Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Christmas History: Medieval Christmas

The next few hundred years of Christmas didn't change much.  Mostly on account that people were just trying to survive.  The average person was lucky to live to their thirties with so many diseases, bad hygene and poor diet.  That being said, people still took time to celebrate the season each year.  Christmas is Medieval England was very different to Christmas now. The Church ensured that Christmas was a true religious holiday. Celebrations were for the birth of Christ as opposed to simply peasants enjoying themselves.

The first recorded use of the word "Christmas" was in 1038 when a book from Saxon England used the words "Cristes Maesse" in it.

Also of note for Medieval England was the fact that William the Conqueror had himself crowned king of England on Christmas Day 1066. Those noble men allowed inside Westminster Abbey cheered so loudly when the crowning ceremony was taking place that the guards outside thought something was happening to their master inside the abbey. They rushed inside, attacked people and houses near to Westminster Abbey were burned down.
However, some of the problems experienced at Christmas then have had a knock-on effect for us. For example, carol singers going from house to house now is as a result of carols being banned within churches in Medieval times. Carol singers in Medieval times took the word "carol" literally - it means to sing and dance in a circle. So many Xmas services were spoiled by carol signers doing just this, that the Church at the time banned them and ordered the carol singers into the street.

The Christmas crib originated in Medieval times but in Medieval Italy. In 1223, Saint Francis of Assisi is said to have used a crib to explain to the local people of Assisi the Christmas story. It seems that the part played by animals in the Christmas story also comes from the early 13th century even if the Bible does not mention them.

December 28th is a day children may not have enjoyed in Medieval times. December 28th is "Holy Innocents Day" or "Childermass Day". This is the day when King Herod ordered that all children under two years of age be killed. In some European towns it was the custom for a boy to be given charge of a town for one day after being made a bishop for just December 28th. In Medieval England, children were reminded of Herod’s cruelty by being beaten. December 28th was seen by many then as a day of bad luck. No-one would get married on that day; no-one would start a building on that day and Edward IV refused to be crowned on that day.

What was eaten on Christmas Day? Certainly not turkey. Turkeys naturally come from America and only got to Europe after the discovery of that continent in the late 15th century. So turkey would not have been on the Christmas menu of anybody in England. The rich would have eaten goose and, with the king’s permission, swan. If they could be caught, woodcock would also be eaten. To make a roast bird look even more tasty, medieval cooks used to cover the cooking bird with butter and saffron plant. This would give the cooked bird a golden colour by the time it was served. However, if the poor could afford it, the Church had a fixed price of 7 pence for a ready cooked goose. An uncooked goose would cost 6 pence - about a day’s wages.

Venison from deer would also be on the menu. It has also given us a famous saying !! The poor would not be allowed to eat the best parts of a deer. However, in keeping with the spirit of Christmas, a decent lord might let the poor have what was left of the deer. These parts were known as the deer's ‘umbles’. These were the heart, liver, tongue, feet, ears and brains. Mixed with whatever else a cook could get, they were made into a pie. Therefore, the poor would eat ‘umble pie’. Nowadays, if you have taken a tumble in life and have to live a standard of life you would not usually be used to, it is said that you are having to eat ‘humble pie’.

Mince pies are a tradition now for Christmas. In Medieval England a large mince pie was always baked. However, they were filled with all sorts of shredded meat along with spices and fruit. This recipe only changed in Victorian times when the shredded meat was left out.
It was also believed that if you made a wish with the first bite of your first mince pie, your  wish would come true. If you also refused the first mince pie someone offered you over Christmas, you would then suffer bad luck.

Christmas puddings in Medieval England were spicy porridge and known as "frumenty". This was considered a real treat. It was made of thick porridge (or boiled wheat). Currants and dried fruit were stirred in. The yolks of eggs were also added and, if available, spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. The mixture was left to cool and set before being served.
A less than Christian practice at this time and found only really in the countryside was the practice of killing a wild boar, cutting off its head, and offering it to the goddess of farming so that you would have a good crop in the following year.

Christmas Day was also a "quarter day". This meant that the poor had to pay their rent on this day!

"Mumming" was also practiced at Christmas. This was where actors performed plays and dances in villages or castles. Mystery plays were also performed in which the story of Christ was told. King Herod would be in a mystery play and he would be the equivalent of a ‘baddie’ in a modern pantomime.

