Friday, December 27, 2013

Sharing the Joy: Friday Baking and Movies


We made so much food for our dinner Christmas Eve and to take to my grandparents on Christmas that we didn't get around to making these delicious pies. Mom and I are going to make them tonight. Yum!

Five Layer Pecan Pie

Ingredients
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping
    campaignIcon
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    campaignIcon
  • 3 eggs
  • unsweetened cocoa powder, optional

Read more at http://www.recipelion.com/Pies/Five-Layer-Pecan-Pie#zsKZduqFcDo2jQgM.99
Ingredients
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping
    campaignIcon
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    campaignIcon
  • 3 eggs
  • unsweetened cocoa powder, optional

Read more at http://www.recipelion.com/Pies/Five-Layer-Pecan-Pie#zsKZduqFcDo2jQgM.99
Ingredients
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
1 cuppecan halves
6 ouncessemisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cupcaramel ice cream topping
8 ouncescream cheese, softened
8 ouncessour cream
1/2 cupsugar
1 teaspoonvanilla
3 eggs
unsweetened cocoa powder, optional

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Sprinkle pecans evenly in unbaked pastry shell.

3. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of pecan layer.

4. Drizzle caramel topping on top of chocolate chips. Set aside.

5. In a medium mixing bowl combine cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.

6. Add eggs, beating on low speed just until combined. Pour over caramel topping in crust.

7. Bake about 45 minutes or until center appears set.

8. Cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Sift cocoa powder over pie, if desired.

--from RecipeLion

I finally watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Christmas in Conway last night. It was a wonderful movie, but also quite a tear jerker. Be sure to have plenty of tissues on hand when you watch this one. The DVD is available for purchase.


Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! Keep stopping by because I'll have posts up periodically through Twelfth Night/Epiphany on January 6.

Always in spirit....


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!


Wishing you all a happy and safe Christmas! Hold your loved ones close. *hugs*

Always in spirit....

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sharing the Joy: Weekend Lit - Barbara Briggs Ward's The Snowman Maker


More than Pine Boards Smelling of Lacquer
by Barbara Briggs Ward
Santa Claus knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 7 years old

The dining room in my grandparents’ farmhouse was on a slant-turning the room’s wood floor into a perfect slide when in sock feet and seven years old and told to stay out of the kitchen because my grandfather was making Christmas presents. I could hear his saw. I could see the sawdust come flying from underneath a door which had been in place forever in that old home-situated beside tall poplars lining the cinder driveway. Speckles of the stuff would get in my eyes but it didn’t matter. Christmas was coming and when you’re 7-anything can happen. And that year, it did.

We’d visit the farmhouse on week-ends and every week-end that year leading up to Christmas was full of extreme anticipation. What was my grandfather making? Even at a young age, I noticed his hands. They told his story-strong yet gentle; worn yet kind. He farmed surrounding fields yielding hay and oats. Relaxing to him was reading a Saturday Evening Post or Zane Grey novel. Grampie loved to read.

This particular Christmas he’d taken over the role of Santa Claus, spending whatever time he could creating in that large kitchen. After dinner was over and the dishes were put away, the dining room became a playroom for my cousins and me. Although we played very hard, our ears and eyes were geared to the commotion on the other side of that closed door with its marble handle.

I knew it was something made out of wood. Besides the saw, we heard the hammer. We smelled a heavy lacquer. I remember thinking there was nothing on my Christmas list that was made out of wood. The only thing I wanted was a little doll with small blonde braids all over her head. Maybe it was a doll bed! I convinced myself it was a doll bed. By the time I was finished it was doll bunk beds complete with little quilts made by my grandmother. If I was really lucky there’d be doll clothes too. I knew where I’d put the beds; to the right as you go down the few stairs leading into my bedroom. I didn’t tell my two cousins that I’d figured it out. One was a boy.

He probably wouldn’t care.

