Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day at Our House

Stockings on the couch

Slide whistle

Daddy reading Christmas story from Luke 2,
as he always does on Christmas day,
and always in this rocking chair.

Two elves

Family portrait by the little elf

Looking at pictures on camera

A traditional present for Dad -
turkey joint candy from Rome, New York
where his mother grew up

Rachel gets the prize for wrapping beautifully

So I ordered a book on Amazon for myself
and gave it to Thad to wrap as a present for me.
So this is how he labeled it. 

The book, unwrapped

Our colorful trash

Grandson #1 is happy with the board book

Grandson #2 as chill as ever

Playing "Throw the marshmallow through the wreath"

Zebra stripes

We didn't have an extra person
to take our family portrait
so we put one end table on top
of the other, and put the
camera on self-timer

Mom, Dad, 7 daughters, 3 sons, 2 sons-in-law and 2 grandsons

After a big dinner of roast beef, chicken, and all the trimmings,
how can there possibly be room for Christmas brownies,
chai cookies and apple pie with whipped cream?

Making wassail -- and this is a very typical "caution"
note from my husband.  He is amazing in the kitchen
on holidays, keeping everything on schedule
and cleaning as we go.
Reading the Bible she got for Christmas
is a good way to end the day.
Jesus is who Christmas is all about!

Merry Christmas to you!
Virginia Knowles

This post will be linked at:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Variations on a Theme: Stained Glass, Empanadas, Christmas Tree

Dear friends,

Colored pencils and a page from the Dover Cathedral Stained Glass Coloring Book were just the ticket to relaxation to me on Wednesday, a frazzled day.  What color here?  What color there?  Let's use a little creative license, shall we?  I hung it over my stove to cheer up the kitchen with some Christmas inspiration and anticipation.

It's funny that I had the same book when I was a kid.  I remember coloring in the translucent paper version torn out from the book and bringing it to school for show and tell.  Curiously, I wasn't allowed to hang it on the classroom window because it was religious. And I wasn't religious at all.  It was just art to me, not an expression of faith. In my mind, it was a cultural masterpiece, in both the original stained glass and my fourth grade interpretation.  

"Virgin and Child; Adoration of the Magi"
from Bible Window at Cologne Cathedral (1280)

Cologne Cathedral in Germany

Plato spoke of Form, Essence and Ideal.  What makes an object true and real?  What makes a peacock a peacock, or a book a book, or a cathedral a cathedral?  How different can a thing be and still be considered true enough to the Form, the Essence, the Ideal?  How can you choose variations and still stay faithful to the theme?

My coloring page isn't stained glass in the magnificent Cologne Cathedral.  The colors aren't even the same.  It's not the real thing.  But I like it well enough and it serves my purposes - to remind me of the original, to allow me to participate in the picture with color and creativity.  It is a variation on the theme.

While I colored, one of my adult daughters bustled in the kitchen with a younger brother and sister making empanadas for dinner.  I had shopped for all of the ingredients on her list, but this was her culinary creation, not mine.  So nice to not cook, and so nice to enjoy a special out-of-the-ordinary dinner with my family!

Dough balls for empanadas

Flattened and ready for wrapping

A hearty mound of beef filling
for each!

Piping hot and ready to devour!

So the recipe calls for an olive and three raisins to be added to the filling in each empanada.  I think she skipped the olives entirely, and made half of the empanadas without raisins at the request of the picky eaters among us.

So are they still authentic empanadas without the raisins and olive?  What makes an empanada an empanada?  At some point, if you omit or change too many items, it just isn't an empanada.  I still think ours qualified well enough, and we certainly enjoyed them eating them!  A variation on the theme, but empanadas all the same.

The real story of my frazzled day?  It's this tree that spazzed me out, that made me flee to the refuge of my desk and color a madonna and child.

