Catching Up With Christmas!

Homemade proof that Poinsettias are a summer flower! A very thoughtful friend saved one of the plants that graced our church during the Christmas season and my husband kindly planted it for me. I was walking out for the mail earlier this week and suddenly registered that there was Poinsettia blooming in the garden!

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Samaritan’s Purse National Showbox Collection – Collection Date is Soon!

Just ordered my labels for my Christmas Shoebox donations! The best part was getting to have an excuse to hang around the toy section to find dolls, cars, and all sorts of fun little items to stuff in my four boxes – two for boys and two for girls.

There is so much joy on the faces of the children who receive these treasure chest boxes of goodies prepared just for them. I’m thinking our children would grow up with more awareness of what is of value in life if we put more into what Christmas is actually about and a shoe box each for their Christmas!

Samaritan’s Purse Shoe Box Collection!

Operation Christmas Child

I discovered this last year and it was so much fun to fill a shoe box with surprises for a boy and a girl in the Philippines. No, you can chose the country but they do tell you once they have been delivered for Christmas.

It is simple! Buy a plastic shoe box with a lid at Walmart or Hobby Lobby and then fill it up! It is amazing what you can cram into the box and how much happiness this effort will bring to a child who might not be expecting anything for Christmas. The link tells you all you need but time is of the essence as the drop-off week for the packed shoe boxes will soon be upon us.

I tried to include one really useful item like a fun tee shirt or a hat along with small games, little doll, gum, lip balm, mints . . . Use your imagination. I purchased my boxes at the onset of my shopping spree and that way I could figure out what would pack well and fit in with the box.

As I said, go to the Samaritan’s Purse link (top of the post Operation Christmas Child) for full in formation. There is a small cost involved to help with shipping and you have to find a drop-off place near you. I can guarantee this will be the most gratefully received Christmas gift you have ever given.

The Trouble With Truffles . . . You Don’t Want to Share!

Christmas Truffles

1 ½ sticks butter (no margarine, please!)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons brandy
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (pecans or almonds work, too)

Melt butter in saucepan and stir in the cocoa until smooth. Keep stirring while slowly adding the condensed milk. Stir and cook over low heat for about 5-6 minutes or until the mixture thickened and is shiny and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in rum, zest, and nuts.

Pour into a pan and refrigerate for several hours or until the mixture is firm enough to shape. Using a small cookie scoop or spoon roll into 1-inch balls. At this point, you can roll the balls into more ground nuts or some red and green decorations for the Christmas spirit. Place on a plate to refrigerate a few more hours before serving. Something that can be made the day before to have on hand for a party or just a great treat.

Ideas . . .

This recipe is open to other flavors! Mint? Add a little creme de menthe in place of the brandy or just add some peppermint extract. Could mix in some crushed candy cane in lieu of the nuts, too.

A bit of instant coffee power in the cooking stage take the treat to a more grownup level.

You can roll them in either sweetened cocoa power or the unsweetened version depending on the state of your sweet tooth!

Adventurous? You can get some coating chocolate in either chocolate or white, melt it, and dip some of your truffles in that and sprinkle with decorations for an added dimension.

Christmas Isn’t Over Yet!

The saddest day of December 26h, to me, are all the discarded Christmas trees lining the curbs. Frankly, I can understand this as they are all dry and probably fire hazards . . . because many of them have been in place soon after Thanksgiving dishes were washed and put away. How lacking is a holiday putting the culmination of the Christmas event so far ahead of the goal. The decorations and outside lights have been up for weeks. Where is the anticipation of Christmas if so much of it appears before we have even made our way through Advent? And, now, Christmas is considered over and done for 2015 and we will probably start seeing Valentine candy in the stores within the week.

My mother was raised in Germany and their custom was that no child would even see a Christmas Tree until Midnight on Christmas Eve. The doors to the place where the tree would be were closed to excited children while they heard interesting sounds and rustlings going on behind closed doors. At midnight, the doors would open to reveal a tree sparkling with tinsel and candles. In my mother’s home, she had a few minutes to take in the glory and it was then off to Midnight Mass with excitement in the heart for the late night out, the beauty of the Christmas Mass, and a few thoughts about what would be under the tree when she got home.

Christmas continued from the 25th until January Sixth when the Three Kings paid an overnight visit and let some treats in her shoes to find in the morning. Between the 25th and and January Sixth was filled with visiting, tasty coffee parties, meeting up with friends, and exchanging gifts. December 25th was the beginning of Christmas not the end of a hectic holiday season.

Christmas Cookie Baking!

Practiced some holiday baking during the week. Our church had an Advent Festival so I brought in some homemade treats for them to sell. For the first time in a couple of years, I baked with wheat flour and enjoyed it quite a bit! Yes, I can duplicate just about any wheat flour recipe using gluten-free ‘flour’ blends but it was nice to go back to my old methods just for the day.

I had another reason for bringing wheat flour offerings. My husband is gluten-sensitive so having wheat flour in the house doesn’t bother him unless he eats anything made from it. However, people with celiac can be effected by just being around wheat products and since my home is not thoroughly ‘cleansed’ of all that is gluten, I don’t like to advertise my treats as being gluten-free when they might not be safe for someone with more sensitive issues.

I am able to just about replicate a good loaf of bread without using wheat flour now, but it was great to just through together a ‘regular’ batch and get the feel of the real deal under my hands. I suppose that might account for the fact that I kind of went overboard in my baking . . . just having too much fun!

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Dung on a Twig or Christmas Romance?

Growing up, I failed to see the allure of hanging mistletoe and then possibly being grabbed and kissed by people I ordinarily wouldn’t shake hands with for any reason. I didn’t find is a particularly great addition to the holiday season. However, I recently came up with some interesting facts about the beloved Christmas weed.

For some reason, the fact that mistletoe stays green all winter, has earned it value as having a ‘stolen kisses power’. It is most noticeable in Winter because the leaves of the host tree are gone and the bunches of mistletoe show up on the bare branches.

There are 1,300 mistletoe species in the world. Canada and the United States are home to over 30 of these species. Hawaii has an additional six. In the world, more than twenty species are endangered.

Face it, the ‘magical’ mistletoe is a parasite and can only survive on the branches of trees and shrubs. In Greek, the mistletoe is called Phorademdron which translates to ‘tree thief’.

The ancient Anglo-Saxons made note of the fact that mistletoe grows where birds leave their droppings. Thus, in Anglo-Saxon, “mistel” translates into “dung” and “tan” means “twig”. Draw your own conclusions!

The custom of stealing kisses under the mistletoe dates back, possibly, to the 1500’s in Europe. Washington Irving mentioned it in “Christmas Eve” a story from his 1820 literary collection. In Mr. Irving’s day, the tradition was that each time a couple kissed under the mistletoe, they would remove one of the white berries. When the berries were gone, so was the kissing spell.