Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A site called Tip Junkie is talking about different ways to keep Christ the focus of your Christmas and I really appreciate all of the ideas being shared. (New ideas to try!)
As I think about the short number of days until Christmas I feel the need to keep my own thoughts focused more on the Savior. I want to slow down and truly feel and see the beauty of this time of year. I want to be part of bringing a little more peace into this world and teach my children to focus more on others.
One specific idea someone shared was to pay for the fast food order of the car behind you, or the car behind you if you were driving through a Christmas light display.
Do any of you have an idea of anonymous service, little things that can be done day to day to bring a little more kindness into the world?
We would love to hear your ideas!
I think doing kind deeds for others on a daily basis may be the best tradition of all!
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
(This song is song to the tune "Itsy Bitsy Spider")
The itsy bitsy shepherd went up to Bethlehem.
(walk two fingers up your arm)
Down came the starlight to lead him to the inn.
(start above head and wiggle fingers down)
Out came the sunshine to start a brand new day.
(join hands, with arms raised over head)
And the itsy bitsy shepherd saw Jesus on the hay.
(cradle arms as if rocking a baby)
This second song is sung to the tune "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
Twinkle, twinkle, Christmas star,
How I wonder what you are.
Shining high up in the sky,
Showing all where Jesus lies.
Twinkle, twinkle, Christmas star,
How I wonder what you are.
Simple, but oh so sweet!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Gift giving has become a big part of Christmas tradition, so much so that we can sometimes forget the reason for the season.
While we are plotting and planning what gifts to give our family and friends we could also include some gifts for our Savior on the list.
About.com has a list of Top 10 Spiritual Gifts to Give the Savior.
These are gifts that are not only meaningful at this time of year, but the whole year through and an eternity to come.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
1 lb ground beef (or lamb)
1 onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper and allspice to taste
Brown the pine nuts in a skillet. Set aside.
Saute the onion in butter. Add the meat and spices. Saute until tender. Add browned pine nuts and lemon juice. Mix well.
Roll dough into small balls (raquet ball size), flatten into 3 inch circles on a greased cookie sheet. Spread meat stuffing evenly on top of circles to within 3/8" from the edge.
Bake at 400 until meat and dough are lightly brown (about 7-8 minutes)
Optional: Serve with Laban, a yogurt spread.
Put your yogurt in the cheesecloth. The yogurt will start to drain off liquid. Allow it to drain over night in the refridgerator. (you will have to figure out a way to hang the cheesecloth over a bowl without touching the liquid) The result is a creamy spread that is yummy on meat pies and pita bread.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Do you know of any traditions from other countries that help you remember Christ at Christmas? Please share with us!
Monday, December 8, 2008
Another article in the Segullah archive is I Believe in Santa. But I Didn't Used To about a young mother who decided it was a good thing for her small children to believe in Santa. She sees it as a first step of faith that could be transferred into faith in our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
I love the idea of doing sugar cookies and using cookie cutters that go along with the symbols you talk about in the lesson.
My ever faithful Sugar Cookie recipe can be found at Everyday Recipes.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Spencer W. Kimball
"It is not what we receive that enriches our lives, it is what we give."
"The response of the selfish will always be that
Neal A. Maxwell
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Years ago I learned of this video/music combination in Church. It is the video "The Nativity" produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the song "Breath of Heaven" sung by Amy Grant. They are quite beautiful when you play them together and we watch them together every year.
I have always just played them together manually myself by turning down the volume on the tv and turning on the cd and the video at the same time. With the blessings of the internet there are a few people that have done the work for you and have posted it on YouTube.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
(The links included in this list will connect you with the specific post on this blog with more details for that idea)
- Make a birthday cake for Jesus and sing Happy Birthday!