My mother always made oyster broth on Christmas Eve. She’d set the dining room table with linens and china, tall-stemmed, etched crystal glasses and a silver soup ladle. My grandparents would join us. I wasn’t surprised there were whisperings amongst the adults that year. I was on high alert, aware of fresh boot tracks leading from Grampie’s old pick-up into our side porch off the kitchen. We didn’t use that entrance much during the winter. But I guess when you’re Santa and your sleigh is a truck, you can bring doll bunk beds in any way you please. Besides, we didn’t have a fireplace.

To say the wait from Christmas Eve to Christmas morning was the longest wait ever in anticipation of the doll of my dreams does not suffice. It was sheer agony. I’d been so wrapped up in thoughts of this doll and her bunk beds that I hadn’t thought what else might be under that tinseled tree. That’s when I fell asleep.

I heard my brother race down the front stairway. I smelled cinnamon coming through the register near where the bunk beds would soon sit. The morning had dawned despite my doubting it would ever arrive. The moment had come. It was time to go down the stairs to see what had gone on behind that closed door.

I heard my mother telling my brother he had to wait for me. I heard my father walk in from the kitchen. And then it was quiet, except for the wind moving the snow into little heaps and the stairs creaking as I reached the bottom step. I stopped for a second. I knew when I turned my head it might be sitting there, waiting for me. Probably wrapped with a big, red bow I thought.

The smell of that lacquer convinced me of my suspicions. Slowly I peered through the archway. The tree was lit. The stockings were overflowing. Standing in a single line were three smiling faces. They didn’t say a word. They didn’t have to. I knew they were keeping the bunk beds from my view. Into Christmas morning I rushed. My brother was the first to move aside, and that was when my eyes became set on what has remained my most favorite Christmas present ever. There were no bunk beds. Not even a doll bed. It was a desk; a simple pine desk with a single drawer and a stool with a carved design.

Something happened to me at that moment. None of the other gifts mattered, not even the ones from Santa wrapped in red or green tissue paper and held together by stickers that never stuck. Slowly approaching my desk, I danced my fingers along the lacquered boards. Visions of my grandfather in that farmhouse kitchen measuring and sawing filled me with an appreciation of this labor of love. Pulling the stool back I sat down. Opening the single drawer, I found a pad of white, lined paper and one yellow, #2 pencil-sharpened. How did he know I wondered? How did my grandfather know that at the young age of 7 I knew I wanted to be a writer; that I spent hours cutting and folding paper into little books? How did he know that the smell of crayons and pencils and pages of words put together stirred my imagination?

I did get that baby doll with blonde braids all over her head that year-and the pine desk became the focal point in my bedroom, sitting to the right as you go down the little stairs. We became the best of friends.

My grandfather is gone now. So is that farmhouse with the slanted dining room. Over the years I’ve come to realize how that Santa with his old pick-up delivered more than just pine boards smelling of lacquer that year. It seems Santa knew what I really wanted, despite dreams of doll bunk beds with little quilts.

Barbara Briggs Ward grew up in the country surrounded by relatives and a backdrop made for inspiring a young imagination. Barbara and her cousins were constantly playing in their chicken coop clubhouse filled with the remains of an abandoned one-room schoolhouse. It was in that clubhouse where Barbara read her favorite authors including Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder - and began writing her own little stories. When her grandfather made her "most favorite Christmas present ever" - a simple pine desk with a single drawer which held a pad of lined paper and a #2 pencil - Barbara knew she wanted to be a writer.

Barbara began writing for children, having been published in Highlights for Children and www.storiesforchildrenmagazine.org. She is the author/illustrator of the Snarly Sally picture book series.

Barbara's writing took a turn in October, 2010 when she published, "The Reindeer Keeper", a heartwarming story of Family & Christmas chosen by both Yahoo's Christmas Book Club Group and Yonker's Riverfront Library Book Club as their 2012 December Book of the month.

Barbara's story, "In Anticipation of Doll Beds" was published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book, "Christmas Magic" October, 2010. In March, 2012 her short story, "A Brown Boy of Our Own" was included in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book, "Family Caregivers."

In October, 2012, Barbara released her first work of Amish fiction, "A Robin's Snow" on Kindle. The book was recommended reading by Amazon September, 2013. Barbara's second work of Christmas fiction, "The Snowman Maker," was released October, 2013.
Visit Barbara at her WEBSITE.

