365 Days of Christmas is keeping the spirit alive
all year to enliven your world.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Prayer

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Thank you Lord for giving me the brand new year ahead
Help me live the way I should, as each new day I tread.Give me gentle wisdom that I might help a friend.
Give me strength and courage so a shoulder I might lend.The year ahead is empty; help me fill it with good things
Each new day filled with joy and the happiness it brings.Please give the leaders of our world, a courage born of peace,
That they might lead us gently and all the fighting cease.Please give to all upon this earth a heart that's filled with love
A gentle happy way to live, with Your blessings from above.

~~ Charlotte Anselmo ~~

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Luck in the New Year

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Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day would bring either good luck or bad luck for the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

Traditional new year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune.

Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity.Cabbage is another "good luck" vegetable that is consumed on New Year's Day by many.

Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Find Your Christmas I.Q.

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Find your Christmas I.Q. by answering the questions below. No cheating and no looking up answers!

Each answer is a title from a famous Christmas Song.

1. A dude made of Frozen Water named for Wendy's dessert drink. (10 points)
2. Why Rudolph can't get insurance. (10 points)
3. Globalizing dish washing detergent. (10 points)
4. He who doesn't talk at the Round Table. (10 points)
5. Southern ladies in AARP. (10 points)
Bonus: The song of septuplets. (25 points)

1. "Frosty the Snowman"
2. "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer"
3. "Joy to the World!"
4. "Silent Night" (Knight!)
5. "Silver Bells" (Belles!)
BONUS: "What Child is this?"

75 points = Some would say you're a Christmas genius. Others would say you really need to get some help.
50 - 65 points = You probably cheated...but hey, way to go. You must really like "The Far Side."
30 - 40 points = Good job. Your Christmas I.Q. is way above average.
10 - 20 points = You're normal. Be grateful.
0 points = Thanks for playing. Try again next year.

Family Minute #2

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Mom and Dad — here’s a resolution just for you.

Most of us will make New Year’s resolutions. If you’re a parent, there’s one resolution that needs to be at the top of your list — spend more time with your kids. Commit to spending one hour of one-on-one time with each of your children every week. It might not sound like a lot, but the key is "one-on-one" time. Just you and your child — doing what they enjoy. It could be a trip to the ice cream shop, a bike ride around the neighborhood, or simply playing a favorite board game.

Remember your family first.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Keeping New Year's Resolutions

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We say it every year: 'This year is going to be different.'

If you've always made New Year's Resolutions, you may vow that this is the year you're finally going to exercise, eat more healthy, spend less time at the office or invest more time with the family. You may promise to give up smoking, learn a new skill, get less stressed, or never allow the laundry to pile up again.

Or, perhaps you're at the other end of the spectrum. So many people have vowed to not make New Year's Resolutions. You may feel they're a waste of time and there's no way a resolution can ever be kept. Who needs the let down at the end of the year, right?

But, why not make this your best year ever? Why not do something that will give you an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when you look back at the end of 2007?

You're not going to get this feeling of accomplishment by making resolutions and breaking them. You're also not going to get it by not making resolutions.

There are 5 major reasons why most resolutions are not kept:

1. You made too many of them.

It's easier to focus on one or two resolutions, than it is to focus on 10, 20 or more. Forget about making a huge list of resolutions. Instead, choose one or two that are important to you. If you accomplish them before the end of the year, great! Then, you can choose to make one or two additional mid-year resolutions.

2. You made your resolutions too general.

They must be very specific. If you want to lose weight, how many pounds can you realistically lose per month? If you want to spend less time at the office, don't allow yourself to work past 6:00 for at least 3 days per week. Want to get your home organized? Focus on one room per month, and vow to spend 15 minutes per day decluttering each. You get the picture.

Your resolutions must be crystal clear, which means they should be described with numbers--2 pounds, $10.00 per week, 30 minutes of exercise, 3 days per week, one load of laundry per day, etc.

3. You didn't stay motivated.

Put up visual reminders, such as a photograph of your dream destination if you plan to save enough money to vacation there.

Ask a family member or friend to check up on you, and give you gentle reminders along the way.