- Make thank you notes to use after Christmas
- Learn a Christmas hymn to sing as a famil
- Play the wise man game
- Introduce the baby Jesus secret service in your home
- Read an uplifting Christmas classic like "A Christmas Carol" together as a family
- Make pita bread and read bread of life scripture
- Read a Christmas story from the Friend or Ensign
- Write down on paper, roll up and tie with a bow a gift you are going to give to the Savior this year
- Cut general shapes and many colored pieces of felt to make a flannel board nativity and leave it out for children to retell story
- Make simple costumes to act out the nativity story
- Act out nativity story while someone read from Bible
- Write letters and make cards to send to loved ones far away
- Make cookies together and secretly leave at someone's doorstep
- Make bread to deliver to neighbors or shut-ins with a tag that has the bread of life scripture
- Color or paint a picture of the shepherds
- Color or paint a nativity scene and hang it in your home
- Watch an uplifting Christmas dvd together
- Watch Luke 2 video while listening to "Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant
- Have a "white" Christmas--attend the Temple
- Go shopping together for sub for santa or angel tree gifts
- Donate good quality used books to your public library
- Help children clean out toys and donate good used ones to charity
- Make dinner for a shut in
- Help children write a story about being there at the manger on Christmas night
- Write a note to a missionary
- Have a Bethlehem dinner
- Tell story of the miracle of loaves and fishes. Sit on blanket and eat fish sticks, or fish crackers and bread and talk about miracles Christ performed
- Have a family Christmas music night, sing together, play instruments, get kazoos so everyone can participate
- Attend a live nativity together
- Listen to Handel's Messiah and learn story behind music
- Make a Christmas advent candle, and read a Christ related scripture each night as candle burns
- Wrap meaningful and uplifting Christmas books and open one each day and read together
- Collect uplifting Christmas stories and compile in a binder to read as a family each day
- Collect or make from paper symbols of Christmas and teach children the meaning. They could draw one from a gift bag and tell how it reminds them of Christ
- Go for a night time winter walk and enjoy the beautiful stars and talk about the special star that appeared at Christ's birth
- Make star shaped sugar cookies, make a tag with scripture that tells of signs at birth of Christ and share with someone
- Make nativity Christmas cards to send
- Make handprints of children, cut out and print"I will have helping hands for Jesus"
- Determine a need and perform a service anonymously
- Forgive and make amends with someone
This year I discovered Pandora. It is a commercial free internet radio that allows you to customize your "channel" to your likes and dislikes. You are able to type in the artists or songs you like and they will play music that is similar. Today I made myself a Holiday channel by typing in Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Sarah McLauchlan, Josh Groban, Amy Grant, etc and selecting their holiday version. Now all I have to do is turn up the volume on my computer and I can have a wide array of Christmas music wafting through my house.
Handel's Messiah is another all time favorite of mine. The spirit of that music is unlike any other. There is a book availible that tells the story behind Handel's Christmas music.
Teach a Christmas hymn to your family that they do not already know and sing it together in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
We have had so much fun having a special evening set aside to share Christmas music that we sing or play on different instruments. We love playing Christmas music on the bells, flute, violin, cello, harp, trumpet guitar, and piano. It is never perfect and it is a good thing that all the windows are shut so no one else can hear, but it is a lot of fun.
We have felt so blessed when a group is out caroling and comes to our door to sing a beautiful carol to us. How wonderful it would be to go and sing to someone in a nursing home or hospital.
We have some friends that have a Christmas tradition of have having families come over and gather around their piano and sing Christmas carols together and share goodies. It is a great way to share in the friendship and music of the season.
Make it a tradition to go to local Christmas concerts even if it is just supporting the highschool band.
he that cometh to me shall never hunger;
and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."
Monday, December 1, 2008
One idea is to display beautiful pictures of the Savior in prominent places in your home. We have moved pictures to place on easels with evergreens around to make them become an important part of the Christmas decorating of our home. An inexpensive source for pictures are old calendars or church publications.
What do you do in your home to emphasis Christ in your decorations?
Monday, November 24, 2008
Personally I usually try and do an activity advent calendar for the kids and a scripture one for our family scripture study. I make a list in my notebook of activities and then the night before I can choose an activity that works with our schedule for the day and put it in the form of advent calendar I use (my mother uses Christmas socks, I use a Christmas house with doors and windows).
Skip To My Lou posted today another idea for a stocking advent calendar and commented in her post that "advent calendars are a wonderful way to prepare our hearts and be reminded daily how special this holiday is. If we want it can be a holiday to be savored, anticipated and enjoyed and not something we feel we must get through."
