Merry Christmas!

Hi there Blog Friends–  We’re deep into tree trimming and cookie baking around here.  My smart young buddy Jenna is coming over to bake this morning and Larry is spending these days shepherding people on a “Walk through Bethlehem” every night at church.  It’s pretty much full on Christmas time for us.  And I’m counting the days until kids walk in the door!

So I’m taking a little Blog Break– to slow down the season, spend time in thankfulness to God and to have sweet time with people we love celebrating together.  At times you just have to simplify– and this is it.

I’ll still be Instagramming at “Rhonda Sittig”

But I’ll be reading along keeping up with all my Blog Buddies– and hopefully will be back posting in the New Year.  Hugs to all!!  And I hope and pray you have a blessed and beautiful Christmas.

     

     

Some Links to our Christmas Favorites:

Chocolate Cranberry “Fruitcake”

White Truffle Cake

Sugar Cookies

Swedish Lemon Hearts

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!  And God’s dearest blessings to you all…

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Christmas Hope

Blessed Christmas to you friends–  This has been such a full Christmas season for us–real joy sitting around a beautiful table with our SF family this past week,   cheerful -if not totally melodic- caroling with the lovable neighborhood kids, watching Larry tell the Christmas story as a shepherd in our church’s Bethlehem Walk…

And there’s been deep sadness walking with a with a friend as her husband suffers dearly, our son’s family still evacuated because of the wildfires, a serious eye injury to a close friend and continued legal stress…

Life is complicated.

But these Christmas lyrics have stuck in my mind– “The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…”   I’m thankful to know that thrill.  There’s hope and deep joy in walking with God in these days.

Hoping for the thrill of God’s hope and moments of true joy for you and your family this Christmas.

Almond Rocky Road

Merry Christmas!!  A friend brought in this Christmasy candy the other day and it set me to searching for the recipe. It hits all those sweet spots– chocolate, nuts and those springy marshmallows.  I think the grand-girls will love it!

I was surprised how super easy it is to make– takes 10 minutes max!  The recipe is so simple, I could give to you over the phone!  But here I’ll just write it out here:

ALMOND ROCKY ROAD
2 cups chocolate chips (12 oz.)
2 tab. butter
14 oz. can condensed milk
2  cups roasted almonds, chopped in half*
16 oz. bag mini marshmallows

In a large microwave proof bowl, melt the chocolate chips and butter (about 90 seconds).  Stir them all together until it’s all smooth. Pour in the condensed milk and mix until it’s all blended.

Then pour in the marshmallows and almonds and stir until they are all coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spoon it all into a 9″x 13″ pan that has been lined with waxed paper.  Pop it into the fridge for a couple hours to harden and cut into delicious squares.

*The original recipe I worked from called for 2  1/2 cups peanuts, but I opted for almonds.  Walnuts or pecans would be good too.

 

Rethinking Christmas

Hello Blog-Friends:  If you’re like me, you might have a whole lot of expectations (I prefer to call them “hopes”– it sounds kinder) about Christmas ahead–what the best Christmas should look like to you.  It’s all about lists.  Making them & checking them twice.

But this year we’ve had a shift.  Last Monday, our son called from Ojai.  They were pulling out from home, evacuating because of the wildfires closing in on their small community.  The family finally made their way down to our house, and we spent some days watching blazes on t.v. news and checking Facebook posts detailing damages.

The school where Micah teaches lost the science building (his physics lab & robotics program) and the girls’s dorm burned to the ground.  Their home had some damage, but much was saved by fire fighters.  So thankful.

So our hopes have changed some.  Christmas will look a little different.  The to do lists are shorter.  And things that matter– being together, remembering God’s gift of his son to the world shine brighter.

I’ve been reading a daily Christmas email from my favorite blogger, Shannan Martin.  She writes it so well:

“There in the wonderful, terrible thick of December, the furniture of my heart was shifting. Things that had lurked in the shadows were snapping into focus. As Christmas drew nearer, the new rhythms of my soul were bumping against my old ideas about how to celebrate, why we celebrate, and what a new way of living the “thrill of hope” might look like practically.

Basically, I cleaned out my Christmas closet. I did that thing where you hold up each old shirt and decide if it still fits, and whether or not it’s worth the space it occupies.”