Start a written or computer generated log, so you can keep track of your progress--how much weight you've lost, how much money you've saved, your hours at the office or the number of boxes you've emptied out in your attic.

4. You tried to succeed in a day or two.

Most resolutions take time to achieve, and maintain. Give yourself a break, and the proper amount of time you need to achieve your objectives--or you're liable to get exhausted before you even start.

Set mini-goals, and work on small parts of your resolutions at a time. Reward yourself along the way, no matter how small your achievements.

5. You keep waiting for the perfect time to start.

There's no better time to start than the present. If you wait to begin working on your resolutions until the perfect moment, you'll never get started. Determine what you need to start, and just begin. Before you know it, you'll be celebrating all of your accomplishments!

Happy New Year 2007!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Top 10 Memories of Christmas 2006

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These are the memories high on my list to remember as this holiday season closes. These are not in any particular order.

  1. Spending Christmas day with Cameron and Cassandra; watching their excitement as they unwrap the gifts they received.
  2. Watching the old Rankin Bass Christmas specials/movies.
  3. Baking cookies with Sandy -- two times this year.
  4. Making a perpetual birthday calendar as a gift for Mom and Paul.
  5. Having a very delicious dinner delivered on Christmas day by a local church.
  6. Getting the gas service turned on.
  7. Members of 12MOC sending gifts for the children.
  8. Doing our usual Christmas traditions of opening pajamas on Christmas Eve, singing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas morning, and doing a countdown to Christmas.
  9. Mom and Paul showing up Christmas morning to watch the children open their gifts from Santa.
  10. Giving and receiving Christmas cards.

Monday, December 25, 2006

When You Think of Christmas

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When you think of Christmas, do you think of:

1) Eternity - "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God" - Philippians 2:5,6

This was not a last minute idea that God had while rocking in His chair. No, God had His mind on us from eternity past and us on His mind. And as Romans reminds us, while we were His enemies, while we were separated from Him, and while we were without strength, God came to us and showed us His great love. Someone has written a song in recent years that says something to the effect that while He was on the cross, we were on His mind. But the truth of the matter is that before there was a cross, yes, even before there was an earth, we were on His mind.

When you think of Christmas, do you think of:

2) Emmanuel (God with us) - "But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" - Philippians 2:7

Think of it - God Himself put on the soiled robes of humanity and came to our world so that one day we could go to His! Emmanuel = "God with us". The title applied to the Messiah, born of the virgin (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14) because Jesus was God united with man, and showed that God was dwelling with man.

That story of the judge and newspaper editor who didn't get along too well applies here. One day, the judge's best friend appeared before him in court. The editor thought this was his golden opportunity to discredit the judge. He thought, "If he is too soft on his friend, my headline will read 'Who needs a judge that is soft on his friends'?" The editor thought as well that if he was too hard on his friend, the headline would read: 'Who needs a judge that shows no sympathy to even his friends'?"

The trial progressed - the verdict was in. The judge found his friend guilty and then levied the harshest punishment he could under the law. The editor was up and off to his office to begin writing his story.

But what he failed to observe was that the judge, after pronouncing sentence, stood, took off his regal robes and came around the front of the bench and paid the fine for his friend.

This is Christmas! This is God taking off His royal robes and coming down in front of the bench which has declared that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) and He has paid the penalty imposed on our sin.

When you think of Christmas, do you think of:

3) Easter - "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." - Philippians 2:8

Without an Easter, the Christmas story would be just a nice warm fuzzy. But Easter brings purpose, fulfillment and finality to the nativity story. Easter reminds us that the little babe in the manger grew into manhood and took on the establishment and society of His day. Easter reminds us that in the midst of misunderstanding and persecution and even temptation, nothing could influence Christ away from the purpose for which He had come. Easter reminds us too, that He fulfilled His divine purpose and mission, which was His from eternity past - to carry the sins of mankind to the cross. Easter reminds us that in His death, there was finality in the age long war against sin. His cry of "It is finished!" from the cross, declares task completed, mission accomplished. But most importantly Easter reminds us that God the Father accepted on our behalf His only begotten Son as our Redeemer. The resurrection is the proof of this acceptance. And "because I live, you will live also" (John 14:19)

When you think of Christmas, do you think of:

4) Exaltation - "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:9-11

This reminds us of the choice that we have now, and also that it will not be a choice forever. The choice we have now is to worship Christ as Saviour and Lord freely and willingly. To make a conscious choice to repent and receive Him as our Redeemer, and then to join in the exaltation, praising Him for all He has done for us. How precious are these times of rejoicing as we exalt the name of Jesus!