Planning can make or break an advent calendar so be sure to get a head start. If you have any ideas for activities to include please share!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
There are many blogs and websites that do homemade Christmas gift idas. Some of the major blogs do a special series of posts this time of year dedicated to homemade gifts. One such blog is Sew, Mama, Sew. They are doing their 2nd anual Handmade Holidays. Every day in Novemeber they are posting gift ideas focused on people who might be on your gift list ie. college student, grandparents, gift exchanges, teachers, pet lovers etc. (They did this last year and there is a link to those posts. This years are all supposedly all new ideas). Seeming as we are nearing the end of November there are quite a few posts filled with ideas.
I will add a link list for those blogs I find that are posting about homemade gifts. Don't be afraid to be creative and get your kids in on the action.
Please comment if you have any ideas to share or have found blogs with good ideas.
Monday, November 17, 2008
This story was submitted by my sister-in-law Charis from her personal files. She commented that she often skips the story and goes on to do what Santa does to teach the Christmas symbols.
Late one Christmas Eve I sank into my easy chair. Admiring the tree with it’s decorations, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing… The kids were in bed the gifts were all wrapped: the milk and cookies were in their place for Santa. It wasn’t long before the tiny twinkling tree lights lulled me into a deep sleep.
I don’t know how long I slept, but all of a sudden I opened my eyes and there stood Santa Claus himself next to my Christmas Tree.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot just as the poem described him. But he was not the “jolly old elf” of Christmas legend. The man who stood before me looked sad and disappointed with tears in his eyes.
I had to ask, “Santa, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
“It’s the children” Santa replied sadly.
“but the children love you.” I said.
“Oh I know they love me and the gifts I bring them,” Santa said. “But the children of today seem to have somehow missed out on the true spirit of Christmas. It’s not their fault. It just that the adults, many of them not having been taught themselves, have forgotten to teach the children.”
“Teach them what?” I asked.
Santa’s kind old face became soft and gentle. His eyes began to shine with something more than tears. He spoke softly. “Teach the children the true meaning of Christmas. Teach them that the parts of Christmas we can see, hear, and touch are much more than meets the eye. Teach them the symbolism behind the customs and traditions of Christmas we now observe. Teach them what it is that they truly represent.”
Santa reached into his bag and pulled out a tiny Christmas tree and set it on the fireplace mantle. “teach them about the Christmas tree. Green is the second color of Christmas. The stately evergreen with its unchanging color represents the hope of eternal life in Jesus. Its needles point heaven ward as a reminder that man’s thoughts should turn heaven ward as well.”
--sing “I lived in Heaven”
Santa reached into his bag again and pulled out a shiny star and placed it at the top of the small tree. “The star was the heavenly sign of promise. God promised a Savior for the world and the star was the sign of the fulfillment of that promise on the night that Jesus Christ was born. Teach the children that God always fulfills His promises and that the wise will still seek Him.”
--Sing, “Stars were Gleaming”
“Red,” said Santa “is the first color of Christmas.” He pulled forth a red ornament for the tiny tree. “Red is deep, intense, vivid. It is the color of the life giving blood that flows through our veins. It is the symbol of God’s greatest gift. Teach the children that Christ gave His life and shed his blood for them that they might have eternal life. When they see the color red it should remind them of that most wonderful gift.”
--Sing “Did Jesus really live again”
Santa found a bell in his pack and placed it on the tree. “Just as lost sheep are guided to safety by the sound of the bell, it continues to ring today for all to be guided to the fold. Teach the children to follow the true Shepherd who gave h is life for the sheep.”
--Sing “Christmas Bells”
Santa placed a candle on the mantle and lit it. The soft glow from its one tiny flame brightened the room. “The glow of the candle represents how man can show his thanks for the gift of God’s Son that Christmas Eve long ago. Teach the children to follow in Christ’s footsteps. . . to go about doing good. Teach them to let their lights shine before men that all may see it and glorify God. This is what is symbolized when the twinkling lights shine on the tree like hundreds of bright, shining candles, each of them representing one of God’s precious children, their light shining for all to see.
