Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Stitches

Once again, we find ourselves with Christmas Day nearly upon us. This short post conveys my wishes for a very blessed Christmas to you and yours. 
For this post, I thought I would share a some of my cross stitch projects from the past few years. All of these projects have come from my favorite stitching shop, Shepherd's Bush in Ogden. As previous posts have indicated, I am rather fond of sheep, so I am always eager to pick up a new project that features sheep. 
This year, I elected to display these ornaments from the garland that hangs from our bannister in December. Who knows how many others will be added during the years to come. As you can see from the picture below, I have plenty of room for adding more.
This picture features words from the English carol, "I Saw Three Ships," and features a shepherd and his sheep watching a ship come in. 

This next one features a spindly sort of tree with multiple shapes and decorations, including a sheep, of course. Each of these small pillow ornaments also features a button from Just Another Button Company. You can take a look at others of their handmade buttons at their website
 This final ornament has a series of stockings in a row with a row of sheep beneath them.
 Here is a quick peek at our Christmas tree. As you can see, our two cats are ready for Christmas. They like to hide away under the tree. The Siamese, in particular, loves baskets. Since he has taken over the basket, I haven't had the heart to fill it up with our Christmas story books as I usually do during December.
As we make our final Christmas preparations, I again wish you a very blessed Christmas and thank you for your readership over the past year. I will conclude this post with the words that were spoken over 2000 years ago to a group of shepherds who were keeping watch over sheep of their own. These words heralded the arrival of our own Great Shepherd.
Fear not: for, behold, I bring  you tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11    

Saturday, December 13, 2014

O Holy Night!

As the days of December creep ever closer to Christmas, I find myself becoming more introspective and reflective in relation to the season. The parties and programs, for the most part, are over, the Christmas cards have been mailed, and the packages have been wrapped and sent. Now comes the time to quiet down and enjoy time at home with my family. 

Given that it is the Christmas season, it is no surprise that I have a number of nativity sets around the house. What might be surprising, however, is the number and variety of sets that I have. Some are ones that are meant to be kept up and out of the reach of small fingers, some are intended for young fingers to touch and play with, some have been handmade gifts from friends, others come from different parts of the world. 

For this post, I thought I would take you on a "tour" of sorts of some of the handwork projects that I have around the house that reflect the nativity story. Many of them are from patterns designed by the wonderful folks at Shepherd's Bush, my favorite local needlework store. Please keep in mind that these projects have been completed over a span of nearly 25 years rather than the past few weeks.

This first series of pictures is of a Christmas sampler that I completed to be framed and ready for our first Christmas in our new home in 2010. I've included some close ups of each of the
portions of this sampler as well.

 I have several projects that incorporate button figures into the cross stitch picture such as with this small framed piece and this decorative pillow.
I also have a small "nativity tree" that include a number of handmade ornaments that tell a portion of the Christmas story. You can discern some angels as well as cross stitched and quilted ornaments that feature a component of the Christmas story.
Fortunately, the Christmas story doesn't end with the nativity. The same Jesus who was born in a stable grew up, had an earthly ministry, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, rose again, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. 

A few days ago, as I was driving to work, I listened to Steven Curtis Chapman's arrangement of the traditional song, "We Three Kings," from his "Joy" Christmas album from 2012. Although I have heard the song numerous times through the years, it was as though I was listening to it with a new and refreshed perspective. Although this song tells the journey of the wiremen and the gifts they bring, it also presents the gospel message in its entirety, encompassing the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I thought that I would share it here and hope that it blesses you as much as it blessed me.

 From my family to yours, we wish you a very blessed and merry Christmas.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; 
And the government will rest on His shoulders; 
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace
Isaiah 9:6-7

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Snacks for a Christmas Journey

Shalom Friends! At least that is how I will be greeting people in my family, my very large family, over the next few days. I will be portraying a fictional Jewish woman, Naomi, who will travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem with her husband, Gaddiel, daughter, Elizabeth, and a large, newly-acquired "family" in order to pay their taxes. During the course of our Journey, we will encounter Roman soldiers, three magi who have been following a new star, shepherds who are visited by an angel, a rabbi and his students who are studying the Old Testament prophets, and tax collectors - all before we finally make it to Bethlehem. Once we do make it to Bethlehem, we will be turned away at the inn. In our efforts to find a place to stay, however, we will have our own personal encounter with Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus.

This is all part of my church's annual presentation of Journey to Bethlehem. We have been presenting Journey to Bethlehem since 1997. It is a live, outdoor nativity event that we offer as a free gift to the community. As our guests arrive, they are placed into "families" who will then experience about a 45-minute journey as part of Gaddiel and Naomi's family.

An event such as Journey to Bethlehem requires a large cast and crew. During the course of each night, the cast and crew always are ready to enjoy a snack or two to keep our energy going as we are able to catch a momentary break. For this post, I thought I would share a couple of my favorite Journey to Bethlehem snacks that seem to be hits with kids through adults. They are rather portable and easily consumed. They are also relatively easy to put together which is always a bonus during Journey week.

Caramel Cereal Mix
I prefer to use the Chex brand cereals, but any type of crispy corn and rice square cereal will do.
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups crispy rice square cereal
  • 4 cups crispy corn square cereal
Microwave the brown sugar, margarine, and corn syrup in a large microwaveable bowl uncovered on high for 1-2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute, until margarine is melted
Stir in baking soda until dissolved. 
Stir in cereals. 
Microwave on high for 3 minutes, stirring every minute. Caution: the bowl will get hot so handle carefully.
Spread out onto a large cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Allow to cool and break into pieces. 
Store in an airtight container. The Christmas-themed plastic containers that are available this time of year work great and are a ready-to-go serving bowl.

Popcorn balls
These turn out nice and soft and caramel-y. They do take a bit of time because you need to boil the caramel coating on the stove, but they are well worth the effort.
  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 bags of microwave popcorn, popped (I prefer to use a "light" variety to avoid too heavy of a butter taste - the caramel taste doesn't need any competition)
Pop the bags of popcorn and empty them into a very large container. I use a large stockpot. You will need the space for mixing the caramel mixture over the popped corn.
Combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until soft ball stage (234 to 238 degrees Fahrenheit). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. 
Pour over the popcorn, toss the popcorn and caramel mixture together, shape into balls, and wrap in plastic wrap. Be careful - the caramel mixture will be hot!! At the same time, you need to work somewhat quickly because as the caramel mixture cools, it also hardens, making it more difficult to form the popcorn balls. I also spray my hands with non-stick spray to keep the caramel from sticking to my hands while forming the popcorn balls.
In the spirit of the Advent season, here is a Christmas hymn to listen to while preparing your own Christmas treats. This arrangement is by Red Mountain Music from Birmingham, Alabama. Their focus is arranging new music for all-but-forgotten hymn texts. Their album, Silent Night, is available from iTunes store as well as their website.
Shalom! and I hope to see you on the journey. Feel free to make some of these snacks for yourself and bring them along.