Half of our Christmas tree lights wouldn't work, so I decided to take them off and put some other ones on.  In the process, I knocked off a bunch of ornaments.  My 11 year old daughter suggested that we take everything off and start over.  And then my 13 year old son recommended that we straighten the tree in the stand since it leaned a bit to the left.  And another daughter (who shall remain nameless, but we all know who she is) started whining because she wanted to put her ornaments back on RIGHT NOW, while we were in the middle of our more necessary chaos.  So during what was supposed to be the warmth and the beauty of redecorating the Christmas tree with my family,  I turned grouchy and way too many cross words passed my lips.   Certainly not the right holiday spirit.  More like the Grinch.  But let's move on from that, shall we?  Everyone's happy that the tree's up again, all bright and shiny with lights and ornaments. What makes an ornament an ornament?  Do we have to put that tacky one on this year?  Can't we just use the traditional and pretty ones?  And what makes a Christmas tree a Christmas tree?  Ours is artificial, which I prefer since I don't have to vacuum up stray needles or worry about it wilting or buy a new tree each year.  We even decided, when redecorating and realigning the tree, to leave off the bottom set of branches to make more room for piles of presents.  Is that allowed?   Who makes Christmas tree rules, anyway?  So is mine a real Christmas tree?  Sure. Works for me!  Maybe I'll spray some pine scent on it.

What is real, authentic, genuine?  When does it really matter?  When will the imitation or variation just not do the trick?

"The Son (Jesus) is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."  Hebrews 1:3

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form..." Colossians 2:9

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

It's Christmastime.  Amid all the hustle and bustle and commercialism, we (hopefully) pause a while to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the only begotten Son of God who came to save us from our sin and darkness.  He is God, the perfect one, the fullness of the Deity.  There is no substitute for the real thing.  Nothing else will do!

And yet!  While we mere humans can't be the real, one and only Jesus, we are still called to be like him, to imitate his divine example, to be his ambassadors, faithfully representing his cause!  

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  Ephesians 5:1-2

"We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus..."  Philippians 2:1-5

My cross words certainly didn't do that tenderness and compassion gig very well, but fortunately I get more chances.  Each moment I can start fresh.  

"I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:13-14

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

And one day, when I finally see him face to face, I will be completely transformed and I will be just like him forever.

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:2

That's the good news for Christmas and the rest of the year!  That's true anticipation.

Virginia Knowles

The theme for the P52 project this week is Anticipation.
P52 with Kent Weakley
 P52 Photo Project 
A weekly photo post
See all of my entries here:
P52 Photo Posts

I will also link to these sites...
Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays

Whole-Hearted Home

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent Interrupted

Leon Cogniet, 1794-1880,
Massacre of the Innocents


Yesterday, the third Sunday of Advent, we all just wanted to celebrate Christmas coming.

We are like the three wise men from the East, eagerly seeking the star and the Savior.

Yet on the way to Bethlehem, King Herod interrupts our journey, ultimately slaughtering the innocent children in Bethlehem in his quest to destroy the Prince of Peace.

You can read the story in Matthew 2.  And you can read the daily news.  There are Herods all around us.  Wise men, too.

And so our music is melancholy and quiet at times.  This advent, we wait not only an infant in a manger, and we wait not only for who he grew to be, the Redeemer who died on the cross to set us free from our sins.   In this world of darkness and sorrow, we await his return as the powerful King of Kings, who will set this world forever free from all injustice and violence. We await the heavenly Kingdom, while we still actively seek to right the wrongs we see around us every day.  May his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

(Click here if you don't see the video above.)

"Come, Oh Redeemer Come"
Words and Music by Fernando Ortega

Father enthroned on high, Holy, Holy

Ancient, eternal Light, Hear our prayer.
     Come, oh Redeemer, come, grant us mercy.
     Come, oh Redeemer, come, grant us peace.

Lord, save us from the dark of our striving,
Faithless and troubled hearts, weighed down.
     Come, oh Redeemer, come, grant us mercy.
     Come, oh Redeemer, come, grant us peace.

Look now upon our need, Lord be with us.
Heal us and make us free from our sin.
     Come, oh Redeemer, come, grant us mercy.
     Come, oh Redeemer, come, grant us peace.

A few more thoughts for the 21st century, hopefully simmered in grace over the weekend since I do not like to speak too quickly.  So many words pouring forth over the Internet about the tragedy in Newtown on Friday.  My first inkling was an electronic billboard with Breaking News on the way home from a day at SeaWorld with my family.   Shock, of course, and grief.  And the questions: Why?  How?  What now?

