studded with colorful beads and sequins and festooned with attractive ribbons, these Christmas ornaments can be given to friends and relatives, who will surely treasure them year after year.

Be sure to wear goggles when working with Styrofoam.  Particles get into the air and can cause eye infections.

Image Credit

Making a Globe:

The foundation for the decorations shown is a Styrofoam ball which can be found in garden centers, art supply stores, and hobby shops.  Decorative materials are attached to the ball with straight pins; use those with either plain metal heads or colorful plastic heads.  Both types easily penetrate surface materials as well as the ball.

Completely cover the ball with sequins and beads of different colors and shapes, threading them onto straight pins.  Make sure the head is large enough so that it does not pull through.  Also check that the pinpoints do not stick out the other end; if they do, nip off ends with pliers.

Embroidered or velvet ribbons are easier to tie than are the synthetic ones sold for gift wrapping.

The sphere is only one of many forms available.  By exploring the stores in your area, you can find Styrofoam in other shapes.  You can also buy the material in sheets and cut whatever shapes you desire:  triangles, stars, or animals.  Because Styrofoam crumbles easily, the cleanest way to cut it is with an electric carving knife.  A utility knife, serrated kitchen knife, or piece of wire will also do.  To cut complex shapes, first make a paper pattern and pin to to the Styrofoam to use as a guide.

To make a hanger for a sphere, wrap and and pin a length of ribbon vertically around it, and tie a bow at the top.  Leave the ribbon long enough so that you can tie another bow for hanging the ornament, or attach a loop or a hook for hanging.  As an alternative to ribbon, push a colorful pipe cleaner right through the center of the ornament.  Twist the top end into a loop and thread the bottom end around a bead to prevent ornament from slipping off the pipe cleaner.  Large balls completely covered with beads, sequins, and ribbons can be heavy; make small sizes for tree decorations.

Interest the whole family in creating these mosaics of color and texture, providing, of course that children are old enough to handle sharp pins and small objects.  Each year before Christmas, set aside time to add to your collection.  Who knows:  They may become family heirlooms.

Weekend Crafting will be back as well in November for Sharing the Joy.

Always in spirit....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Christmas in July: Guest Post from author, Melissa Ann Goodwin


Home for the Holidays
Melissa Ann Goodwin

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays, the song goes. It’s a theme that’s so strong at Christmas time. Think of it: few songs bring tears to our eyes more quickly than I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and in the movie Miracle on 34th Street, little Natalie Wood’s Christmas dream is, literally, to have a “home.”

I’ve been thinking about home a lot lately this year; because my husband and I are doing something radically adventurous (for us); we are traveling around the U.S. and parts of Canada in a motorhome. We sold our house, and there is not a place that we call “home” right now. I’ve always been a homebody, so there are times when it is very strange to realize that, at the moment, I do not have a place to “go home” to. When Christmas comes, we’ll be in Florida, but that too will be temporary. Home for the holidays will be wherever we are on December 25th.

For many of us, that wonderful vision of “home for the holidays” is one that carries from our childhoods. I remember decorating the tree that filled half our small living room; candlelit Christmas Eve services at our church; and sneaking down the stairs at five a.m. to see our stockings stuffed to the brim and the glorious pile of presents under the tree. I know that I am lucky to have such wonderful memories.

But my parents are gone now, and the home of our childhood is no longer our home to go back to. So, part of our adult journey is truly to create new “homes” for ourselves, whether those are actual fixed places, or just a feeling that we carry in our hearts. Part of the allure of “home for Christmas,” I think, is the bittersweet feeling we have when we think of Christmases past – places and people that hold special places in our hearts. Remember when Judy Garland sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in Meet Me in Saint Louis? The lyrics that get us most are “someday soon we all will be together – if the fates allow,” We love the song because it’s such a poignant reminder of how life changes and how precious our time together really is.

Being home for Christmas is a strong theme in my book, The Christmas Village, too. It’s just before Christmas, and our 12-year-old hero, Jamie, is having a hard time of it. He wishes he could escape his troubles by disappearing into Grandma’s miniature Christmas village. But once his wish comes true – well, you guessed it – all he can think about is how to get back home to his family by Christmas day. That quest drives the adventure – and there’s lots of adventure! We’re all rooting for him, and eager to see if and how he’ll do it, because most of us can relate to that deep desire to be “home” for Christmas.