Source: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/medieval_xmas.htm

Monday, August 30, 2010

Christmas: 101 Wondrous Ideas

I haven't reviewed a craft book yet, so I thought this one was a good choice.  During these more economical times, these handmade gifts are easy on the pocketbook without scrimping on quality and charm.  Published by Better Homes and Gardens Christmas: 101 Wondrous Ideas features many different and interesting crafts and projects for the holiday season.  The crafts are simple and elegant.  Most are not too intimidating, even for the most amateur crafter. 

Separated into five sections, each one gives you many ideas to make your home the envy of your friends.  From simple gifts, trimming the tree, baking, and even candle making, you'll find something to make for each one on your Christmas list. 

There are simple projects such as the milk carton candle to more elaborate ones such as making a wreath out of spearamint candies.  You can even get the kids involved personalizing ornaments with paint pens or folding star cornicopias. 

Check out your library and take home this great little craft book.  It's never to early to start thinking about gifts for your family and friends.  Now you can give them something extra special: something homemade.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Christmas in the News

Australia retailer has already rolled out the Christmas merchandise.

The perennial favorite White Christmas to be released on Blu-ray.

New made for tv movie filming in Millbrook, Ontario, due out by Christmas.

'Tis the sneezin'.  Not just gifts are given during the holidays.

Sing a song of Christmas

I was talking with our church choir director last week and she let me in on the upcoming Christmas season's music.  Like some churches we have a night of music during Advent which is composed of Christmas music and readings about the upcoming birth of Jesus.

This year we're going to do something a little simpler.  In previous years we've done some fairly complicated pieces, but this time we need to take it easy because of our upcoming trip to England in the summer.  She wants to have just Canadian pieces and composers.  There's a poliferation of great Canadian music out there and it would be an honor to get to sing of it this year.  I'm looking forward to it.

One thing that she's a stickler for though is being true to the season.  It seems that you can hear Christmas music in the malls or on the radio practically after Halloween and they don't have any qualms about playing music that announces the birth of Christ any time before December 25.  At our church it's different.  We don't sing about the birth until December 24.  When the celebration is supposed to occur.  Christmas is supposed to be a time of anticipation.  We should take the time to pause and reflect on our lives, and get ready for upcoming celebration.  So we sing about the quietness of the season, or the future birth. 

I'm hoping there's room in our schedule for a nice piece that I found for a duet.  It's to the tune of "What Child is This?" but the lyrics have been changed for Advent.  It's a simple quiet tune, and would be perfect for season. 

Of course, the couple of months until December are not just the times I play Christmas music.  You can find me listening to the stuff when it's the middle of summer.  I wouldn't have this blog now, would I, if I didn't enjoy the holiday any time of the year.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

There's a light......

We can't think of the holidays without having some conversation about lights.  We have them on our trees, on our homes, and on our yards.  Some are modest and some are over the top.  Some are set with music, or just blink on and off.  Whatever your tradition, lights are part of the holidays.

The first Christmas lights that resembled what you see on trees today were first used in 1882. Edward Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison, wound 80 red, white, and blue bulbs around his Christmas tree. The bulbs were hand wired together, much like how you would string beads on thread to make a necklace.

In 1895, President Grover Cleveland added electric Christmas lights to the tree in the White House. This important moment in Christmas lights history created widespread interest in a newer method of holiday decorating. Thomas Edison began offering hand-blown bulbs for Christmas trees through General Electric and many large businesses began using brightly lit trees as a strategy for attracting customers during the holiday shopping season. When the public saw these trees, they sometimes referred to the Christmas lights as either "fairy lights" or "twinkle lights."

In the early 1900s, it became fashionable for members of high society to throw Christmas tree lighting parties. These elaborate parties were planned for many months and cost a considerable amount of money. While the average worker only made 22 cents per hour at this time, the first Christmas lights cost $12 for a set of 24 lights. In addition, the process of attaching the individual lights to the tree required skills that most people did not possess. The services of a professional wireman were typically required before the party could begin. 
In 1908, the first battery-operated Christmas tree lights became available after Ralph Morris came up with the idea of pulling the lights from an old telephone switchboard for use on a Christmas tree.

By most accounts, Albert Sadacca deserves credit for making Christmas tree lights widely available to the public. In 1917, after learning of a fire caused by a poor family who decorated their tree with lit candles because they couldn't afford modern Christmas lights, the 15-year old entrepreneur convinced his parents to use the bulbs from their business making novelty bird cage lights to create safe and affordable strings of Christmas lights. The idea got off to a slow start, but quickly picked up steam once they decided to paint the bulbs different colors instead of selling plain white lights.

