Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best of 2012

I'm sitting here on New Year's Eve about to begin the festivities with close friends.  2013 is coming very fast, so I have barely enough time to think back on 2012.  Here's the quick and dirty "best of"

My Craft Room!  In 2012, I went from Dreaming of a Craft Room to Craft Room MusingsDIY Fabric Storage, and ultimately, the Craft Room Reveal.  I love my craft room, even if it is a mess right now.  2013 will bring more sewing and crafting, God and time willing.

Etsy and the creations in it!  Pretty Pretty Cindy opened in 2012, with all of my various creative projects.  I love having a place to share my projects/creations without needing to find a family member or friend to give it to.  One of my favorite items was this Catherine Wheel Afghan.  It will always remind me of Kawaii where it was made.  I made a few rag quilts (I really need to get back to that):  Raggedy Rag Baby Boy Quilt, Chocolate Pistachio Quilt and Pinkie Rag Quilt.  Then there was the dress making frenzy:  the Watermelon Dress, Upcycled Gauze Dress, Upcycled Denim Skirt and Black Slip Dress.

I also started to share my Arizona with you:  javelinas, other Arizona critters, the Arizona Biltmore, Arizona's Centennial, Sedona and roses, clouds, the State Fair and Verde Canyon Railroad.

See you in 2013.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Let the Christmas Festivities Begin!

While many people have already kicked their Christmas tree to the curb and darkened their doorsteps by removing the Christmas lights, Christmastide is just getting started.  Traditionally, Christmas celebrations began on Christmas Day, December 25 and did not end until Candlemas, February 2.  Can you imagine how crazy retailers would be if they had to clear out Christmas after February 2 and get Valentine's Day up immediately??

Personally, we don't take down our Christmas decorations until after Epiphany, January 6.  You might recall that Epiphany celebrates the day when the three wise men (aka kings) brought gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh to the infant Jesus.  I really enjoy Christmastide because I just don't want Christmas to end at midnight on December 25.  I'm so relieved that Christian tradition supports me on this.  Want more interesting Christmas fun facts that will keep you celebrating beyond December 25?

  • The Twelve Days of Christmas was written for the time between Christmas and Epiphany.  The first day of Christmas is Christmas Day and you get the 12 drummers drumming on January 5, the eve of Epiphany.
  • After the Reformation, some Protestant groups disavowed the celebration of Christmas.  During a Calvinist reign in England, Parliament forbade the celebration of Christmas
  • In Massachusetts, with its Puritan roots, up until the 1830's anyone who missed school or work on December 25 was subjected to a fine.
  • Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, but it's the same day as Christmas in the Western church - December 25.  How?  The Orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar and Western churches follow the Gregorian calendar.  By calculating the difference (about 13 days), January 7 is December 25.
  • December 26 is Boxer Day in Canada and England.  The feast celebrates the day the priest emptied the "poor box" which was full after Christmas.  Boxer Day is the day when many people give gifts to people who serve them during the year - mailmen, barbers or stylists, etc.
  • In many parts of the world, some or all of the gifts are not opened until Epiphany because that was the day the Magi brought gifts to the Christ Child.

Still ready to take down that tree now?  Leave it up - celebrate a bit more!  Think about moving your "tree calendar" next year.  Don't put up your tree the day after Thanksgiving.  Wait a little longer and then you won't rush to get it down on December 26.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed Christmastide.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Meaning of It All

December 21, 2012 is gone and, despite the fears of many, the world did not end.  Unfortunately, for the parents and families of the Sandy Hook victims, a big part of their world ended a week ago.  Here in our hometown, a sixteen year old girl died and her friend was injured when a sixteen year old boy hit them in a tragic accident.  These senseless deaths are magnified by the fact we are so close to Christmas.  For many people, Christmas seems meaningless this year.

Christmas is a cheerful, frivolous giddy time, but the real Christmas has more meaning than the shiny secular version.  Christmas is about a baby in swaddling clothes and the silent night filled with angels singing.  It's also about a power that is bigger than violence and stronger than depression.  We frequently hear that Christ is the reason for the season.  I don't think that's quite correct.  He is the reason. Period. End.  In all times, in all seasons, this year, next year and next Tuesday, Christ is the reason.

The most beautiful paradox is that while Christ is the power bigger than evil, He didn't come to earth that way.  Jesus became human in the form of a helpless baby in a violent world.  He was born into an occupied country.  He was homeless and poor.  Shortly after He was born, in an act of domestic terrorism (or genocide), the leader of His nation (not the occupying government) ordered the slaughter of all male children under the age of 3.  His parents fled to a foreign country in an effort to escape the violence of their own.  Eventually, he died a violent death.  He was not immune to senseless violence.  But in the end, Christ conquered death to show us that ultimately, God brings good from even the most horrific events.  We wait in joyful hope for that good.  Hold on to the simplicity of faith in a baby who brings healing to a broken world.

Merry Christmas


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Recipe - Cranberry-Orange Snack Mix

This is a repeat from last year - not only in posting this recipe, but also because it might be last minute gifts again this year.

It's getting down to the wire when I've got to think about all the "little" gifts I need - for teachers, babysitters, mailmen, other last minute recipients.  These are my favorite gifts because although I like to make them interesting, I don't necessarily have to give a lot of personal thought to them.  I also like to combine my love for the deal.  Specifically, I like to buy Christmas things right after Christmas for a song and wait and use them the following year.  When I unwrap my Christmas decorations, I enjoy finding something new - like Christmas comes early.  Last year I found these glass Santa containers on sale for $1.00 each (originally $4.99) at Target.  I thought I would make cookie mix, but because of the small size, I needed to think of something else.