Our journey this year in the motorhome is to see the beauty of this country and experience new things. To change things up a little – to be open to challenge, and growth, and to seeing where that take us. Part of the journey though, is also a search for the place we will next put down roots and call HOME. Because for me too, there’s no place like home for the holidays.

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About Me: I treasure fond memories of a happy and carefree childhood growing up in New England, and am especially grateful for the many wonderful teachers there, who encouraged me to read the books that inspired to become a writer. My work has appeared in numerous national magazines and I’ve written extensively for the Fun for Kidz family of children’s magazines. The Christmas Village is my first novel for children, and I am currently working on the sequel.

The Christmas Village has been getting great reviews from kids and adults alike – you can read the reviews and find the book in paperback and Kindle e-book from Amazon.com, and in all digital forms from Smashwords.



Visit Melissa Ann: BLOG | BLOG | FACEBOOK


Read my REVIEW of The Christmas Village.



Always in spirit....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Christmas in July--No Weekend Lit this week

I'm sorry, folks, but I won't be posting Weekend Lit today.  It has been a long and horrendous week and I just want to sit here and read today.  Stay tuned until next week.  I will definitely have something then.

Thanks!

Always in spirit....

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Christmas in July--Weekend Crafting


Sorry to be late posting this today.  I had stuff planned today and didn't get a chance to post before I left the house this morning.  Anyway, the craft I have to share with you today is one that I've been wanting to try myself for years.  It's another project from The Christmas Book.



Clay-Dough Ornaments




This clay-like dough is ideal for making ornaments.  Use any tools that seem appropriate to shape the dough.  These might include cookie cutters and toothpicks.

Shaped dough ornaments can be painted after they are baked or food coloring can be added to the water with which you make the dough.  If tinting the water, it is better to make small amounts of dough in several different colors rather than using the full recipe.

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup water 
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Ornament hangers or metal paper clips
Instructions:
  1. Blend flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add food coloring to the water (if desired).  Add the colored or plain water gradually to form a firm dough.  Knead the dough until it is smooth.
  2. Shape dough into ornaments and lay on foil-covered baking sheets.  Carefully push in hangers.  Or, cut paper clips in half widthwise and push in one half to act as a hanger.
  3. Cook for about 2 hours at 250 degrees F.  Ornaments should be firm.  Correct baking time will depend on the size and thickness of the dough. 

Hope you'll get a chance to try this out some time.  Me too!

Always in spirit....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Christmas in July--Friday Baking and Movies


Welcome to another edition of Friday Baking and Movies! Today I'm featuring a recipe from the wonderful Paula Dean.  I love her! What made me think of her was that she has recently been a guest judge on two of my favorite cooking shows, Food Network Star and MasterChef.  Today's recipe comes from her wonderful book, Christmas with Paula Deen.



Cheesecake Cupcakes


Paula says, "These taste just like miniature cheesecakes without the crust.  Decorate with fresh seasonal fruit--a sliver of strawberry (if available) or kiwi for Christmas, or a dollop of fruit topping or jam.  You can eat about a dozen, so be careful."

  • Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Topping:
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Kiwi or strawberry slivers, fruit topping, or jam
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line 24 muffin cups with paper cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until very smooth.  Add the sugar and mix well.  Add the vanilla and eggs and mix well.
  3. Fill the cups about half full with the batter.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until cupcakes are set and golden brown.
  4. Make the topping:  Combine the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla and stir well with a metal spoon or spatula.  Spoon about 2 teaspoons on top of each cupcake and return to oven for 5 minutes to glaze.
  5. Remove the cupcakes from the oven.  When they can be handled safely, remove them from the muffin tins and let cool completely on wire racks.  When completely cool, place them in plastic containers with lids and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Just before serving, decorate with slivers of freshly cut seasonal fruit, or jam or fruit topping.  Serve at room temperature.
Makes 2 Dozen.

Movies!
Today I'm sharing with you some movies coming to television in the upcoming holiday season.  I found this info at the wonderful blog, It's a Wonderful Movie.  Be sure to visit the blog for family entertainment news and the fabulous Christmas TV Schedule (I rely on it during the holiday season).