So my Christmas hopes for you (and me) are that we’re able to see that “thrill of hope” and rest in God’s love for us in the middle of all the Christmas storm of activity.  Merry Christmas Blessings to you, dear friends.

P.S. To find Shannan’s blog and the link to her “12 Ways of Christmas Emails” click here.  I think you’ll love her as much as I do.

Favorite Christmas Books

Hi friends–  When we drag out the Christmas decorations around here, I also climb up onto a chair reach the top bookshelf where we keep a beloved collection of Christmas books.  I pull down all the favorites and plop them on the corner of the coffee table, ready to read with grand-girls when they come in to stay.  It’s one of the best parts of Christmas!  Here are a few of our favorites.

B Is For Bethlehem — by Isabel Wilner, illustrated by Elisa Kleven.  This lively rhythmic telling of the Christmas story uses an ABC format and couldn’t be more beautiful.  The illustrations are a combination of collage and small paint details–exquisite.  And the message is glorious– honoring God and his gift to us at Christmas.

Christmas in Noisy Village — by Astrid Lindgren, illlustrated by Elon Wikland.  A band of village Swedish neighbor children spend their Christmas baking, gathering a tree from the forest, visiting a grandfather and feasting together at a Christmas party.  Couldn’t be more charming.

The Story of the Three Wise Kings — by Tomie DePaola.  Classic DePaola telling of the journey of the three wise men in search of the baby Jesus at the first Christmas.  He uses a slightly more formal take on his signature illustration and there is a interesting preface about the history of the telling the story of the wisemen.  A  wonderful addition to any Christmas book collection.

Santa’s Favorite Story — by Hisako Aoki, illustrated by Ivan Gantschev.  When the forest animals find Santa napping just before Christmas, they worry that Christmas won’t be ready! But Santa assures them that the real Christmas is more about the coming of a babe in a manger.  Lovely water color illustration and gentle text, make this a beautiful telling of Christmas.

Hope your Christmas is full of cozy reading and sweet times with family young and old.  Merry Christmas!

P.S. top illustration thanks to Holly Hobbie.

Tender Mercies

perwinkleliving-tumblr-comHello all– I was able to snatch part of a morning this week to read through the story of Jesus’ birth, to sit and think and pray…

And the words that stayed with me were when Zechariah spoke of “the tender mercy of our God.” (Luke 1:78)  It made me want to look for God’s “tender mercies”through these days of Christmas.

The mercies of my mom growing stronger, of squeals from the grand-kids.  The splendid mercy of real conversations with our children.  And Christmas music in the house, of sitting down to meals together and the sun through the bare maple trees in the yard.

And the best mercy of God’s son come to earth for us.  I remain  profoundly grateful for God’s merciful love.

 

Christmas Books for Little Readers

 

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Hi there– Do you have favorite Christmas books that you go back to every year?  I have a stack right here on the coffee table, just waiting for the grand-girls to come through the door.  We like sweet. We like funny. We like endearing Christmas books.  Here’s a few if you happen to have little readers on hand at Christmas:

513uldt0lkl-_sy337_bo1204203200_The Christmas Pageant by Tomie DePaola makes use of the text from the gospels of Matthew & Luke, along with the simple, charming illustrations that are instantly recognizable as DePaola’s work.  The story takes us through the Christmas story as presented by a group of children in their Christmas program celebrating Jesus birth.


unknownFather Christmas
by Raymond Briggs is almost wordless, but chronicles Christmas Day for a rather grumpy Santa through a series of detailed illustrations.  This British Santa packs his thermos of tea, flies over Buckingham Palace and makes a Christmas pudding.  You have to admire this intrepid Santa and enjoy his little celebration when he finally arrives home.

61twq0ouzvl-_sx399_bo1204203200_Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant is the sweet story of a small girl who describes her Christmas in the country home of her grandparents.  There’s the awkward Christmas tree that “seemed sometimes like an embarrassed guest” and Christmas dolls and aunts & uncles & cousins bringing pies– a gentle story made even better by DianeGoode’s tender illustrations

51jka-7wl-_sx398_bo1204203200_Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera is a rollicking adventure of Sophie and her mysterious Auntie.  When she stows away in her Aunt’s luggage, she finds herself on a revealing trip to the North Pole and learns a lot about herself and Christmas.  Vivid illustrations and a satisfying ending made this a fun book to read together.