But that choice will not always be ours to make. As the verses above remind us, the time is coming when every knee in every sphere will bow and worship the Christ, this babe who came in a manger, but then Who will be coming as a righteous King! As Warren Wiersbe writes in his commentary on Philippians, entitled "Be Joyful", 'One day all will bow before Him and confess that He is Lord. Of course, it is possible for people to bow and confess today, and receive His gift of salvation (Rom. 10:9-10). To bow before Him now means salvation; to bow before Him at the judgment means condemnation.'

The choice is yours! But the result of your choice has already been settled because of the Babe who came at Christmas. So the only choice is will you bow now or bow later?

So as you think of Christmas this year, might I invite you to get beyond simply looking at the cradle? Move to Calvary! Then to the grave! Then to glory! Join in on the exaltation!
Eternity -> Emmanuel -> Easter -> Exaltation.

May you have a very blessed Christmas.

(Adapted by an article written by Eric McGrath.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Magic Crystal Snowflakes

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Wide-mouth pint jar
White or blue pipe cleaners
Blue food coloring, optional
Boiling water (with adult help)
20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster (This is available at grocery stores in the laundry soap sectio; NOT Boraxo soap.)
Wire cutter

Cut a pipe cleaner into three equal sections, then twist them together in the middle so you have a six-pointed star.

Tie a piece of string from point to point of your star, turning it into a snowflake shape. Next, tie a piece of string to one of the points, and tie the other end to the pencil, so that your snowflake can hang freely. The string should be long enough so the snowflake can hang down inside the jar without touching the bottom when you lay the pencil across the jar's mouth.

Boil enough water to fill the jar almost to the top. Stir in the Borax, a tablespoon at a time, until you have 3 or 4 tablespoons per cup of water (in a pint jar, that's 7 or 8 tablespoons). Mix it well, but don't worry if there's a little powder settling to the bottom of the jar. If you want to add a few drops of food coloring to make your crystals blue, now's the time.

Suspend your snowflake in the jar of Borax solution and leave it overnight. By morning it will be covered with sparkly crystals! Experiment with shapes and colors, and really have some fun!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Carol Trivia Quiz

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I missed four.

What is your score?

Family Minute

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Do the holidays at your house have to be perfect?

The gifts have to be wrapped just so. The decorations have to be hung on the tree like this. The Christmas cookies must have this color icing. Sound familiar? The holidays can bring on a lot of extra pressure – if you let them. To avoid that intensity, be flexible. If traditions turn out a little differently this year, that’s OK. If the kids don’t hang the ornaments on the tree just right...let it go. Instead, focus on enjoying your family and friends in the spirit of the season. In your celebration, forget perfection.

Remember, your family first.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Snow

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1/3 cup liquid starch
1 cup soap flakes
1 or 2 T waterblue food color

Combine the first 3 ingredients and whip with a rotary mixer until it looks like marshmallow fluff. Add the food color by the drop until has a white, icy look. Use a paintbrush to put it on the tree branches. Add glitter if you like.

Expressions of the Heart

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The gifts we craft with our own hands are often the most significant because the love that drove us to create is infused in the products of our creation. And the recipients of these homemade offerings receive a token of our willingness to invest ourselves in their joy. Allow these ideas to inspire you:

1. When you craft a beautifully decorated prayer box (or jar) for loved ones, you give them the gift of spiritual awareness. As you share this gift, explain that it should serve as a receptacle for their hopes, dreams, and loves—as well as worries—and thus a reminder of who they were, are, and will someday be.

2. If you love journaling, share your writing joy with family and friends by giving each a unique, handmade personal journal. A simple spiral notebook dressed up with paper, fabric, photographs, or other embellishments will give your loved ones a special place to record their private thoughts.