My thoughts on The Snowman Maker
Once again, Barbara has written a poignant and heartwarming tale. As she did with The Reindeer Keeper, she has illustrated the importance of families, especially at Christmas.

In The Snowman Maker, we learn about a family who is affected by a history of adoption. The story shows us how an orphanage can be like another family and that the relationships fostered there can be lasting. It shows us the importance of finding out where we come from and that it's never too late to forgive and make a new beginning. All of this mixed in at Christmas time brings even more magic to the season.

I love stories set at Christmas, especially ones about family and traditions. Barbara is a master at telling these stories and I eagerly await her next Christmas book.

Read my review of The Reindeer Keeper.

About the book
Over the years Ben and Ellie never had a problem communicating. So when Ben seems distant, Ellie's confused. Her instinct tells her it has something to do with the contents of an old cardboard box his father insisted Ben take before he passed away. With the children grown, Ben's evasiveness adds to Ellie wishing the holidays were over.

But it's Christmas-the season of hope and love rekindled-especially when going back to a wondrous place on a winter's night in the old sleigh decorated in pine boughs and silver bells-the very sleigh that carried a little boy and that cardboard box on a Christmas Eve journey so long ago.


Always in spirit....

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sharing the Joy: The Best Book-to-Film Classics by Kate Voss

 

Film adaptations of books are always a touchy subject with book lovers. Everyone has their own interpretation of what characters, places, and things should look and sound like so when Hollywood decides to make them into movies, in a different way than you imagined, it’s easy to get disappointed. Then there is the plot, or rather a deviation from it. Hollywood is notorious for tinkering with the plots of books in order to make them “better suited” for film, usually involving a romantic twist, or a happy ending. However, there are some moments when Hollywood does a great job of adapting a book for film thanks to big budgets and incredible special effects.

Let’s take a look at a few Christmas books Hollywood did get right.


A Christmas Carol (2009)
The classic Charles Dickens tale has been adapted to film more times than anyone would care to count, but never like this before. The $170-200 million budget for this film made it one of the most expensive animated films ever. Thanks to this extraordinary budget, the CGI animation breathes new life into the nearly beaten-to-death story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts that visit him. Despite the fact that the film is animated, it’s more than entertaining for adults who can enjoy it with their children during the holidays.


The Polar Express
The best-selling book about a magical train to the North Pole by Chris Van Allsburg has been a perennial favorite for children since its release in 1985. When it was made into a film in 2004, no expense was spared to make it an IMAX 3D visual extravaganza. The Polar Express was also the first ever film to use all-digital captures of digitally recorded acting, then to be replaced by computer generated images. The result of the nearly two-and-a-half year production is truly a sight to be seen.


How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Dr. Seuss films seem commonplace now, but this was the film that started it all. It seems that movie studios were a bit afraid of tackling such a well-known and beloved author’s stories in a live action format instead of an animated one. Luckily they took a chance with the Grinch, and the results were amazing. Jim Carrey was transformed into the grouchy green anti-hero thanks to daily 3-hour makeup sessions while filming. While this video isn’t of Jim, it will give you an idea what the lengthy process looked like. His portrayal of the Grinch was over the top, wild, and pitch-perfect. The humor of the film and incredible set design, makeup, and costumes make this a favorite for adults and children alike. Its dark humor and overall message makes the perfect film to play for the kids on your tablet or laptop during the trip to Grandma’s if you have DirecTV on demand or Netflix.


A Christmas Story
Many people don’t know that the now classic A Christmas Story, which follows little Ralphie’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun, is actually based on short stories that appear in the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. Thanks to 24-hour marathons on TNT and TBS almost everyone in America now knows the Parker family and all of their eccentric hijinks. The film had a relatively fine run in theaters, but it’s a film that reached iconic status in the years following its theatrical run due to the aforementioned TV marathons. Almost anyone now knows never to lick a frozen pole, that you can in fact shoot your eye out with a BB gun, and that “fragile” has nothing to do with Italy.