Sugar Cookies

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Hello Baking Friends– In about a week, 3 grand-girls will coming swarming in the door and what will we do?? Decorate sugar cookies!!  It’s one of my favorite (and messiest) parts of Christmas– frosting and sprinkles from here to there…  Those girls know how to decorate with dash and verve!

On the other hand, Friday evening we had a little more sedate cookie decorating with some young moms from my MOPS group.  It was mulled wine and cheese & crackers, and long conversations as we frosted and sprinkled the evening away.   So much fun.

Whoever you make cookies with, this is a recipe you might enjoy, simple and it makes enough cookies to tide your through a week of Christmas (4 or 5 dozen)

SUGAR COOKIES

Cookies:
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 stick), room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  When that is blended mix in the flour, baking powder and salt. Chill the dough in the fridge about 30 minutes.

Then spread flour on your counter top and a little more flour on your lump of dough– and then flatten it to a thin layer with a rolling pin.  Cut out all your favorite cookie cutter shapes and bake in a 400 degree oven for just 6 or 7 minutes, until they are slightly brown around the edges.

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Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 pound box powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 to 4 tab. milk or half & half
food coloring
all the sprinkles you can round up!

With an electric mixer beat together the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and 3 tablespoons milk, add the 4th tablespoon, if you want the frosting to be a bit thinner.

Divide the frosting into smaller bowls and add food coloring for the colors you want to use (I did yellow, green, red and white).  Mix them well with a fork to blend in the coloring.  Frost and sprinkle your cookies!

Let the cookies sit out for a few hours before you stack them in a container– I do them ahead and layer them in large containers, between layers of waxed paper and put them in the freezer.

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Here’s my cookie decorating crews– Charlotte & Maryann, so enthusiastic!!  And 5 dear MOPS moms on our relaxing night together.
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P.S. If you live in So. California, the Decor Store in the corner of Beach Blvd. & La Habra Blvd. in La Habra is “Sprinkle Central!”  every sprinkle and colored sugar you could wish for– plus those cute little eyes!

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Anticipating Christmas!

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Hi friends– I don’t know about you, but I’m an big anticipator.  I get a whole lot of joy imagining all the “Christmas” coming up this month.  Here’s what’s on my mind and heart:

#1. Today, I’m picking up my sis to Christmas shop.  We’ve been Christmas shopping together since we were 8 years old, pooling our $6 to buy all the family gifts!  We talk and shop and eat our way across town! The best.

#2. Bringing home the Christmas tree that Larry’s strapped to the top of the car.  I love that bit of piney green in the house with all the well worn ornaments.

#3. Listening to Christmas music, cranking up the Messiah while I put cookies into the oven.

#4. Evenings celebrating with dear friends, hearing Christmas plans and hopes…

#5. Hugging all our kids as they come in the door to stay.  They come from far and wide–so we have people piled high sleeping in every room of our small house.

#6. Decorating cookies with the grand-girls, sprinkles flying in every direction.

#7. Christmas Eve lunch with our parents, kids and grandkids, sitting down to share a big meal with the people we love most.

#8. Our big crazy Christmas Eve supper at my bother Mark’s house. Fifty of us all catching up, giving hugs, taking pictures…

#9. Christmas night tapas (thanks to our years in Spain) by the fireplace with the kids, a quiet end to Christmas.

#10. Tranquil moments through these weeks ahead, to thank God for his son come to show us his great love, to sing, to pray, to rest in Him.  God is good.

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Thank you margaretbergart.com for the reindeer.

Christmas Meditation

867e778d6eb2df81485f00e6194d56b6Merry Christmas all– a couple weeks ago a friend read these thoughts to me and it’s become my Christmas meditation– the God beyond the baby come to earth from heaven.  The glorious, all knowing, eternal, inscrutable God…

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out
Who has know the mind of the Lord?  Or has been his counselor?
Who has ever given To God that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever!  Amen.    Romans 11:33-36

Hoping you find the glory of God in your Christmas and have warm and wonderful days with people you love wherever you are.

P.S. thank you Kathryn Grady for the photo

They’re coming!!

