Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
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
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.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
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?!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
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.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
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
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!!!
Saturday, August 14, 2010
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
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.
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 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.
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
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.
Monday, August 9, 2010
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!
Source: The Christmas Encyclopedia by William D. Crump
Sunday, August 8, 2010
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
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.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
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