GMC (check your local listings to see if you receive this channel)


Christmas Angel


Cast: Kevin Sorbo, Teri Polo, Kevin Sorbo, Della Reese, Tamera Mowry-Housley, and Izabela Bidovic 


This Movie was Originally Titled - The Angel Next Door. It is a sweet, family-friendly, faith-based movie about a young girl who tries to prove that the mysterious old lady next door is really an angel.

ION (again, check your local listings)


Christmas Twister 


Cast: Casper Van Dien, Victoria Pratt, Richard Burgi 


When a massive, out-of-season storm system sneaks up on Texas at Christmas, weather scientist Ethan Walker (Van Dien) is hard-pressed to convince skeptics, including his meteorologist wife, Addison (Pratt), and her coworker, Logan (Burgi), of the fast-approaching danger. Produced by Hybrid Entertainment. 


A Christmas Wedding 


Cast: Marla Sokoloff, Chris Carmack, Catherine Hicks, David DeLuise, George Wendt 


After being fired from her high-powered job, Rebecca (Sokoloff) heads back home to see her mom, Shirley (Hicks), and attend her friends' small-town wedding on Christmas Eve. Initially convinced that the trip is a terrible mistake, especially her botched romantic conversation with former beau, Chad (Carmack), Rebecca soon learns that, indeed, you can go home again, and, again -- until you get it right. Produced by Hybrid Entertainment. 


Anything But Christmas 


Cast: To Be Announced 


John loves Grace and her 10-year-old son, Zachary. Although he wants to propose to her at Christmas, it's the one holiday John runs from. In this romantic comedy, chaos with exes, misunderstandings, parents and in-laws all imperil John and Grace's relationship. But can they get it sorted out in time for the holidays? Produced by CCI Entertainment. 


Golden Christmas 3 


Cast: Shantel VanSanten, Rob Mayes, Orson Bean, Mark Famiglietti, Nikki DeLoach, Alex Peters, Maxim Knight, Peter Holden, Matt Corboy 


This is a Sequel to A Golden Christmas and A Golden Christmas 2 - The Second Tail.


Heather is a charming, free spirit and Bobby is a naval officer home from serving overseas. Thanks to three golden retrievers, Bobby's spirited 11-year-old niece, Myra, and a fun-filled theatre production of "A Christmas Carol," these two unlucky and unlikely people end up falling in love at Christmas. Presented by MarVista Entertainment. 


A Star for Christmas 


Cast: To Be Announced 


The only thing that is working in Cassie's world is her small town business. Her Christmas Cupcakery is a huge success, but her love life is a mess. Cassie's whole universe is turned upside down when she falls in love with a co-worker who is revealed to be the famous and notoriously troubled actor Alex Gray. There's no denying that Alex and Cassie are in love, but can their relationship survive the pressure of Hollywood and the holidays? Presented by MarVista Entertainment. 

Lifetime

The Christmas Consultant

Cast: David Hasselhoff, Caroline Rhea, Barclay Hope, Jessica McLeod, Carrie Fleming, Aleks Paunovic, etc 

Storyline is Currently, unknown.

Holiday Spin

Cast: Ralph Macchio, Karen Olivo, Garrett Clayton, Erika Eleniak, Allie Bertram, and Hamza Adam

Holiday Spin is a sequel to another Lifetime movie, On Strike for Christmas.

Ralph Macchio portrays Ruben, a man who runs a famed dance studio that has fallen on hard times. He is preparing his star student -- and future step-daughter, Pia, for the annual Christmas Eve ballroom dance competition, the Holiday Spin, when his son Blake arrives, to live with him. After Pia and her partner have a falling out, Blake reluctantly steps in, much to Ruben's delight -- until he realizes that the new dance duo are starting to fall for one another.

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Sounds like some good ones coming up.  Can't wait!

Don't forget about the QVC Christmas in July special running all weekend starting early tomorrow morning.  I never buy anything (no money), but it's my version of window shopping!


This Sunday on TCM, the classic film, Christmas in July airs on Sunday morning at 10:30am EST.