IMG_2689Last years Christmas morning picture by the tree…

Hi all– They’re coming!!  I couldn’t be more excited!  Pick up Laurel at the airport this afternoon and the rest will roll in tomorrow!  And I’m just about ready:

Cookies baked…  check!!
Tree up…  check!!
Gifts wrapped… check!! check!! check!!
Welcome sign hung on the front door…  check!
Fridge full…  check! check! double check!!
Christmas lights up…  check!
Stack of Christmas stories to read on the coffee table…  checkity check!
Advent wreath ready to light… check and check!!
Heart full and happily waiting for Christmas hugs… checkity check check!!!

Hoping your Christmas is full of people you love coming through your front door.
Merriest Christmas and God Bless us everyone!

519eKTDhntL._SX379_BO1,204,203,200_P.S.  This old check list reminds me of a favorite Christmas children’s book–  Mooseltoe  by Margie Palatini.  The moose dad works through his Christmas checklist wanting to rustle up the perfect Christmas for his family.  Of course, there’s bumps in the road, but he pulls it off with resourcefulness and comes up with a happy ending.

Christmas Cake

IMG_2502Hi all– this really isn’t much of a recipe– more just an idea for making a cake mix into a cake fit for Christmas–with the help of some mini chocolate chips and a little peppermint extract.  We had a friends Christmas potluck dinner on Monday so with one cake mix I took these two cakes along.  Easy and celebratory enough for a party.

CHRISTMAS CAKE
1 chocolate fudge cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
water
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp. peppermint extract

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 box powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tab. whole milk (or half & half)
garnish:  12 mini candy canes, pounded to bits.

IMG_2506Mix up the cake mix according to the directions on the package.  (my box called for 1/3 cup oil, 3 eggs and 1 cup water).

Then fold in the mini chocolate chips and the peppermint extract. Spoon the batter into 2 8″ cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  And pop them in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

When the cakes are cooled, make the frosting– With an electric mixer beat together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk until it is smooth and creamy.

Normally I use the frosting to cover a 2 layer cake– but this time for our potluck I wanted 2 smallish cakes.  Who needs a huge dessert after all that yummy potluck food?.

Just spread on the frosting, and sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top.

This could scarcely be easier!!  Hope you have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

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Here’s the Monday night friends– just love these gals, every one! We’ve been meeting together for almost 20 years, through thick and thin, we know each other so well…  xo

 

12 Days of Christmas

my-blueberry-jam.blogspot.comMerry Christmas Friends– It’s around the corner all that hub-bub and noise of Christmas! In fact, just 12 days away.  So I’m thinking of how to savor the quiet joys of Christmas in the days ahead– aside from the gifts and the parties and the heartwarming joy of kids bounding in through the front door to stay the week…

I’m hoping to find meaning and peace in small things, in quite moments, in chances to reflect in these 12 days ahead.  Things that don’t take a wallet full of money or a whole lot of time, but give the sweet joy of this holy season.

day #1:  Sit down to enjoy a couple thick slices of toasted orange cranberry bread with a huge mug of tea and a little quiet.

day #2: Settle down in a warm cozy place and listen through a recording of the Messiah
(youtube has the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge–men & boys choir.  Glorious!!)

day #3:  Write out a gift list, not of things I want for Christmas, but a list of gifts I’ve already received, that have brought joy, through  this past year– our new baby Eero, travels with Larry, phone calls from our kids, mom recovered from hip surgery, a new turquoise front door…

day #4:  Bundle up and take a short night time walk through the neighborhood to enjoy the neighbor’s bright Christmas lights.

day #5:  Call an old friend with whom we spent many Christmas days in the past and catch up on all they are doing.

day #6:  Light a whole flock of candles on the dinner table and eat by candlelight.

day #7:  Sit down with a mug of hot tea and read through the Christmas story from the book of Luke, stopping to thank God for the miracle of it all, along the way as I read.

day #8:  Take a loaf of cranberry bread next door to Mr. Wicks and have a chat.

day #9:  Throw the schedule to the wind and read a stack of Christmas books to my kids at school one afternoon.

day #10:  Pick up an extra poinsettia (or a bottle of bubbly– or both!) when I’m at the market and leave it as a surprise on a friends from porch.

day #11:  Pray for each friend and family member as I sit and wrap their Christmas gift.

day #12:  Slow down and make time to thank and worship God through these days, for the gift of his son come to the world.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

P.S. thanks for the photo to my blueberry jam.blogspot.com

Joy at Christmas

december desktop-blogHello friends–   Hope you are sitting down around the table with people you love– And hope you are tucking into a sumptuous meal and there is laughter and hugs all around.
Hope you have the joy of Christ come to us–in your heart.  That is the true joy in our world.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room!
And heaven and nature sing…

Wishing you Real Joy.  Merry Christmas!!