Visit Kate on Twitter @Kateevoss


Always in spirit....

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sharing the Joy: 12 Pearls of Christmas | Perfectionism | Steven Estes

12pearlsofxmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


***

Perfectionism
by Steven Estes

(Excerpt from A Better December***) 
When my wife was little, her family was Amish. Barn raisings, buggies, high-stepping horses, shoofly pies—the whole postcard. Later, they left that life and became mainstream farmers. The suspenders and bonnets were gone, but they remained hard-working, no-nonsense, sweep-the-porch folks. As good-natured a family as homemade jam and bread.

I grew up taking in the city. Mom and I would hop the streetcar into downtown Baltimore. Lights, crowds, noise, action—the busier, the better. Birthdays were a big thing, Christmas, bigger yet. Whoop it up. Break some eggs, make an omelet.

My wife and I met in college. I first saw Verna from across the cafeteria. Popular as a lemonade stand in summer. Prettier than an evening meadow blinking with fireflies. I was hooked. Proposed on the beach. We walked the aisle, started life together.

Verna kept everything worthwhile from her childhood and folded the rest into a drawer. Worked circles around any woman you’d know. Line dried the wash, taught the kids, pinched the pennies. Joined me in whatever hoopla I wanted, but—in her mother’s meat-and-potatoes tradition—NEVER got exotic in the kitchen . . .

. . . until one December.

Wishing to please—wanting some memories for the kids—she found a recipe book. Brimming with color photos. Promises of the perfect Christmas. The kind, no doubt, her husband recalled from urban days of yore.

Sugar plums in her head, practical impulses stuffed away in an apron pocket, she purchased the ingredients to yuletide bliss. A concoction to bless the family forever.

The evening has arrived. The fortunate are assembled about the table. There is to be a holiday surprise:

“Festive Yule Log.”

Candles aglow, faces upturned. The platter of glory is borne to the table. Mother seated. Nod given.

Trembling forks sink into the first sampling mouthful. Eyes closed for concentration. The pregnant pause. . . . A searching for words. The furtive glances. The first stifled chortle. Then,

Oh, the hooting and howling.

The slappings on the table.

The witticisms.

The criticisms.

Centered on the table, the Yule Log sulks—rolled in a fine gravel posing as crushed nuts. A taste akin to cream cheese blended with toothpaste—perhaps Crest, no, Colgate. As if sautéed in soy sauce, glued into shape by an application of Crisco. The look of a food item suspected of disease, held in quarantine at Customs.

Verna smiles weakly. Rises. Whisks the mistake into exile. All the while carols from the record player begin straying off-key . . . and Misters Currier & Ives are ushered to the backyard, blindfolded, and shot.

Solomon foresaw that many designs for Christmas Eve would go awry. Why else would he write:

“Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know
what a day may bring forth”?

Proverbs 27:1

Or . . .

“You can make many plans,
but the Lord’s purpose
will prevail”?

Proverbs 19:21 NLT

God has bigger plans for you than the perfect dinner. That’s why he lets things go wrong. He’s saving your appetite for the perfect eternity. He notices you smitten with this short life, feeling it slip through your fingers, trying to shake a snow-globe Christmas out of every December.

The true holiday magic is reserved for heaven. Every delight down here is a mere taste and teaser.

Knowing that, doesn’t it ease the pressure just a bit as you flip through recipes on the 24th—biting your lip . . . pondering a go at that Festive Yule Log?

(By the way, Verna recovered nicely.)

12pearls-estes
**This excerpt is reproduced from A Better December Copyright © 2013 by Steven Estes. Used by permission of New Growth Press and may not be downloaded, reproduced, and/or distributed without prior written permission of New Growth Press.
***


Steven Estes is a pastor who has known “better Decembers with my family than either Currier or Ives,” but also understands a gray Christmas. A Better December draws on Estes’ twenty-three years of counseling church members through the holiday season as well his other writings on the topic of human suffering. He teaches a preaching class at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) where he completed his M.Div and Th.M. degrees. Estes is a conference speaker and on the board of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). Estes is the author of Called to Die (the story of slain missionary Chet Bitterman), and co- author (with friend Joni Eareckson Tada) of When God Weeps and A Step Further. He and his wife, Verna, have eight children. Learn more about Estes and his books at www.steveestes.net.