The Santa Clause 2 airs on Encore Family on Sunday at 11:20am and 7:00pm EST.

Enjoy your weekend!

Always in spirit....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Christmas in July: Scrooge--A Favorite Fictional Character



Ahhh Scrooge...how I love thee.  You may ask how I can love such a miserable curmudgeon.  Well, I love him in the beginning when he is completely obnoxious and mean because it makes his complete transformation at the end all the more wonderful...the total contrast of it.  The character of Scrooge shows us that there is hope.  That even the most horrible of persons can change.  When any of us starts feeling bad about ourselves...that we have done something wrong or we may not have been as kind as we could have... we should remember Scrooge and take comfort in the fact that if it's possible for Scrooge, one of the most despicable characters ever written, to become a good person than it is, in fact, possible for us.

A few of my favorite Scrooges from film and television:


Scrooge (1970)--Albert Finney


A Christmas Carol (1951)--Alastair Sim


A Christmas Carol (1999)-- Patrick Stewart


Of course, these are not the only Scrooges over the years, but these are my favorites!


(This post was originally published at The True Book Addict)

Always in spirit....

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Christmas in July--Weekend Lit


It's time for another edition of Weekend Lit! I hope you've been enjoying your weekend.  Today I have for you a story from Christmas Tales and Christmas Verse by Eugene Field. Illustrations by Florence Storer


The Symbol and the Saint


Once upon a time a young man made ready for a voyage. His name was Norss; broad were his shoulders, his cheeks were ruddy, his hair was fair and long, his body betokened strength, and good-nature shone from his blue eyes and lurked about the corners of his mouth. 

 "Where are you going?" asked his neighbor Jans, the forge-master. 

 "I am going sailing for a wife," said Norss. 

 "For a wife, indeed!" cried Jans. "And why go you to seek her in foreign lands? Are not our maidens good enough and fair enough, that you must need search for a wife elsewhere? For shame, Norss! for shame!" 

 But Norss said: "A spirit came to me in my dreams last night and said, 'Launch the boat and set sail to-morrow. Have no fear; for I will guide you to the bride that awaits you.' Then, standing there, all white and beautiful, the spirit held forth a symbol--such as I had never before seen--in the figure of a cross, and the spirit said: 'By this symbol shall she be known to you.'" 

 "If this be so, you must need go," said Jans. "But are you well victualled? Come to my cabin, and let me give you venison and bear's meat." 

 Norss shook his head. "The spirit will provide," said he. "I have no fear, and I shall take no care, trusting in the spirit." 

 So Norss pushed his boat down the beach into the sea, and leaped into the boat, and unfurled the sail to the wind. Jans stood wondering on the beach, and watched the boat speed out of sight. 

 On, on, many days on sailed Norss--so many leagues that he thought he must have compassed the earth. In all this time he knew no hunger nor thirst; it was as the spirit had told him in his dream--no cares nor dangers beset him. By day the dolphins and the other creatures of the sea gambolled about his boat; by night a beauteous Star seemed to direct his course; and when he slept and dreamed, he saw ever the spirit clad in white, and holding forth to him the symbol in the similitude of a cross. 

 At last he came to a strange country--a country so very different from his own that he could scarcely trust his senses. Instead of the rugged mountains of the North, he saw a gentle landscape of velvety green; the trees were not pines and firs, but cypresses, cedars, and palms; instead of the cold, crisp air of his native land, he scented the perfumed zephyrs of the Orient; and the wind that filled the sail of his boat and smote his tanned cheeks was heavy and hot with the odor of cinnamon and spices. The waters were calm and blue--very different from the white and angry waves of Norss's native fiord. 

 As if guided by an unseen hand, the boat pointed straight for the beach of this strangely beautiful land; and ere its prow cleaved the shallower waters, Norss saw a maiden standing on the shore, shading her eyes with her right hand, and gazing intently at him. She was the most beautiful maiden he had ever looked upon. As Norss was fair, so was this maiden dark; her black hair fell loosely about her shoulders in charming contrast with the white raiment in which her slender, graceful form was clad. Around her neck she wore a golden chain, and therefrom was suspended a small symbol, which Norss did not immediately recognize. 



 "Hast thou come sailing out of the North into the East?" asked the maiden. 