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Thanks to thornandsparrow.com for the pic

Christmas Fudge

IMG_3407Hi all– Merry Christmas!!  Schools out, our kids are starting to arrive and I’m in a happy  flurry of cleaning, wrapping, and cookie baking.  Talked to my Ani & Brian on the phone today and got two Christmas eating requests– snowball cookies and fudge!

I love making this because it brings a bit of my best ever Dad* back to Christmas– He would stir up the fudge at our house, his specialty along with his Sunday morning French Toast.  He’s been gone 15 years now, but I miss him all the time– and especially when I’m pouring out fudge.  So in with sweet memories of Dad– here’s some darn good fudge:

FUDGE
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup chocolate chips (6 0z.)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
10 large size marshmallows
1 tsp. vanilla

On a plate, measure out the 1 cup chocolate chips, 1 cup walnuts and cut the stick of butter into 8 or 10 pieces.  Set it aside to grab later just when you need it.

In a heavy pan, pour in 2 cups of sugar, the milk, marshmallows and vanilla.  Turn on the heat, stirring constantly and bring it to a nice simmer.  Then set the timer of 6 minutes and continue to stir as it boils.

When you get that nice gentle boil, turn down the heat to the low side of medium –so that you don’t scorch the bottom of the mixture.  Keep stirring!

When the 6 minutes is up, drop in the chocolate chips, butter and nuts– Continue to stir until the butter is all melted and it’s shiny and beautiful.

Spoon the fudge into a 9″square pan that has been coated with a bit of butter and pop it in the fridge 4 or 5 hours to set.

Don’t make this too early in December, or if you’re like me, you will have eaten it all before Christmas comes!!

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I know it’s not the prettiest sweet on the Christmas table– but it’s rich and delicious!!

Crafting Christmas Wreaths

IMG_3220Hi friends– I’m not much of a Christmas crafter– No painted ornaments, no knitted stockings…   But when we were up in SF over Thanksgiving, Jessica took us down to Studio Choo– for a morning wiring together Christmas wreaths– and it couldn’t have been more fun!

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We got a quick lesson and then were left with bountiful buckets of greens and berries and the tools to go to work!…

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It took us a while.  And every wreath was individual– from Ani’s pinkish flowery wreath to Jessica’s asymmetrical berry laden one.

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All around the studio, everything was beautifully organic.

IMG_3204   Sc0l03O4jsg9uscEtAY5OqfsbBfOasiQOJFT0Wq5IoY
So fun to watch how each wreath developed stem by stem wired around the ring.

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Thanks Jessica for one of the best “Girls’ Day Out” ever!!

 

Christmas Books for Kids (& people who read to them!)

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Illustration by Eva Erickson

Hi Book Buddies–  One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the big stack of books I lug off to school December 1st.  In room #2 we read a Christmas book every morning to kick off our study day.  Everything from The Nativity to The Grinch.

— And now with the Grand-girls coming for Christmas this year, I’m collecting a stack of my favorites on the coffee table for a little pre-bedtime reading with the girls, cozy on the couch under a blanket.  It’s a very readable time of year.  So here are just a few of our favorites:

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Christmas in the Barn is one of those cozy books that make perfect bedtime reading.  The lilting words and the gentle pictures are like a sweet lullaby.  It’s a different telling of the nativity by Margaret Wise Brown (who wrote Goodnight Moon)– simple and perfect for small children.

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If you’ve ever been involved in a church Christmas pageant, you’ll love this rollicking story of the year the Herdman’s, the most notoriously mean kids in town, who stride into Sunday School and take over the Christmas program.  The rag tag siblings put a whole new spin on Mary, Joseph and the 3 wise men.  And the result is surprisingly touching.  It’s a short chapter book– just read it aloud to my 4th graders.  We loved it.