--Sing “I am trying to be like Jesus”
Again, Santa reached into his bag and this time he brought forth a tiny red and white striped candy cane. As he hung it on the tree, He spoke softly, “The candy cane is a stick of hard red and white candy. White to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Jesus. The shape J to represent the precious name of Jesus who came to earth as our Savior. It also represents the crook of the Good Shepherd, which he uses to reach down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs that, like sheep, have gone astray. The original candy cane had three small red stripes which are the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed and a large red stripe that represents the shedding of blood of Jesus so that we can have eternal life. Teach these things to the children”
--Sing “The Shepherds Carol”
Santa brought out a beautiful wreath made of fresh fragrant greenery and tied with a bright red bow. “The bow reminds us that the bond of perfection which is love. The wreath embodies all the good things about Christmas for those with eyes to see and hearts to understand. It contains the colors red and green and the heaven turned needles of the evergreen. The bow tells the story of good will towards all and its color reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice. Even the wreath’s very shape is symbolic, representing eternity and the eternal nature of Christ’s love. It is a circle without beginning and without end. These are the things you must teach the children.”
--Sing “Families can be together forever”
“But where does that leave you Santa?” I asked. The tears gone now from his eyes, a smile broke over Santa’s face. “Why, bless you, my dear,” he laughed. “ I, too am only a symbol. I represent the spirit of family fun and the joy of giving and receiving. If the children are taught these other things, there is no danger that I’ll ever be forgotten.”
“I think I’m beginning to understand at last, “ I replied.
“That’s why I came” said Santa, “You’re an adult. If you don’t teach the children these things, then who will?”
(For music and words see the LDS music site)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I have linked a couple articles I was able to find.
Some Lessons Learned by Lloyd and Karmel Newell
Simple Gift Ideas by Heather Holm
Simplifying the Christmas Season by Dawn Frandsen
A true story of Christmas service: Circle of Love by Janet Peterson
FHE Plan: Christmas
FHE Plan: Appreciating the Spirit of Christmas Music
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I have read of families that have decided on a service that takes the effort of every family member to carry out and that is their gift to the Savior. I have known of empty nesters where the husband and wife choose a charity to do a sevice for or contribute to and write their intention in a card that is then placed on the tree and opened on Christmas morning, each spouse receiving from the other the surprise of charitable giving.
The Christams Jars is a beautiful story about saving spare change throughout the year in a jar and using that money to very carefully choose a specific way to help fill the needs of someone. The amount does not have to be large to touch someone's life.
To simplify and turn away from materialism some families give each child 3 gifts (like the wise men). If a gift is for the entire family, such as a game or a larger gift it is said to be brought on the back of a camel traveling with the wise men.
I also assign each child in our family a reindeer name to write on the gift tags so they cannot 'tally' up number of gifts under the tree or guess what their gifts are and become overly focused on what they are 'getting'. These reindeer names are recorded in the notebook.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Read John 6: 35 and discuss it's meaning while this bread bakes in your oven. Children like to watch this bread puff up while it is baking, and flatten when taken out of the oven
1 pkg yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups flour
1 1/4 t. of salt
1 t. granulated sugar
Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Add sugar and let it sit for 5-10 min. Meanwhile, mix flour and salt, pour in yeast mixture. Slowly add 1 cup of warm water and mix.
Flour your work surface, placing the dough on it and kneading for about 5-10 min. until dough is elastic. Coat a large bowl with olive oil and place dough in it, turning the dough to coat with olive oil. Let rise until doubled.
Roll out dough into the shape of a rope. Cut the dough into 10-12 small pieces. Roll out each ball of dough with a floured rolling pin into circles about 5-6 inches and 1/4 inch thick.
Preheat the oven to 5oo degrees and place your rack at the bottom of the oven. Bake each circle about 4 min.. When the bread puffs up, turn over and bake for a couple of min. When you take it out of the oven the bread will flatten out. Serve bread dipped in hummus.
There is also a Bread of Life video about Christ on the Jesus Christ website done by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Some of our favorites:
*The Christmas Train by Ivan Gantschev (A true story, with layers of meaning--unfortunately out of print, check online)
*The Three Trees
*A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (could be read out loud as a family)
*The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke (President Monson likes this)
Or collect stories from the Ensign or Friend or from online, and compile into a notebook that can be read a couple of nights a week leading up to Christmas.