I am not going to jump on the why and how bandwagon.  I've seen far too many pronouncements from preachers and Christian political pundits and die-hard home school proponents, with the gist of "What can we expect since we banned God from public schools?"  Oh please!  When a gunman shoots up a church congregation, what can we blame then?  (And since when can God be shut out of any place?  He can go where he wants.  He is certainly in public schools anyway since through the Holy Spirit he indwells so many of the students and employees there.  That is part of the message of Advent: He is Emmanuel, God-With-Us wherever we are.)   This is not about public schools, and it's not the time to make parents feel guilty and fearful for their educational choices.  I will say about what now: This is a time to grieve with the parents and children of Newtown, not promote our own agendas.  I could write a lot more about this, but instead I'd like to offer several well-reasoned blog posts that say it much better than I ever could: 


Yes, there will be a time for analysis and action about violence, mental illness, school security, gun laws.  Tragedies like this are a catalyst for change, but let us not stop when the initial shock is no longer there to propel us.  If we want to follow the example of Jesus, we will continue to enter our world in quiet and compassionate ways, always seeking to redeem and renew, first in our own personal sphere of influence and then beyond.  Let us start by holding our children close and telling them how much we love them.
Come, oh Redeemer, come, grant us mercy.

Come, oh Redeemer, come, grant us peace.

Peace to you and your family,
Virginia Knowles

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Cards and Family Letters

Christmas card and letter from my mom
(This week's P52 theme is Christmas cards.)
I love to get Christmas cards, even though I don't send them.  We tape them up on our door to enjoy for months.  I especially love them when they have letters or personal notes in them!

While I don't send Christmas cards because of the postage costs, I do send out regular family e-mail letters to a few hundred family members and friends every month or two or three.  Besides telling what our family is doing, I like to add in a little inspiration and practical stuff, whether it's a recipe, an idea of a fun place to go, an essay or poem I've written, or a photograph.  I always include links for recent blog posts, too, for those who want to see more.  These letters are also a good record for our family.  I like to read them even years later to see what we were doing back then and how we've changed.  I do try not to embarrass my kids too much!

People say they really like my family letters, and I enjoy writing them.

Do you write family letters?  What do you include?

Do you like to get family letters?  What do you like to see in them most?

Virginia Knowles

I will link this blog post at...

P52 with Kent Weakley
 P52 Photo Project 
A weekly photo post
See all of my entries here:
P52 Photo Posts

Monday, December 3, 2012

Easy Christmas Decorating on a Dime

Santa kneeling at the manger...
Merry Christmas, friends!

We've been busy here putting up our holiday decorations.  We'll finish the tree this afternoon, but I wanted to show you some of our favorites and give a few hints on decorating on a dime, as I have done for the spring and autumn seasons.

A little tour?  (We have more stuff, but I think this will be enough...)

We start at the front door.
I bought this wreath somewhere last year
(maybe Goodwill or Salvation army?)
and didn't pay more than $5.
I've gotten lots of great Christmas decorations
at thrift stores and yard sales.
Last year, we bought an artificial tree and stand
for a fraction of the price of new ones.
I bought the reindeer wreath hanger at Walmart.

Hmm, I think I need to straighten out that bow a little.

This is our wreath from Christmases past.
This year, we moved it to the side door,
where many of our family enters the house.
I touched up some of the artificial berries with
red permanent marker since white Styrofoam
was peaking through. If you repair what you have, 

you can make it last longer and
cut your replacement expenses.

Next, the front entry way.
My favorite, the guardian angel watching over
a ceramic Christmas village.
All of this is on a vintage linen pillow case
on top of an antique cabinet.

We inherited the lovely angel from
my mother-in-law.
I love family heritage decorations!

I have added to the village bit by bit.
I bought most of them at Walgreens

for a dollar or so.
Here they are pictured on a doily 

in my dining room,
since the lighting wasn't good 

for a photo in my hallway!

On the table in the entry way,
an olive wood nativity set,
a gift from a dear friend who visited Israel.
We also have miniature olive wood nativity tree ornaments.

An open area at the bottom of the antique cabinet
is the perfect place for a trio of stuffed snow men!

A garland stretches the length of our
front hallway over the closet doors.
The NOEL decoration, a long ago gift,
is made of painted wooden letters
suspended on a chain.

Moving on the the living room,
my pride and joy, a stained glass nativity 

lovingly made by my mother.
I keep it up high, on the top of a bookcase,
so little hands won't destroy it.
My newest decoration is
woven ball potpourri in a glass bowl.
The package of potpourri was originally $6 at Big Lots,
was on the 50% off rack (before Thanksgiving!)
and rang up even lower, at $1.80.
Keep your eyes peeled for bargains!
My JOY snowmen!
Yes, despite the fact that we live in sunny Florida,
I do love snow people,
especially when they bear glad tidings of great joy!
As always, a basket of Christmas books!
See My Favorite Christmas Books.