Later, Albert Sadacca and his brothers Henri and Leon began NOMA Electric Company to manufacture and distribute Christmas lights. Until the 1960s, their company was the largest supplier of Christmas lights in the world. 

I remember those simple incandesant lights that everyone had when I was growing up.  If you were lucky you had the string of lights that, if one burnt out, the whole string of lights didn't do dark.  That chore was left to me or my brother.  Going from one light to the next, unscrewing the light, replacing it with a new one to see if the strand lit up, and then progressing to the next one, and so on.   Regardless of the work we thought was tedious, I still love it when the house is dark on Christmas Eve, but the tree's lights are on.  There's that stillness in the night, coupled with the gentle glow of the lights that makes the night a little more special.
Nowadays the trend is using LED, or light emitting diodes, lights for your Christmas lights.  They use considerably less energy, last longer, and are harder to break.   On the downside though, once one lights goes, you have to replace the whole string.  Also, not all lights have the same hue.  If you want to just have one colour on your tree, such as white, you should stick to using lights from the same company.  And check the box to make sure that it's the same type of white.  Some are more "natural" light and some of softer.  I learned that the hard way.  Regardless of what type of light you choose, having the gentle glow of the lights on the tree, or adorning the houses on your street, help you celebrate the holidays with a little more warmth.  Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Christmas Cornicopia

This just in.  Annie Lennox, formerly part of the great eighties band The Eurythmics, has announced that she will be releasing a Christmas album late November called A Christmas Cornicopia.  Ms. Lennox has been a favorite of mine since the eighties with their first single "Here Come the Rain Again" and has delighted my ears as well as many others.  She has had many solo albums since leaving The Eurythmics, with much acclaim.  This album will definitely be on my Christmas music list this year.

Ms. Lennox is with the Universal Music Group and a representative said that the album will be Lennox's interpretation of some traditional Christmas carols as well as an original piece called "Universal Child."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Listening to Accu Holidays Radio

Music of the Coventry CarolImage via Wikipedia
Well, I don't know about you, but when I'm on someone else's Christmas blog or even my own, I like to listen to Christmas music. After all, what's visiting a Christmas blog like without music to help you get excited about the holidays??

I also like to listen to Accu Holidays Radio. I can go there, pick out any kind of Holiday music I want to listen to out of their many different genres, just click on any music icon of your preference, and the player opens up in another window. I can then minimize my window and listen as long as I like. Love it! The player has three tabs, a Now Playing tab, an Artist List-banned artists-ones you can select to never hear again while listening, and a Other Channels tab to pick from if you want to change the kind of music you are listening to. You can do it all from the player. It streams great and sounds wonderful! What more can you ask for?!

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Christmas in the News

Here's a few more Christmas items in the news:

Christmas tree makes a stop in Wyoming.

Charles Xavier: Christmas Vibes album.

The classic A Christmas Story becomes a musical.  "You'll shoot your eye out!"

Unfortunately, you'll pay more to see your family and friends this holiday season.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nod to the Nog

What's Christmas without the perennial favourite drink: eggnog?  To get your full serving of this creamy beverage check out Eggnogaholic.  Made by one of the moderator at one of my favourite sites, Talk Christmas, Eggnogaholic features tons of infomation about this drink.  Plus many different recipes to make your own, add it to other recipes, or just to replicate the flavours within a certain dish.  Click over to try out a few eggnog jokes on your friends.

Many believe that eggnog is a tradition that was brought to America from Europe. This is partially true. Eggnog is related to various milk and wine punches that had been concocted long ago in the "Old World". However, in America a new twist was put on the theme. Rum was used in the place of wine. In Colonial America, rum was commonly called "grog", so the name eggnog is likely derived from the very descriptive term for this drink, "egg-and-grog", which corrupted to egg'n'grog and soon to eggnog. At least this is one version...