 

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This is a book about Christmas wishes– a small girl wishing for a family.  A doll wishing for a girl to claim her.  And the Joneses wishing for a daughter to share their Christmas.  There are twists and turns in a snowy English village as all their wishes converge into one suitably happy ending.  I think I love this book because years back I read it every Christmas with my two girls. –A sweet and satisfying Christmas tale.

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If you’ve only seen the Grinch movie, I’m asking you– oh please do read the book,  How the Grinch stole Christmas  —soon.  (it’s so much better!). That old Grinch mischievously tries to ruin Christmas, only to find it can go on without presents or trees or roast-beast.   It’s Dr. Seuss at his very best, with his inventive rhymes, quirky illustrations, thoroughly likable characters, and crazy story line all wrapped up with a heart-warming ending.

Simple Christmas

IMG_6375Hi there– A friend asked me to give a little seminar a couple weeks ago.  My topic– Simplifying Christmas.  So, first thing, I googled just that.  And you’d be astonished how many people have written on Simple Christmas!!  So I gathered up ideas from here and there and here’s a just a few I found to make Christmas a little simpler and most of all, more meaningful:

#1.  It starts with a budget.  I read that 2/3 of American families have no idea exactly how much they spend on Christmas.  Decide how much you want to spend on each area of Christmas (gifts, decorations, entertaining, meals, cards, donations travel…) and keep totals as you go.  Then stick to it (the hard part)!

#2. And budget your time as well.  Open your calendar early on and budget how you really want to spend those precious December days. I read about one family who finished shopping, baking decorating… by December 13th and then went on to spend  the “12 days of Christmas” enjoying a simpler quieter Christmas time together…

#3.  Take a pre-Christmas family survey.  Around the table, or by email, ask your family, “What 3 things make it a good Christmas for you? What could we skip and not miss? What should we change?”  Last Christmas I realized I did not actually have to bake 12 kinds of Christmas cookies, so I emailed my kids and asked which they’d like to see in the kitchen when they came home– and just baked up their favorites. Better!

#4. Can you be the brave one in the family to suggest drawing names or just buying gift for children?  Saves time, shopping anxiety and money!

#5.  Give events as gifts, not things in boxes– for example:  craft pamphlet for a January “Girl’s Day” out with your mom and sisters, or plan an individual date with a grandchild.  How about a January scrapbook date with kids to chronicle 2014?  Or tickets to the zoo, a museum, bowling, the movies…  Last year for Christmas we invited our kids to a February dinner at Bar Jules and a night at the SF symphony– great fun! (and no gift shopping or wrapping involved!)

#6. With our extended family–we pass a basket and  in lieu of gifts everyone can slip in some cash to send to World Vision to buy a donkey for a family in need in another country, to buy mosquito nets, a flock of ducks or vaccinations for children–or to send $35 it takes for a child in a third world country to go to school…

#7.  While you wrap up gifts for friends and family, take a minute to pray for that person as you tape up the package and tie the bow…

#8.  I love Elizabeth Elliot’s idea to save the gifts until Epiphany (King’s Day) –January 6th and keep the focus on the real meaning of the day on Christmas.

#9.  Keep wrapping supplies tucked in a shopping bag. Pull it out and wrap as you bring gifts home.  Don’t save them all for a Christmas Eve wrap-a-thon!

#10. To decorate the house– don’t shop!  Use what you have.  And if you just need  fresh Christmas things, invite friends to coffee along with their used Christmas items and have a decoration exchange!

#11. Cut greenery from your yard (it doesn’t have to be pine, any green is pretty)– and spread it around to decorate.  I planted a holly bush a few years back so I could trim it and bring those shiny leaves and red berries into the house in December.

#12.  Decorate your coffee table with a stack of colorful children’s Christmas books– Don’t buy them– hit the library!  ( This comes in handy for cozy times with kids in the house)

#13.  Limit the space you allow for Christmas storage (like my smallish upper hall cupboard)– so if you get something new– you have to throw something away to make it all fit.

#14.  Instead of the time and expense of Christmas cards to 100 people– send 5 handwritten notes to the ones you love the most.  Or just send a photo-laden Christmas email out.  Or opt for Thanksgiving cards,  a New Year’s letter or Valentines!!!– to stay in touch with people you care for.