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Always in spirit....

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sharing the Joy: 12 Pearls of Christmas | My Gift to Him | Cara Putman

12pearlsofxmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

 Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


***

My Gift to Him
by: Cara Putman

As Christmas nears, I’m staggering under a year that’s been too full. A fall that’s been too busy. A season of good, but overwhelming days.

Does anyone else feel the same?

There’s nothing bad—life is just full. Too full.

And I feel emptied. So empty.

It would be easy to enter this season with a sense of exhaustion, feeling like I just want to get through and on to January.

Instead, I want to offer my life again. May my gift be my life. My dreams. My talents. My all. May I be available to Him to transform from the inside out. I want my life to be lived for His glory.

Yet I fail. And on the days that I am most tired and overwhelmed I seem to fail more. It is then that I take comfort in the reality that He is the King born in a manager. A King who gave up heaven in order to save me. You. All of us. He has good plans for my life. Plans that exceed my wildest dreams. Plans fit for the daughter of the Most High.

He has plans like that for you, too. Plans that may be different from your plans, but plans that are wonderful and good.

So in this season of busyness, a season when it is easy to focus on things, duties, parties, family and friends, will you join me? I’m offering myself as a gift to Him. Will you?

12pearls-putman
***


Cara Putman is the award-winning author of sixteen novels. You can learn more about her and her books at www.caraputman.com. You can read the first chapters of all her books there including her new novel, Shadowed by Grace, which releases on January 1st just in time for Christmas gift cards. You can connect with Cara on: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads


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Always in spirit....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sharing the Joy: 12 Pearls of Christmas | The Nativity | Lynn Austin

12pearlsofxmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


***

The Nativity
by Lynn Austin

The first time I visited Bethlehem more than twenty-five years ago, I expected to feel a sense of the beauty and simplicity of the much-loved Christmas story: a crude stable, the holy family, shepherds, wise men, and the Son of God in the manger. I was sadly disappointed. The traditional site of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is inside the Church of the Nativity—a truly ancient church built in 565 AD. It has survived enemy invasions, the Crusaders, restorations, renovations, a fire, and an earthquake, but it looks like . . . well, a church. A beautifully decorated and ornamented church, with all the sacred clutter that has accumulated throughout the centuries, but it bore no resemblance to my image of what Jesus’ birthplace was like.

But wait—the real site was down a set of stairs and inside a natural cave that has been venerated as the place of His birth since 160 AD. But even this simple cave was so gilded and bedecked with artwork and tapestries and lamps and incense burners that I still couldn’t get a sense of what it might have looked like on that first holy night. In the center of the floor was a silver-encrusted star with a hole in the middle. By putting my hand inside, I could touch the place where Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago. I tried it, but I left Bethlehem feeling empty, unable to make the sacred connection I had so longed for.

And isn’t that how so many of our Christmases end up feeling? In spite of all the tinsel and glitter and sparkle, all the money we spend and the stress we endure as we try to create the perfect Hallmark Christmas, we’re often left with the same let-down feeling I had inside that church in Bethlehem. We’ve lost the simple beauty of the story, that precious connection with God that is the true miracle of Bethlehem.

The year after visiting Bethlehem, I began looking for ways to recapture the simplicity of Christ’s incarnation. Santa Claus has never been invited to our family Christmases, and we’ve always celebrated it as Jesus’ birthday, exchanging presents because God gave us the gift of His Son. But year after year, the clutter and glitz had draped themselves over our celebrations, just like the religious trappings that have collected inside the Church of the Nativity over the centuries. That year, I purchased a nice but inexpensive manger set. I wanted something that wasn’t a toy but that my children could handle and touch. We placed it at their level and at the center of our holiday and began the simple tradition of gathering together as a family to fill the empty stable while my husband read the story from the Bible. Our children divided all the people and sheep and camels among themselves, and when we got to their part in the Bible story, they added their figures to the stable.