Other experts would have it that the "nog" of eggnog comes from the word "noggin". A noggin was a small, wooden, carved mug. It was used to serve drinks at table in taverns (while drinks beside the fire were served in tankards). It is thought that eggnog started out as a mixture of Spanish "Sherry" and milk. The English called this concoction "Dry sack posset". It is very easy to see how an egg drink in a noggin could become eggnog.
The true story might be a mixture of the two and eggnog was originally called "egg and grog in a noggin". This was a term that required shortening if ever there was one.
With it's European roots and the availability of the ingredients, eggnog soon became a popular wintertime drink throughout Colonial America. It had much to recomend it; it was rich, spicy, and alcoholic.
In the 1820's Pierce Egan, a period author, wrote a book called "Life of London: or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and His Elegant Friend Corinthina Tom". To publicize his work Mr. Egan made up a variation of eggnog he called "Tom and Jerry". It added 1/2 oz of brandy to the basic recipe (fortifying it considerably and adding further to its popularity).

Eggnog, in the 1800s was nearly always made in large quantities and nearly always used as a social drink. It was commonly served at holiday parties and it was noted by an English visitor in 1866, "Christmas is not properly observed unless you brew egg nogg for all comers; everybody calls on everybody else; and each call is celebrated by a solemn egg-nogging...It is made cold and is drunk cold and is to be commended."

Of course, Christmas was not the only day upon which eggnog was popular. In Baltimore it was a tradition for young men to call upon all of their friends on New years day. At each of many homes the strapping fellows were offered a cup of eggnog, and so as they went they became more and more inebriated. It was quite a feat to actually finish one's rounds.

America's first President, George Washington, was quite a fan of eggnog and devised his own recipe that included rye whiskey, rum and sherry. It was reputed to be a stiff drink that only the most courageous were willing to try.

Eggnog is still a popular drink during the holidays, and its social character remains. It is hard to imagine a Christmas without a cup of the "nog" to spice up the atmosphere and lend merriment and joy to the procedings.

Source: www.indepthinfo.com/eggnog/history.shtml

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Santa's Bio

Here's a great book about the beginnings of the big guy in the red suit.  Santa: My Life and Times is the account of Santa's life up to when he gets the job at the North Pole.  In a remarkable tale that spans centuries, we learn of the events that shaped one of the world's most beloved figures.  Through a comprehensive interview process Santa answers all the questions that have been asked by children and adults for years: Where did he come from?  Why do reindeer fly? What are the elves like? And many more.

We follow Santa from his boyhood to a mysterious being which shows him his destiny.  He encounters many magical creatures.  Some good and some naughty.  Delight in hearing about Santa's bought with the hobgoblins and his discovery of magic.  Find a side of Santa that you've never considered.

Martin I. Green has been trusted with Santa's story of his life and makes sure that every detail is not overlooked.  Bill Sienkiwicz beautifully illustrates the many stages of Santa's life and times.

Check out Santa: My Life and Times and remember that you might think you know all about this magical man, but some things may surprise you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Essen....and Sci Fi!!

As October approaches I guess thoughts of board gamers turn to Essen. Whether you are going to make the trip or not it is always an exciting time for gamers as a whole crop of games, good, bad and indifferent emerge into the public domain. I am no different and although I am not going this year have been checking out the prospective new releases on the excellent 'Boardgame News' website. There is an indepth preview of every game slated for release at Essen, and it is constantly updated. That must mean a lot of work, and I for one appreciate the effort.

Being on a limited budget and as most of the games I play at this time are two player I have to keep a tight rein on which games I am interested in. At the moment on the list is 'London' from Martin Wallace and this is how he describes on the Treefrog website.

London lies devastated after the Great Fire of 1666. This is your opportunity to build a new city on the ashes of the old. It is up to you how you employ the talents of the people of London to this end. Will you favour the business classes, who will earn you money? Or would you prefer to spend more money than you can rightly afford on grand monuments and sumptuous palaces? You must also deal with the problem of rising poverty and how to employ the many paupers of the city. Throughout the game you will be forced to make tough decisions. To achieve one aim you must sacrifice another, which may open an opportunity for a competitor.
Almost 250 years of the city's history is recreated in this game. Many of the most famous buildings and monuments are captured in detail on illustrated cards. These elements are presented in a relatively simple game that can be played easily within ninety minutes.

Sounds intriguing....and can be played by 2!

Next on the list is 'Great Fire, 1666' a game by Richard Denning and published by JKLM games. Sounds pretty similar to the Wallace theme eh! Well here is the description from the designer.