The perfect place to curl up with a Christmas book!
I made a set of four snow men and penguin pillows.
To save money, I used worn out throw pillows
I bought Christmas fabric from Walmart.

On to the tree ornaments!
I received this in 1985,
as a newlywed,
at an ornament exchange with the ladies
from our church.
It's one of my personal favorites.
Angels are my other Christmas theme.
My Grandma Hess made all of these ornaments
in her "younger" years -- her seventies!
She used to make one for each grandchild each year.
We try to label them on the back, so each
child can take their collection when they move away.

A memorial ornament from the nursing home
where my Grandma Driggs
lived out her final days.
It's so good to remember departed loved ones.

My son made this out of popsicle sticks
at school last year.
Homemade is pretty economical,
but most of all fun!

This was a gift within the last year or so,
and I have to say it's one of my very very favorites.
I love ornaments that tell the nativity story!
After all, Jesus is the reason for the season!
This one, a ceramic book spread ornament,
only a dollar at Dollar General last year!
I bought several of these for my children too add
to their personal collections.
I chose this one for my daughter Mary,
since the quote is from the Virgin Mary's Magnificat
in the Gospel of Luke.
I have other nativity themed ornaments in the same series.

My sister's family personalized many fun 
ornaments for us over the years.

In my bedroom, a few things for my desk area.
A mug with a small chip, not suitable for drinking,
serves as a pencil holder.
And yes, that is a wreath tacked to my bulletin board!
A have a set of these mugs, bought at Salvation Army
for less than a dollar each.

A basket of cinnamon scented pine cones
for my bedside table!
Watch out for dye in baskets,
since if it gets wet it can bleed.
This one stained a vintage doily
when a cup of water spilled.
This is in the master bathroom.
The subtle lace colors go well with my peach theme.

A rug in front of the kitchen sink pads the feet
and keeps spills from becoming slipping hazards.
(That tip comes from my daughter, the nursing student.)
I paid about $7 for this one at Aldi a week ago.

Get your holiday kitchen towels
and hot pads at a dollar store.
I like to buy extra matching ones to to send to a friend,
and then think of them every time I use mine.
On top of the stove, this plate held is in place with a
plate stand.  The bottom of the back of the stand
is wedged behind the stove to prevent it from falling.
I use these stands year round for seasonal decorating.
There are still a few things I want to get this year, like a small silk flower arrangement in a basket, fresh hot pads, and a new full-size flag and garden-size flag for outside.  I'll keep my eye out for good deals on things I really like!

Oh, here we are with my new
small silk flower arrangement --
$5 at Deals.

And you can add a bright ribbon
to your every day items
to give them some cheer!
This one is from a box of chocolates
that a friend sent to us.

These last two photos are added in from my post Christmas Red on my blog www.ComeWearyMoms.blogspot.com.

Here are my summary tips on Christmas decorating on a dime!
  • Decorate with things you already have, especially family heirlooms and thoughtful gifts.
  • Group related items together into a pleasing arrangement.
  • Create wonderful aromas with candles and potpourri!
  • Use baskets for a homey look, especially since you can put things in them!
  • Gather new items little by little, and you will have quite a collection after several years.  
  • Keep your decorations in good condition by storing them safely.  I use large plastic bins for most of the bigger decorations.  Ornaments are stored in big aluminum pop corn gift canisters within the bins, while the nativity sets have their own boxes.
  • Make your own decorations using materials from a dollar store, Walmart, or a craft store.  See Great Gifts Kids Can Make for Others.
  • Keep your house tidy, since clutter distracts from beauty.  At Christmas time, I remove most of my non-holiday decorations and put them in a bin.
  • You don't need anything fancy or expensive! Simplicity is beautiful! 
My Christmas page is full of links for food, fun, poetry, and inspiration.

Grace and to you and glory to God!

Virginia Knowles

P.S. Decorating is a wonderful holiday tradition, but if you're looking for something a little more outward focused, check this out: What You Can Do to Make the Holiday Season a Little Merrier for Others

Related Posts with Thumbnails