This simple tradition has become so beloved by all of us that we still do it the same way every year, even though our children are now adults. Our two married children couldn’t wait to share the tradition with their spouses, generously dividing their sheep and wise men among the newest members of our family. One year, our daughter was living overseas and couldn’t make it home for the holiday, but we still held our family tradition while she participated via Skype and a web camera.

And it’s always in those moments, with the simple stable and inexpensive plaster figures and my precious loved ones gathered around me, that I feel the holy wonder of Christmas once again—Emmanuel, God with us!



12pearls-austin
***
Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. Her latest novel, Return To Me, is the first book in her new series.  She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago. Visit Lynn at her website.

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Always in spirit....

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sharing the Joy: 12 Pearls of Christmas | Christmas Musings | Anita Higman

12pearlsofxmas
Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


***

Christmas Musings
by: Anita Higman

I feel great joy in preparing my home for the holiday season. I love to drape boughs of greenery along the staircase, swirl spices into a pot of apple cider that’s simmering on the stove, make crafty floral arrangements, and sing along with all my favorite carols. Then when friends and family come over for brunches and dinners, I put out my finest decoration, my best china, and my sincerest smile. I go all out. These are my guests, and I want the event to be welcoming, satisfying, and festive. I want them to feel like royalty.

When Christ arrived in Bethlehem, I wish He could have had a more splendid welcoming, a more regal place to sleep than a wooden trough where animals were fed. Even though His birth was without majestic lodgings or kingly adornments, I’m so glad He overlooked our foolish blunders, our lack of hospitality, and chose to live amongst us anyway. Jesus certainly could have chosen a different route and easier way to offer redemption.

But He didn’t.

Jesus came in one of the humblest possibly ways. He had a divine approach that left humans surprised and puzzled. And it turned into a road of pain beyond anything we can imagine. When it comes to God’s extravagant sacrifice and love that Christmas represents, He deserves a standing ovation. After all, Christmas holds the true secrets we’ve all been searching for: meaning to our lives on earth, victory over death, and life eternal.Christmas gives us a reason to work, to laugh, to dream, to love. Christmas is a holiday of the heart and earth’s finest celebration.

12pearls-higman
***

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. Her latest release, Marriage in Middlebury, is a tale of love, hope, and forgiveness. Anita's been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends. Visit Anita at her website.
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Always in spirit....

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sharing the Joy: 12 Pearls of Christmas | A Hibiscus “Hug from Heaven” | Margaret McSweeney

12pearlsofxmas
  Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***

A Hibiscus "Hug from Heaven"
by: Margaret McSweeney

photo-12The flurry of festivities during Thanksgiving weekend came to an abrupt halt as I began the first week of December 2013 with an empty nest. My husband was back at work. My daughters were back at college. And my brother, Claude, and niece, Mary, were back in Alabama and Tennessee.

Bare branches accentuated the overcast gloom in the Chicago suburbs on what marked the third anniversary of my brother Randy’s passing. Randy had been feeding a stray cat on his deck when the fatal heart attack struck.

Walking downstairs, I whispered a prayer. “Lord, I am feeling really sad right now. Please help me experience your joy.” As I walked into the family room, my heart smiled. The pruned hibiscus plant balanced a solitary flower that had blossomed overnight! This was truly a hibiscus “hug from heaven.”

In her book When Grief Is Your Constant Companion, my late mother shared her poignant poem about a hibiscus plant. She wrote this following poem several years after losing my dad to a sudden heart attack while he was in Paris on a business trip.

TEARDROPS: EVERLASTING JOY
By Carolyn Rhea

My love, how can it be

That I no longer think of you

Almost every waking moment

And grieve for your loving presence?


There are small spaces of time

When my life is so absorbed in present living

That you are not in my thoughts at all.

How unthinkable!

How sad that I should forget you even for an hour!


But I have not forgotten you, my dear.

You are forever a part of me.

You helped God shape my life

Into my present self.

I carry your love in my heart.