September 1666. A careless baker in Pudding Lane forgot to put out his fire and it spread creating an inferno which would destroy 13,000 houses and make 70,000 of London’s 80,000 population homeless. The Lord Mayor fails to act and it is down to the trained bands of militia led by a few worthies to fight the fire and finally put it out. To do so they must decide which districts to demolish to protect others. These same individuals own much of London and making such choices is painful. In the end though it is an opportunity for many. Someone is going to come out of this with the most property intact and someone will be seen to do the most to fight the fire. Could that someone have enough influence and popularity to become the next Mayor?
The players are men of wealth and standing who own property around London. They can use the trained bands to fight the fire, use demolitions to destroy blocks of housing to prevent the fire flowing or turn a blind eye and allow the fire to spread and damage rival’s property. Victory can belong to the player with the most property left but putting out fires can give you a boost. In addition each player will have several hidden objectives which might include helping another player or protecting parts of the city.

Only drawback for me is that it's only 3-6 players.

Triumvirate is a 2- player card game from Travis Worthington, originally released in 2009 as a self published game of 350 copies. It now gets a professional production and looks interesting.

7 Wonders is getting a lot of buzz. A card development game along the lines of Race for the Galaxy or Dominion. Again only 3-7 players.

Lastly, Inca Empire. The board and components look gorgeous in this new edition and the gameplay sounds interesting. No 2 player though.

So, most of the games I am drawn to because of gameplay or whatever don't play 2....doh! Still looks like I won't be spending a lot.

Now for something completely different. I have a liking for fifties sci-fi movies and have just bought a great collection on DVD. From Universal Studios it contains one of my all time favourites...'This Island Earth'. It's the only movie in colour in the collection, the other titles being, It Came From Outer Space, Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Creature from The Black Lagoon and The Thing From Another World. Body Snatchers is presented in the original B & W but also in a colourised version. If you like this type of movie it's a must have. Tina is not so impressed and tends to laugh a lot at the creatures!!!

Happy Gaming!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Christmas News

Here are some Christmas items in this week's news:

Rehearsals start for upcoming pagent in Little Falls.

Charlie Brown will get snow this year in Windsor.

Running for Christmas in August in Newton.

Retailers may have a Blue Christmas.

Have any other Christmas stories?  Send them my way.

Christmas For Sale

Most of us would agree that part of the season has become too commercial. How do we end up getting seduced by all the flashy merchandising and buying something we really don't need on December 24, only to have a day's rest, and gear back up to hit the stores for the Boxing Day sales?

Well, one way to stop that is to shop early!

As I was on vacation this summer, I came across a small store just outside Moncton, New Brunswick, called
The Twelve Months of Christmas. This is a store dedicated to selling Christmas merchandise twelve months of the year. I drove through this quaint little town to arrive at a beautiful white victorian with a small Christmas sign outside. Inside, the walls were sparsely covered with decorations, so I was a little nonplussed. I then found out that they were moving, so I forgave them a little bit. I did a quick look around, but found nothing I could pack and ship back with me safely. I hope they do well in their new location.

That got me thinking. There used to be a Christmas store in my city, but it closed due to rising rent and online competition. With a city of over one million people you would think a store would be able to survive. It was located in a trendy area of town, so it received lots of out of town visitors. I loved going in to see the new products that came in each year. Plus I collect Santas, so it was especially fun to find a new version of the jolly guy in the red suit. So, I was quite surprised when it sold off its merchandise and closed for good.

There seems to be a Christmas store in most major centers. Search "Christmas retail stores" and you'll get a comprehensive list of ones in Canada and the US. I've found one even in the middle of a largely Mennonite community, so why can't we keep one going? I know that most people don't even want to think about the holidays when they're on their summer vacation, but it makes me smile when I see a Christmas store. I know that I can have that joy any time of the year.

So, here's my challenge to all of you. If you have a Christmas store in your city or town, make a point of shopping there. Go out and buy something once a week. It doesn't have to be extravagant. A little ornament, a music cd, or a small gift. During the summer many stores have great sales to help make room for the new merchandise in the fall, so take advantage. And tell your friends. Don't let the all year Christmas store become a thing of the past.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Get Cooking!

With just four months to go until Christmas now is the perfect time to get started on your holiday baking. I know, you're thinking it's way too hot to be stuck in the kitchen baking. Here's my solution. Make freezer cookies! These great cookies can be made ahead of time and kept in your freezer for up to four months. So, when the holidays are coming just pull out a batch, slice, bake and you'll have great cookies ready for anyone who comes to visit without all the hassle. A little prep goes a long way sometimes.