#15.  Feeding people is one of my favorite parts of Christmas!! But sometimes the simplest meals are the best.  A friend went through a difficult divorce one Christmas time.  All she had on hand for Christmas Eve supper for her and the kids was cans of Clam Chowder.  But the next year, remembering that dear time together, they decided to do the same– and now it’s become their tradition.  My family lived in Spain for 12 years, so Christmas night after all the hub-bub is past, the girls and I set out simple tapas on the coffee table by the fire place.  It’s my favorite Christmas time meal.

#16. If you must throw a big Christmas party– make it pot luck!!  Let everyone chip in.  Or save the party time with friends for New Year’s Eve or a Super Bowl soup-fest when life isn’t so busy.

#17.  Allow your self to gain 2 pounds over the holidays so you don’t anguish over every bite you take.  January’s privations are around the corner!

#18.  Christmas carols– play them at home, in the car, at work… They are free and simple and set your heart to the joy of Christmas!

#19.  Set out the nativity scene together as the first part of your Christmas– I read of one family that wrapped all the nativity figures in Christmas paper and set them at the dinner table.  Then each person unwrapped their figure, explained who/what it was and placed it in the stable.

#20. Celebrate Advent with your family– each Sunday until Christmas– or, if you’re not altogether until the week of Christmas, read and sing and light the candles all in one day.  Here’s a link to an advent idea:  Christmas Advent

#21. Simple tradition– Have Grandfather or perhaps the oldest grandchild read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before you open your gifts.

#21.  As your gift to Jesus this Christmas, memorize a bit of scripture– Luke 2:8-14 (the Angels announcing to the shepherds) or Isaiah 9:6 & 7 (For unto us a child is born…) or sections of Psalm 86 (my favorite Psalm of devotion)

#23.  With your extended family have a Christmas Night Talent Show!– our line up in the past included– 5 red nosed family members whistling Rudolph!  Silly Christmas poems, the arrival of the world’s skinniest Santa, “What Child is This?” solo on the flute by a 9 year old, the 12 Days of Christmas rewritten to poke fun at family members, and the Nativity Tableau of little cousins all dressed in bathrobes and sheets (great for photos!).

#24. Just sit and watch your family.  That’s who you are doing this all for– Skip basting the turkey again, leave the dishes in the sink.  Just sit. And watch the kids explore a new Christmas toy, study the curve of their cheek, watch your older kids sit and talk over cups of coffee, your mom cut into the chocolate pie, your husband carry in a load of fire wood.  Be present with the people that you love.

#25.  Read through the book of Luke as your own personal Advent.  There are 24 chapters, one for each day leading up to Christmas.  Jesus the newborn babe, the child, the man, the Savior…

As you make your Christmas plans– ask yourself– Does this make Christmas more meaningful for my family?  Does it add joy, not stress to the holiday?  Does it honor the Lord we are celebrating?

Hoping you and your family have a warm and wonderful Christmas time together– simple and beautiful– with lots of hugs, chuckles and good food!

Joy To The World

1645c45b75dcc1d0c9817ea4daba4cdeHi all– When I was growing up, each Christmas my Dad would rent a flat bed truck.  We’d throw the Sunday School benches and an old pump organ onto the back– and all the young church families would pile in, bundled against the not so cold California winter night.

We’d drive from house to house of the older people in the church, stopping to carol to them and wish them  Merry Christmas! It’s one of my fondest memories.

So tonight we gathered with dear friends, singing those same timeless carols.  It was pure joy, adding harmonies to the voices of people we’ve known and loved for 30 or 40 years.  And the words of the songs touch deep into my heart — “Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King.”  Those old true songs draw me deep into the center of Christmas and the marvel of Jesus come to earth.  So thankful.

China Christmas

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Hello friends– Well, even though it’s not an actual holiday in China, there’s plenty of Christmas going on at the Shanghai Sittig’s 10th floor home.  Micah and Jodi summon up a tree, the packages, the meals with friends.  There are photos and gifts and silly late night skyping flying from China to California.  Thanks Micah and Jodi for including us in all your Christmas fun, even long distance…

P.S. -The REAL reason I’m putting up this post is that it’s been way, way too long since we’ve had some sweet grand-girl pics here!  Love those little faces!

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