I miss you so very much and always will.


But now I’m caught up in trying to reconstruct

With God’s guidance

A meaningful life for myself.

One in which I can help,

Serve, share, love, grow.


I remember the hibiscus plant

We bought at the annual show.

It was called Teardrops,

For several perfectly-shaped white teardrops

Spattered the broad expanse

Of its gorgeous pink blooms.

How we loved it!


Then later, after it had grown much taller,

We saw a different kind of bloom:

Multitudes of small, sturdy, happy pink blossoms

Swaying merrily in the Florida breeze!

Teardrops had been grafted onto a stronger plant!


We named it Everlasting Joy.


Teardrops still bloomed at the lower level,

But as the plant grew ever upward and outward,

Everlasting Joy bloomed in profusion!


Lord Jesus, when teardrops fall,

Help me remember that through faith

I have been grafted in You –

You, the vine;

I, a branch –

Eternally secure in God’s love through Thee!

Blessed with Thy fullness of joy on earth

And the promise of everlasting joy in heaven!


Thank you, dear Father for sharing your everlasting joy with me today in my solitude. We are not alone in our grief. You are with us.

“Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” John 16:20



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Margaret McSweeney is well-published author (A Mother’s Heart Knows, Go Back and Be Happy, Pearl Girls, Mother of Pearl, Aftermath), host of Kitchen Chat, and the founder of Pearl Girls™. Through Pearl Girls™, Margaret collaborates with other writers on projects to help fund a safe house for WINGS, an organization that helps women and their children who are victims of domestic violence, and to build wells for schoolchildren in Uganda through Hands of Hope. For the past twelve years she has served on the board of directors and leadership advisory board for WINGS. Margaret lives with her husband and 2 daughters in the Chicago suburbs. Learn more at Margaret's website.


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Always in spirit....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gone Reading for Christmas

This is a cross post from The True Book Addict.


Book lovers, have I got a Christmas gift for you! I was recently in touch with Brad from Gone Reading and he offered me a selection for review. More on that later. First, I'd like to talk about the great work behind the scenes of Gone Reading. Brad, their founder and CEO (and all around great guy) says:

"If you’re like me, you just can’t imagine living in a world without reading. Unfortunately, for almost a billion people today, that’s exactly where they find themselves. There are countless villages, towns and vast regions of this planet where the power of reading has yet to shine its light.

Gone Reading International, LLC was founded to counter these problems and spread the magic of reading. We believe that when people have open access to great reading materials, life always changes for the better. When libraries and reading materials are made available, people and their communities thrive through increased opportunity and self-empowerment.

That’s why Gone Reading International has pledged 100% of our after-tax profits to provide new funding for reading-related charities. By purchasing GoneReading brand gifts and merchandise, you’re treating yourself and the world at large to a wonderful gift. All purchases from GoneReading help contribute to our philanthropic work.

We donate to great non-profits such as READ Global, Ethiopia Reads and BiblioWorks, amazing organizations with proven models, long track records, and dedicated teams on the ground. Such groups partner with local villages and communities in the most underdeveloped parts of the world to create new libraries that effect real change.
"

Pretty awesome, huh? They have hit a great target market because us bookish types are all about good causes. Right? And this time of year is the perfect time to help spread the hope and love to those who are less fortunate.

Now, about that little item I chose to review. My choice was It Was A Dark & Stormy Night: A Game About Books!


Mom and I have played it several times since I received it just a few days after placing my order. We also played it with my sister and niece over the Thanksgiving holiday. It is great fun for anyone who loves books. A little healthy competition amongst bibliophiles. HaHa!

If you're looking for some great gifts for the bookish people in your life, or even for yourself (and at the same time supporting a great cause), then you need to head over to Gone Reading and do some Christmas shopping.

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Always in spirit....

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sharing the Joy: Friday Baking

 

This is the best spiced hot drink recipe I've had since I bought some from a Christmas craft fair a few years back. It's easy to make and SO delicious!