 "Yes," said Norss. 

 "And thou art Norss?" she asked. 

 "I am Norss; and I come seeking my bride," he answered. 

 "I am she," said the maiden. "My name is Faia. An angel came to me in my dreams last night, and the angel said: 'Stand upon the beach to-day, and Norss shall come out of the North to bear thee home a bride.' So, coming here, I found thee sailing to our shore." 

 Remembering then the spirit's words, Norss said: "What symbol have you, Faia, that I may know how truly you have spoken?" 

 "No symbol have I but this," said Faia, holding out the symbol that was attached to the golden chain about her neck. Norss looked upon it, and lo! it was the symbol of his dreams,--a tiny wooden cross. 

Then Norss clasped Faia in his arms and kissed her, and entering into the boat they sailed away into the North. In all their voyage neither care nor danger beset them; for as it had been told to them in their dreams, so it came to pass. By day the dolphins and the other creatures of the sea gambolled about them; by night the winds and the waves sang them to sleep; and, strangely enough, the Star which before had led Norss into the East, now shone bright and beautiful in the Northern sky! 

 When Norss and his bride reached their home, Jans, the forge-master, and the other neighbors made great joy, and all said that Faia was more beautiful than any other maiden in the land. So merry was Jans that he built a huge fire in his forge, and the flames thereof filled the whole Northern sky with rays of light that danced up, up, up to the Star, singing glad songs the while. So Norss and Faia were wed, and they went to live in the cabin in the fir grove. 

 To these two was born in good time a son, whom they named Claus. On the night that he was born wondrous things came to pass. To the cabin in the fir grove came all the quaint, weird spirits,--the fairies, the elves, the trolls, the pixies, the fadas, the crions, the goblins, the kobolds, the moss-people, the gnomes, the dwarfs, the water-sprites, the courils, the bogles, the brownies, the nixies, the trows, the stille-volk,--all came to the cabin in the fir grove, and capered about and sang the strange, beautiful songs of the Mist-Land. And the flames of old Jans's forge leaped up higher than ever into the Northern sky, carrying the joyous tidings to the Star, and full of music was that happy night. 

 Even in infancy Claus did marvellous things. With his baby hands he wrought into pretty figures the willows that were given him to play with. As he grew older, he fashioned, with the knife old Jans had made for him, many curious toys,--carts, horses, dogs, lambs, houses, trees, cats, and birds, all of wood and very like to nature. His mother taught him how to make dolls too,--dolls of every kind, condition, temper, and color; proud dolls, homely dolls, boy dolls, lady dolls, wax dolls, rubber dolls, paper dolls, worsted dolls, rag dolls,--dolls of every description and without end. So Claus became at once quite as popular with the little girls as with the little boys of his native village; for he was so generous that he gave away all these pretty things as fast as he made them. 

 Claus seemed to know by instinct every language. As he grew older he would ramble off into the woods and talk with the trees, the rocks, and the beasts of the greenwood; or he would sit on the cliffs overlooking the fiord, and listen to the stories that the waves of the sea loved to tell him; then, too, he knew the haunts of the elves and the stille-volk, and many a pretty tale he learned from these little people. When night came, old Jans told him the quaint legends of the North, and his mother sang to him the lullabies she had heard when a little child herself in the far-distant East. And every night his mother held out to him the symbol in the similitude of the cross, and bade him kiss it ere he went to sleep. 

 So Claus grew to manhood, increasing each day in knowledge and in wisdom. His works increased too; and his liberality dispensed everywhere the beauteous things which his fancy conceived and his skill executed. Jans, being now a very old man, and having no son of his own, gave to Claus his forge and workshop, and taught him those secret arts which he in youth had learned from cunning masters. Right joyous now was Claus; and many, many times the Northern sky glowed with the flames that danced singing from the forge while Claus moulded his pretty toys. Every color of the rainbow were these flames; for they reflected the bright colors of the beauteous things strewn round that wonderful workshop. Just as of old he had dispensed to all children alike the homelier toys of his youth, so now he gave to all children alike these more beautiful and more curious gifts. So little children everywhere loved Claus, because he gave them pretty toys, and their parents loved him because he made their little ones so happy.