3. Erase the distance between yourself and your far away loved ones by presenting each with a photo journal documenting how your life has changed in the past year. Or introduce them to your locale with a homemade guidebook that highlights everything you love about your town or city.

4. When you sew medicine bags for the people you care about, you can rest assured your gift will always be close to their hearts. A small pouch can be filled with many meditative or symbolic items, such as quartz crystals, sage, or magical objects.

5. A progressive photo album, wherein pictures tell the story of your relationships from the past up to the present, can be a simple yet poignant reminder of the many wonderful experiences you and your loved ones have shared over the years.

6. Give the gift of serenity with a guided meditation you create and record to CD or tape. Your loved ones will take pleasure in being led through tranquil landscapes by the soothing sound of your voice.

7. Hand-crafted ornaments that can be hung on trees, in windows, and on walls afford you an opportunity to surround the important people in your life with beauty. Whether you prefer to work with clay, crystals, fabric, baked dough, or natural objects, your gift can serve as a calming focal point in your loved ones' homes.

Whether you choose to give a gift or simply share your friendship and love, remember that it is the intention behind the thought that is most important.

How To Photograph Christmas Lights

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You don't need a high-end camera for great results. You can use a very inexpensive digital camera and do just fine. You don't even need flash. It all comes down to what time of the day you shoot. And a couple of other little tricks.

The problem with 98% of the photos of Christmas lights is that most people wait until way too late to start shooting. After it gets completely dark, you can either have the lights or the surroundings properly exposed. But not both.

Conversely, if you were to shoot the lights in the middle of the day, they would not show up at all. The trick is find the sweet spot (actually there is a whole range of sweet spots) where the ambient light and the Christmas lights balance.

Understanding this will ensure that your photos are way better than those of your neighbors. After all, isn't that what Christmas lights are really about?

How to Do It:

1. Arrive early. The best time to shoot is before it gets totally dark. Arriving around sunset will give you time to plan your shot before the good light happens. You may have to ask your subject to turn the lights on early - most people don't flip them on until the good light is already gone.

2. Compose your photo in such a way as to include as much sky as possible in the background. Shooting from a low position can help. Even better: If you have your choice of shooting direction, shoot into the afterglow of the evening sky.

3. Once you get your picture framed, set your camera's white balance for "tungsten," as if you were shooting indoors without flash. All of those little lights are tungsten balanced. As a bonus, the tungsten setting will turn your afterglow sky royal blue once your light balances out. The sky will look great - even if it is a cloudy evening. And your lights will gleam crystal white. Or whatever color they are supposed to be.

4. A light (or reflective) foreground, like snow, or a puddle (or the roof of a car) can give nice foreground interest. See what you can find.

5. Use a tripod or a beanbag to steady your camera. You'll be shooting in the range of a quarter second to a full second at twilight. If shooting with a phone or PDA, use both hands to brace the phone against something solid.

6. Now, wait for the light to happen.

Shoot a test shot every minute or so. At first, you'll be exposing for the sky and the lights will appear unimpressive. Check the back of your camera after each shot to watch the Christmas lights appear to "come up" as the ambient light level goes down. (Aren't digital camera great?) Your eye is constantly adjusting to compensate for the dropping light levels, but the changes will be happening nonetheless.

Somewhere in between sunset and full dark, the Christmas lights and the ambient light will start to mix beautifully. You'll have about a 10-minute window which will give you a nice series of subtly different lighting variations. Remembering to keep your camera as still as possible, shooting lots of frames through the mix light. Ones and zeros are free, so don't be stingy. You do not have much time. You can delete the duds (or blurred photos) later.

Incidentally, this time of day is when the architectural photographers make the big bucks. And they are smart enough to tell everyone in their subject building to leave the lights on that night, too.

Your light will fade very quickly. You will know it is gone when your photos start looking like the "bad light" photos you used to take.

Now, put your camera away. You still have a few minutes to enjoy the scene with your eyes. The human eye has the remarkable ability to compress a large dynamic range into a scene your brain can process. Just relax, soak it in and think about all of the shopping you have left to do.