I found this great recipe from Tammy's Recipes. Head on over to find some other great holiday ideas too. Oh, and make lots! Have a few batches made because you'll want to use these cookies for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other family get together this fall.

Description: Cranberry Roll-up Freezer Cookies

Vanilla shortbread cookie dough, rolled and filled with homemade cranberry sauce; frozen and then sliced and baked


About 3 dozen small cookies


Cookie Dough Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom, optional

Cranberry Filling Ingredients:

2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon orange zest, optional


1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, stir well.

2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and cardemom (if using). Add to creamed mixture and mix well. Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

3. Mix 1/4 cup of water with the cornstarch and set aside. Put remaining cranberry filling ingredients into a saucepan and heat on medium heat, stirring, until berries are popped. Add water/cornstarch mixture and continue heating and stirring until mixture is a thickened chunky cranberry sauce. Set aside to cool.

4. On a clean surface, sprinkle confectioner's sugar and roll each half of the dough into a 12x7-inch rectangle. Spread half of the cranberry mixture on each rectangle, to within 1 inch of the edges.

5. Roll dough gently, starting at one of the 12-inch (wide) sides (rather than at the 7-inch ends). Pinch edge and ends to seal. Carefully transfer each log to a sheet of waxed paper and wrap, securing with masking tape. Wrap each log in foil. Place in freezer for at least 1 day and up to 4 months.

6. When ready to bake cookies, remove from freezer and slice frozen logs into 1/3-inch slices using a sharp knife. Place frozen slices on greased cookie sheets and bake 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, until done. (Edges will be only slightly browned, if at all.) Remove from cookie sheet after about 5 minutes and place on wire racks to cool.

Cranberry Roll-up Freezer Cookies
Preparation Time:

60 minutes

Cooking Time:

15-20 minutes

Tammy's Review:

These cookies are delicious and attractive, but not without some effort.

Remember to start this recipe early. The mixed dough can be chilled for several hours or even a couple days, so it's best to plan ahead and make the dough plenty early.

The filling takes just minutes to prepare. Rolling the dough is probably the only really challenging thing about this recipe. Just use plenty of powdered sugar if you're having difficulty. The dough will be soft. The logs will also be fragile, but if you place them on a flat surface in the freezer, they will harden nicely.

All that said, once these cookies are mixed up, rolled out, rolled up, and wrapped up, they're about the easiest fanciest last-minute cookie you could make! The log of dough will last a number of months in your freezer, and when you decide you need some cookies, you can have fresh cookies in about 25 minutes' time (just slice while you preheat the oven!).

Oh yeah, and they taste wonderful, too!! The cookie dough part is a soft vanilla shortbread flavor and the filling is bright and tangy. The cookies aren't very large, which explains why the recipe makes so many.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Giving Gift Cards for Christmas

Credit CardsImage by Andres Rueda via Flickr
Well, I decided to add another post about gift cards. I did a little research on the fees associated with bank issued gift cards...Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. Read the fine print! Here's a link to a very informative video about gift cards and fees. http://moneywatch.bnet.com/saving-money/video/gift-cards-fees-and-fine-print/367592/ 

American Express seems to have no fees after purchasing, no expiration date, and no fee for dormancy. The link for the terms and conditions is: https://www212.americanexpress.com/dsmlive/dsm/dom/us/en/personal/cardmember/additionalproductsandservices/giftcardsandtravelerscheques/amexgiftcard_cardholderagreement.do?vgnextoid=2d49e6e93492a110VgnVCM200000d0faad94RCRD&vgnextchannel=95ddb81e8482a110VgnVCM100000defaad94RCRD
Here you will find FAQ'S. They have business gift cards and personal gift cards. Their link is: https://www.americanexpress.com/gift/giftcardslanding.shtml?ne_ppc_id=839&ne_key_id=5339907&gclid=CK6-n9evpqMCFQuenAodHycT4w 

GiftCards.com has many cards to choose from, but they also come with fees. Depending on the amount of the card, the fee is between $3.95, $4.95 and $5.95. Also there is a $4.95 service fee deducted after 12 months of inactivity, a $4.95 replacement fee for lost or stolen cards. It's got a 7 year expiration date. Now I don't know about you, but if someone gives me a gift card, I would be out shopping as soon as possible! It would burn a hole in my pocket!

Retail stores sell all sorts of gift cards. So if you're really sure of what tastes your recipient has, go for it. It may be easier and less expensive than a bank issued card.