 But now Norss and Faia were come to old age. After long years of love and happiness, they knew that death could not be far distant. And one day Faia said to Norss: "Neither you nor I, dear love, fear death; but if we could choose, would we not choose to live always in this our son Claus, who has been so sweet a joy to us?" 

 "Ay, ay," said Norss; "but how is that possible?" 

 "We shall see," said Faia. 

 That night Norss dreamed that a spirit came to him, and that the spirit said to him: "Norss, thou shalt surely live forever in thy son Claus, if thou wilt but acknowledge the symbol." 

 Then when the morning was come Norss told his dream to Faia, his wife; and Faia said: 

 "The same dream had I,--an angel appearing to me and speaking these very words." 

 "But what of the symbol?" cried Norss. 

 "I have it here, about my neck," said Faia. 

 So saying, Faia drew from her bosom the symbol of wood,--a tiny cross suspended about her neck by the golden chain. And as she stood there holding the symbol out to Norss, he--he thought of the time when first he saw her on the far-distant Orient shore, standing beneath the Star in all her maidenly glory, shading her beauteous eyes with one hand, and with the other clasping the cross,--the holy talisman of her faith. 

 "Faia, Faia!" cried Norss, "it is the same,--the same you wore when I fetched you a bride from the East!" 

 "It is the same," said Faia, "yet see how my kisses and my prayers have worn it away; for many, many times in these years, dear Norss, have I pressed it to my lips and breathed your name upon it. See now--see what a beauteous light its shadow makes upon your aged face!" 

 The sunbeams, indeed, streaming through the window at that moment, cast the shadow of the symbol on old Norss's brow. Norss felt a glorious warmth suffuse him, his heart leaped with joy, and he stretched out his arms and fell about Faia's neck, and kissed the symbol and acknowledged it. Then likewise did Faia; and suddenly the place was filled with a wondrous brightness and with strange music, and never thereafter were Norss and Faia beholden of men. 

 Until late that night Claus toiled at his forge; for it was a busy season with him, and he had many, many curious and beauteous things to make for the little children in the country round about. The colored flames leaped singing from his forge, so that the Northern sky seemed to be lighted by a thousand rainbows; but above all this voiceful glory beamed the Star, bright, beautiful, serene. 

 Coming late to the cabin in the fir grove, Claus wondered that no sign of his father or of his mother was to be seen. "Father--mother!" he cried, but he received no answer. Just then the Star cast its golden gleam through the latticed window, and this strange, holy light fell and rested upon the symbol of the cross that lay upon the floor. Seeing it, Claus stooped and picked it up, and kissing it reverently, he cried: "Dear talisman, be thou my inspiration evermore; and wheresoever thy blessed influence is felt, there also let my works be known henceforth forever!" 

 No sooner had he said these words than Claus felt the gift of immortality bestowed upon him; and in that moment, too, there came to him a knowledge that his parents' prayer had been answered, and that Norss and Faia would live in him through all time. 

 And lo! to that place and in that hour came all the people of Mist-Land and of Dream-Land to declare allegiance to him: yes, the elves, the fairies, the pixies,--all came to Claus, prepared to do his bidding. Joyously they capered about him, and merrily they sang. 

 "Now haste ye all," cried Claus,--"haste ye all to your homes and bring to my workshop the best ye have. Search, little hill-people, deep in the bowels of the earth for finest gold and choicest jewels; fetch me, O mermaids, from the bottom of the sea the treasures hidden there,--the shells of rainbow tints, the smooth, bright pebbles, and the strange ocean flowers; go, pixies, and other water-sprites, to your secret lakes, and bring me pearls! Speed! speed you all! for many pretty things have we to make for the little ones of earth we love!" 



 But to the kobolds and the brownies Claus said: "Fly to every house on earth where the cross is known; loiter unseen in the corners, and watch and hear the children through the day. Keep a strict account of good and bad, and every night bring back to me the names of good and bad that I may know them." 

 The kobolds and the brownies laughed gleefully, and sped away on noiseless wings; and so, too, did the other fairies and elves. 

 There came also to Claus the beasts of the forest and the birds of the air, and bade him be their master. And up danced the Four Winds, and they said: "May we not serve you, too?" 