Image Credit

Spiced Hot Drink Mix
By Monica Servings: 6 cups of mix
Ingredients
2 lb. bag (4-1/2 cups) dark brown sugar, sucanat, or coconut palm sugar
2-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon ground cloves
OR
2 lb. bag (4-1/2 cups) dark brown sugar
5-1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice (View recipe for making your own pumpkin pie spice at: www.theyummylife.com/recipes/24) I used the store bought pumpkin pie spice and it turned out just fine.
Directions
With food processor (recommended): Add all ingredients to food processor bowl and pulse until combined.
By hand: Whisk spices together in small bowl; then add to brown sugar in large bowl. Whisk until combined. (I do not have a food processor and so used this method. It was a lot of whisking and stirring...and use a big bowl...but it turned out great)
Store in airtight container.
TO MAKE HOT SPICED CIDER:
--Heat 1 cup cider with 1 tablespoon of mix. Steep for 5 minutes.
--Heat 4 cups (1 quart) cider with 1/4 cup of mix. Simmer for 15 min. on stove top. In crock pot, cook on high for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
VARIATIONS:
--For spiced cranberry cider, use 3 cups apple cider, 1 cup cranberry juice. (Equal parts if using cranberry juice cocktail.)
--For spiced wine, coffee, tea, or hot cocoa, add 1 tablespoon of mix for each one cup of beverage.
--For a spiced pot of coffee, add 1/4 cup of mix to coffee maker brew basket.
--Get creative! Make your own combination of hot juice (orange? pomegranate? mango?) and spice mix.
--Add a shot of rum for a hot after-dinner or party drink.
--Garnish your drink with cinnamon sticks, orange/lemon slices, or whipped cream.
 
Recipe is from The Yummy Life.

Always in spirit....

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sharing the Joy: New Christmas Music Release...DeDe's World of Christmas


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 2, 2013

DEDE RELEASES DELUXE EDITION OF NEW HOLIDAY ALBUM

Texas Singer/Songwriter Teamed Up With Grammy Winning Producer in “World of Christmas”

HOUSTON, TX – Due to strong demand for her new album, World of Christmas, Artist and songwriter, DeDe, released a Deluxe Edition of World of Christmas with her worldwide distribution partner label, JTV Digital. World of Christmas debuted on the iTunes Top 40 New Christmas Releases Chart and the album is also huge hit on Pandora Radio.

World of Christmas was produced by Grammy-Winner Jeff Bova (Celine Dion Falling Into You-1996). Fans have been raving about the album’s quality and the top-notch instrumentals. DeDe called on several high-profile musicians for this album like guitar player Tim Pierce who plays for Bruce Springsteen, bass player John Pierce who tours with Huey Lewis and the News, and drummer, Denny Fongheiser who played on Elton John's Lion King sound track.

The re-titled, “Il Est Ne/ Song in the Air”, will also be re-released as a French-language Christmas single in Europe & Canada in late November. World of Christmas was rated “5 Stars-I loved it!” by theCelebrityCafe.com, a blog with over 1 Million visitors monthly. DeDe’s unique new video, “One Child” was also given “4.6 out of 5 stars” in this same review.

This Deluxe Edition will be available worldwide, and will include all ten of the World of Christmas tracks, plus two additional singles by DeDe: “Psalm on Danny Boy” (DeDe’s version of the 23rd Psalm set to the classic tune, Danny Boy), and DeDe’s original arrangement of “The Prayer”. These two songs were previously released on her first Album, Clear Skies Ahead, and represent two of the best-loved tracks from this fourteen song release.

“I wanted to inspire people around the world-at the same time retaining that traditional flair and nostalgic feeling that we all need at Christmas. ‘World of Christmas’ is the culmination of great music synergy, awesome production, and the timeless appeal of great new music, combined with the nostalgia of Christmas memories past.” ~DeDe Wedekind, artist, arranger, and songwriter of 'World of Christmas'.

iTunes 
www.DeDe-Music.com
https://twitter.com/DeDeWMusic
https://www.facebook.com/DeDeWedekind
http://www.reverbnation.com/DeborahWedekind
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX18J5CYy2m3_wTIUqvrsgg



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Always in spirit....

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