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Monday, August 9, 2010

Christmas History: Advent

With the Christian holiday established, people wanted to be prepared for the upcoming celebrations. Advent, taken from the latin adventus ("coming") is now the four week period prior to Christmas Day observed by many Christmas throughout the world. It is a time which believers are to undergo a spiritual cleansing and sometimes ritual fasting in preparation for the feast of Nativity, or Christmas.

Although legend holds that advent was attribited to the Apostle Peter, the exact date of its inception is not precisely known. There are writings vaguely referring to advent ranging from the fourth to sixth centuries. Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) only included a sermon on the second Sunday of Advent, and in 650 Advent was expanded to five Sundays before Christmas. This was changed again to four Sundays by Pope St. Gregory VII in the eleventh century.

Advent focuses on the four great comings of Christ: His coming of the flesh, His coming into the hearts of believers, His coming at the hour of death, and His coming at the final judgement. In some traditions there are four colours associated with the Advent season: dark blue, purple, rose or pink, and light blue. Also, candles representing each Sunday of Advent are lit, one per Sunday up to Christmas Day. On Christmas Day a large red candle is added, representing Christ.

One variation is to light one candle with the numbers one through twenty-five stamped on the side. The candle is lit on December 1 and allowed to burn down to the next number. It is then extinguished and relit the next day. This is the precusor to the advent calendar for children. Traditionally, the advent calendar had little flaps, each one contained a bible verse for the child to read to remind him or her of piety and obediance. Now, a child can find a small toy, candy, or money in the calendar.

Whatever your tradition, Advent marks the beginning of the Christmas season for Christians, heralding the coming of Christ. It is filled with anticipation and preparation. Use the season to personally reflect on what makes Christmas special to you. Then on Christmas Day you can celebrate!

Happy Holidays.

Source: The Christmas Encyclopedia by William D. Crump

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Giving Gift Cards for Christmas

Christmas in the post-War United StatesImage via Wikipedia
Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I can hardly believe that it's only four months away. Where has the year gone?? I'll be ready to listen to Christmas music right after Halloween. Yes, I know that's a little early for some, but not me. I think this year I'm going to make the shopping part of the holiday season easier on myself and purchase mall  gift cards. It's so hard to know what to buy someone. Some people are easy to buy for and some have everything, and some you just don't know their likes or dislikes. This way they can buy something that maybe they normally wouldn't get for themselves because they just didn't want to spend the money on it and now they can!

A fun way to give a gift card is to put it into a puzzle game box that's made for gift cards. They have to play the game to get the card released. These usually come with directions on how to get the card out and if all else fails, get a hammer...just kidding!!

If  it's for young girls, you could tuck it into a small purse or wallet for the men. Tuck it into the sleeve of a candy bar for those who love chocolate. You could include it with a special ornament for the recipient and every year when it's time to bring out the decorations, they will think of you when they see the ornament.

You could put one inside a pair of cute little Christmas socks or mittens.

I'm sure there are so many more ways to get creative with giving gift cards. I guess it just depends on what type or what theme the gift card is...say for instance a restaurant gift card, movie gift card, Starbuck's gift card, gas card, store card, etc. Just go with the theme.

Yes, it's a busy and stressful time of the year and if this can make my life a little easier, I'm all for it!! How about you?
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Holidays are Coming

As I get back from my vacation I was thinking about visiting family and friends during the holidays. This got me thinking about all the holiday commercials about visiting family. Here are a few commercials that remind me of the holidays.

I remember this commercial from a few years back, and even though I don't drink coffee, it still makes me smile.

This next one is one of my favourites. There are a few versions out there but this is the first one. It just gets you in the mood for the holidays.

Here's another from our friends at Coca Cola that's a little bit older.

And lastly, what's the holidays without a little romance. Here's one from Coors that will light your fire.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Christmas Quotes

1. "Remember, if Christmas isn't found in your heart, you won't find it under a tree." - Charlotte Carpenter

2. "Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'." - Bing Crosby

3. "I have always thought of Christmas as a good time; a kind, forgiving, generous, pleasant time; a time when men and women seem to open their hearts freely, and so I say, God bless Christmas!" - Charles Dickens

4. "Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most." - Ruth Carter Stapleton

5. "Christmas in Bethlehem. The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love." - Lucinda Franks

6. "I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed." - Charlie Brown 

7. "Christmas..Bah Humbug!" - Ebeneezer Scrooge


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