 The Snow King came stealing along in his feathery chariot. "Oho!" he cried, "I shall speed over all the world and tell them you are coming. In town and country, on the mountain-tops and in the valleys,--wheresoever the cross is raised,--there will I herald your approach, and thither will I strew you a pathway of feathery white. Oho! oho!" So, singing softly, the Snow King stole upon his way. 

 But of all the beasts that begged to do him service, Claus liked the reindeer best. "You shall go with me in my travels; for henceforth I shall bear my treasures not only to the children of the North, but to the children in every land whither the Star points me and where the cross is lifted up!" So said Claus to the reindeer, and the reindeer neighed joyously and stamped their hoofs impatiently, as though they longed to start immediately. 

 Oh, many, many times has Claus whirled away from his far Northern home in his sledge drawn by the reindeer, and thousands upon thousands of beautiful gifts--all of his own making--has he borne to the children of every land; for he loves them all alike, and they all alike love him, I trow. So truly do they love him that they call him Santa Claus, and I am sure that he must be a saint; for he has lived these many hundred years, and we, who know that he was born of Faith and Love, believe that he will live forever.  (from Project Gutenberg)




Always in spirit....

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Christmas in July--Weekend Crafting


Welcome to another edition of Weekend Crafting! Today I'm sharing another craft project from The Christmas Book by Ortho Books...Sheet Music Ornaments. (please excuse the poor quality of the images again...had to take pictures with my phone from the book)

Just a reminder:  Christmas movies are playing on the Hallmark Channel all weekend.  Click HERE to visit my post with the schedule.  There is also an update on the dates for the QVC Christmas in July special.



Sheet Music Ornaments


In the book, the author states that this craft was inspired by this Christmas tree display...


Keep in mind that you can make variations by selecting alternatives to the materials shown here.  Edge trim and ribbon ties can be in any color or any material, such as wrapping paper or fabric.  All kinds of fresh or artificial foliage can be used to decorate the scrolled sheet music.  Or, attach differently shaped ornaments (consider miniature musical instruments)  Pg. 72




1. Sheet music can be purchased or taken from songbooks you have on hand.  You also need black construction paper (or opaque, colored adhesive tape), a straightedge, a craft knife, glue, assorted ribbon, foliage, and hat pins.




2. The sheet music looks attractive when given a finished edge.  From the black construction paper, cut strips to the desired size (approximately 1/4 to 3/4 inch in width, and long enough to reach at least two thirds of the way across the top and bottom of the sheet).  To ensure clean edges, cut paper with a straightedge and craft knife, rather than with scissors.




3. Glue lengths of black paper trim to the top and  bottom edges of the sheet.  Allow glue to dry thoroughly.  If you prefer, use colored or patterned adhesive tape.  This eliminates the need to cut and paste strips of paper.




4. Roll sheet into a scroll, beginning at an edge not covered by the black border.




5. Using a square knot, firmly tie a length of ribbon into a bow to keep the cylinder rolled up.




6. Using ribbon in a contrasting color, attach foliage, a bell-shaped ornament, or other decorations of your choice.  Secure wherever necessary with a hat pin pushed through the sheet or with a straight pin with a colored head.




7. Trim the ends of the ribbon into a notched or other decorative pattern.




8. To suspend the ornaments rather than resting them on branches, add a hook.


Enjoy!


Always in spirit....


Friday, July 13, 2012

Christmas in July--Friday Baking and Movies


Yup...Fridays are for baking and movies! Now I'm not necessarily saying you have to bake and watch movies only on Friday.  I'm not the Christmas activity police. ;O)  Fridays will just be where I share a great recipe for Christmas baking and also tell you about a Christmas movie/movies I like.  Then you'll have the entire weekend to bake and watch movies! On this particular Friday, I have a special treat for you.  Gina from Hott Books is sharing with us a Fruitcake recipe from none other than Debbie Macomber herself.  So to tie in with that, I'm going to share some of Debbie Macomber movies that I've enjoyed and they just happen to be on cable TV this weekend (or I'm sure you can rent them or maybe stream on Netflix).

Here goes...let's welcome Gina to the blog today!

For as long as I can remember the first thing I think of when someone mentions Christmas is... Fruitcake. Yes, I know, you just cringed, didn't you?