 Cranberry/Orange Snack Mix

The ingredients are pretty simple:

2 c. Corn Chex
2 c. Oat squares
2 c. Mini Pretzels
1 c. whole almonds
1/4 c. butter
1/3 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
3 Tbl packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
2/3 c. dried cranberries (Craisins)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and coat a 13X9 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Mix the first four ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  In a smaller bowl melt butter and add orange juice concentrate, brown sugar and spices.  Mix well and pour over the dry ingredients, stirring them to coat. 

 Spread the resulting mix on the baking pan and bake for 50 minutes.  You will need to stir the mix every 10 minutes.  

Once it's done, you add the Craisins and lay the mix out on a flat surface until it's dry.  You can store it in any airtight container.  As an extra bonus, your kitchen will have a wonderful smell of spiced orange and cranberry.  

This is better than any old cookie mix :)


Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Way It Ought to Be

My son participates in a an extracurricular school for the arts and every year about this time they do a revue with the various age groups.  The theme this year was America, and this little group did some great little numbers

They were so sweet.  Each came forward and sang little solos, including "God Bless America."

I loved it, but it also made me cry.

These are kindergarteners.

This is the way kindergarteners should be spending a Saturday before Christmas.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Comfort

We're finally putting up our Christmas decorations, and once again I feel a sense of comfort and familiarity.  I don't know about anyone else, but I put my decorations in the same place every year.  I tend to group similar items together.  Snowmen go in the kitchen, nativity scenes on the piano, and angels on the bar.

Some of my favorite decorations are in the main bathroom where the Santas live.  I can look at every decoration and remember where I bought or received it.  Here's my favorite:

I still have a hard time looking at these guys without laughing.  Their looks seem to question why they are there.  I also have this cute Santa and Mrs. Claus.

I bought these about 12 years ago at a craft fair at my church.  The woman who made them subsequently died from cancer and her husband loved hearing that I still had her creations and displayed them every year.  Santa has to lean on the Santa candle because he can't stand on his own, but I can't imagine decorating this room without him.

One of my newer areas is my bar adored with angels.

This is one of my favorite angels that I bought about 5 years ago at of all places, a copper mine.

It makes me feel good putting all of these pieces in the same places every year.  I guess it reminds me of Christmases past (or I'm just too lazy to think of a different way to decorate).  Either way, it's part of the comfort of Christmas.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Is Approaching

Like you don't know?  I'm trying to stay stress free, but it's not so easy. I'm using this time to teach my children about the preparation for Christ's second coming by helping our neighbors who are in need. There have been so many opportunities through angel trees, Toys for Tots, etc, but it can be exhausting. I've given up some of my time, especially with my blog. I can say, though, that it's been rewarding.

Now comes the hard part-convincing the kids that they can do with a little less this year. I've told them that with so much charitable giving, there is less available for them. No problem, Mom, Santa Claus will still come through with the big stuff. (sigh) It's not so easy, but I have a little time to figure it out.

So, for those of you who continue to read my blog, please bear with me. I promise to have some new projects and other interesting things to say soon. In the meantime, enjoy your Christmas preparations even more by buying or making a few extra things for those who might not feel the love through a gift or kindness just for them. Isn't that what Christmas is about anyway?


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wreath Recycling in Phoenix

Recently seen in Phoenix City Hall - lots of junk:

The Public Works Department put together a great display of wreaths made from recycled materials.  The wreath above is made from magazine or book pages cut in the shape of leaves and glued to a cardboard round form.  This one is the most interesting:

It's a wire wreath form that goes through each of these plastic water bottles.  The bottles are filled with little bits of colored paper or items and then the caps are corked with recycled corks.  Isn't that clever?

When I first saw this one, I thought it was recycled bows and ribbons.  I still think that would be a great way to recycle, especially after Christmas.  But it's not ribbons and bows.

These are aluminum cans cut into strips and curled.  See the Diet Coke, Coke and Seven Up cans?  I was so impressed with the creativity expressed in these displays, but what was more important was that it opened up lots of ideas about reusing items we normally think of as trash.

Full Disclosure Here - I am watching "Hoarders Buried Alive" while I'm writing this, so I don't want to suggest that anyone collect trash in an effort to find some use for it in the future.

This was the prettiest wreath I saw and is a great way to recycle after Christmas.  They used white tissue paper dipped in a little blue paint, blue cardstock cut into stars and balled up aluminum foil for the star centers.  Around the edges are cut up plastic water bottles.

Again, I wouldn't suggest that anyone pile up stuff just to find a way to reuse it (I'm still watching "Hoarders"), but we could keep so much out of a landfill with just a little effort and creativity.  Isn't this what bloggers are good at anyway?


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Once in a Lifetime

Last Saturday my husband surprised me with a once in a lifetime opportunity.  He is a church music director and we both have been musicians for many years (that's how we met).  He arranged for us to meet this guy:

For those of you who don't follow Christian contemporary music, this is Michael W. Smith, who is probably one of the best known and prolific songwriters in this genre.  This alone would have been very cool, but we had a very unique way of "meeting" him:

That's us in the back - we're in the backup choir!!  There were 40 voices in the choir and we rehearsed all day with Michael's fabulous music director, David Hamilton

It was so exciting - and challenging!  Because my dear husband wanted it to be a surprise, I didn't get to see the music until that morning (on the way to the theater).  Still, the opportunity to sing in a concert with Michael W. Smith and a full orchestra was amazing:

What a great time!  Thanks Kent!  Thank you David Hamilton!  Thank you Michael!