Well, you cringed because in your minds eye all you can think about is that dense cake that keeps for years, gets passed around the family as a gag gift, and has what is supposed to be fruit in but looks like a neon art gallery instead.

I thought the exact same thing... until I read Debbie Macomber's There's Something About Christmas and now, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way.

If you read her book, you'll be intrigued - like I was - with the way the three women identified with their own versions of fruitcake and you will need to try them out, as well.

I've made all three, but I'm going to share my absolute favorite with you... Sorry, I don't have any pictures but this cake just doesn't last long enough to get them. (Oh, and trust me... waiting a month makes it even more AWESOME!!)

DEBBIE MACOMBER'S MASTERPIECE FRUITCAKE RECIPE



  • 2 cups sugar




  • 1 cup butter




  • 2 eggs




  • 2½ cups applesauce




  • 4 cups flour




  • 1 tsp. salt




  • 1 Tbsp. soda powder




  • 1 tsp. baking powder



  • 1 tsp. cloves




  • 1 tsp. nutmeg




  • 2 tsps. cinnamon




  • 2 pounds candied fruit mix




  • 1 ½ cup chopped dates




  • 2 cups raisins




  • 2 cups walnuts, chopped




  • Brandy, optional




  • Cream sugar and butter. Add beaten eggs and applesauce. Mix flour, salt, soda, baking power and spices together and gradually add to other mixture . Mix well. Blend in candied fruit, dates, raisins and nuts. Mixture will be stiff. Bake in 325° oven in two loaf pans for one hour.

    Cool and remove fruitcake from pans. Wrap the cooled fruitcake in cheesecloth that has been soaked in brandy. Wrap in aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator for up to three months. Dribble additional brandy over the stored fruitcake periodically, if desired.

    Thanks!!

    Gina @ HottBooks

    ***********

    Now for the movies! Debbie Macomber's books Mrs. Miracle and Call Me Mrs. Miracle were both made into films by the Hallmark Channel.  They are such wonderful, heartwarming movies, starring the incomparable Doris Roberts.

    Debbie Macomber's Mrs. Miracle
    Losing a spouse is always hard, and for Seth Webster (James Van Der Beek), playing single dad to two rambunctious six-year-olds doesn’t make it any easier. With the holidays approaching, finding a housekeeper has proven to be near-impossible, until Mrs. Emily Merkle (Doris Roberts) shows up at the Websters’ door, ready to turn their lives around. No sooner has “Mrs. Miracle,” as Seth’s boys call her, straightened up the house, than Seth meets Reba Maxwell (Erin Karpluk), best friend to the Webster kids’ first-grade teacher. After just one date, Seth and Reba find they have a lot in common. Since the death of his music-loving wife, Seth has been unable to play a single chord on the piano, and, in the name of her career, Reba, once an avid actress, has avoided the theater. With a Christmas pageant to prepare for and a fresh romance on the horizon, Mrs. Miracle definitely has her work cut out for her and proves to be more than just a normal nanny.

    Airs this weekend on the Hallmark Channel
    Saturday, 6am ET/5am CT
    Sunday, 12am ET/ 11pm (Sat) CT


    No one celebrates the holidays like Emily Merkle (Doris Roberts) – or Mrs. Miracle as she is known by some – who is back to ensure that this Christmas is the most magical and meaningful of all. When Mrs. Miracle appears as a seasonal employee in the toy department at the financially troubled Finley’s Department Store, neither the store’s owners, nor the customers, have any idea of the events that are about to unfold. Just when it seemed Christmas might not come at all this year, Finley’s favorite employee proves they don’t call her Mrs. Miracle for nothing! Also starring Jewel Staite, Eric Johnson and Lauren Holly. 

    Airs this weekend on the Hallmark Channel
    Saturday, 8am ET/7am CT
    Sunday, 2am ET/ 1am CT

    You may want to set those DVRs (VCRs for those who still have them), as these times are pretty early/late.  Hallmark Channel is running a whole weekend of some of their best Christmas movies.  You can get the full schedule at my post HERE.

    I hope you enjoyed Friday Baking and Movies.  Be sure to join me next week!

    Always in spirit....

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