Some stories online:
Three Trees from Sugardoodle
The Story of Silent Night from Sugardoodle
The Christmas Orange from Sugardoodle
Advent Story Book complied by Melissa Dillon submitted on Sugardoodle
In the past we have put together some stories and thougts on Christmas and placed them in numbered envelopes to be read each day and called it "A Walk With Christ" especially effective with older children and teenagers.
Read excerpts from the book Jesus the Christ by James Talmage to gain spiritual and historical insight into the events leading up to Christ's birth. An audio file of the book can be found and downloaded for free here
Special Witnesses of Christ- videos of the current Prophet and Apostles testifying of Christ
2007 Christmas Devotional- videos featuring Gordon B. Hinkley, Thomas S. Monson, and Henry B. Eyring; the first presidency at the time
Bread of Life -video
Jesus the Christ- audio file of the book by James E. Talmage. Free download.
Christmas Service by Ivy Bonhorst on Sugardoodle
The Christmas Orange on Sugardoodle
The Christmas Story from the Friend (For Little Friends, includes interactive pictures to help tell the story)
The Birth of Jesus Christ brought Joy to the Earth from Primary 2 Manual
Christmas Quiz from the Friend
Teach your children of all the symbols of Christmas. We can actually feel spiritually uplifted living in the world of candy canes, wreaths, lights and all the trappings that go with Christmas if we use all of these holiday trappings to remind us of the real meaning for celebration. We can look at the following symbols of Christmas and see a deeper meaning.
Candy Canes--the shepherd's crook
Evergreen Wreaths and Trees--eternal life
Stars--the star of Bethlehem
Christmas Lights--The Savior is the light of the world
Santa Claus--the spirit of giving
Candles--Jesus is our true source of light and shining light to a dark world
Julie Slagle shared an idea on Sugardoodle for an advent calendar using the symbols of Christmas and scriptures to go along with them. She also included an ornament and an activity for each day.
Another posted on Sugardoodle that has pictures and meanings
Hang Christmas stockings early in the season and encourage family members to place notes of appreciation, love and noticing the good deeds of another and read them on Christmas.
Place a basket of straw near your nativity and encourage family members to take a piece of straw and place it into the manger each time they do a kind deed for someone else. This idea was used for an Family Home Evening idea posted on Sugardoodle
It is wonderful to have a set or two that the children in the family can touch without worry of breaking.
It is always exciting to unpack the Christmas decorations each year. Why not make a special event of setting out the nativity and retelling the story with the figures at the beginning of the season. It only takes a little bit of time to remind our children or grandchildren the true meaning behind our Christmas celebrations. Some familiies do not set out the figure of the Christ child until Christmas eve.
2-10 oz blocks of frozen spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
4-5 Tbs of lemon juice
2 Tbs oil
salt and pepper to taste
Defrost spinach under running water in strainer. Squeeze out excess water with hands. Sprinkle with salt and alow to sit in strainer for 15 minutes. Mix with all the ingredients. Pinch off 2 1/2" balls of dough and roll out into 4" squares. Put a heaping tablespon of filling on each circle (kind of in a triangle shape, pointing to one of the corners of the square). Fold up from the bottom of the triangle and bring in the sides to the center. you will have formed a triangle. Press down seams firmly and pinch ends together.
Place on greased cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil. Bake at 400 until golden brown.
2 lbs. phyllo dough
6 cups walnuts, chopped
2 cups rendered butter (see recipe below)
1 tsp cinnamon1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup confectioner's suggar
2 cups Attar (recipe below)
Mix nuts, sugar, spices, and 1 Tbs. butter.Grease 12x17 baking sheet with butter. Place two layers of baklava phyllo on the baking sheet, brushing lightly with butter. Continue this process until 1/2 lb. of dough has been layered. Spread the nut mixture evenly over the dough. Lay the rest of the dough, following the same procedure. Do not grease the last layer. With a sharp knife cut into diamond shapes. Heat the rest of the butter (about 1 cup) and pour on the tray.
Preheat oven to 400. Place the tray in oven, then reduce to 275. Bake from 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Cool for 10 min. Pour cold syrup (attar) evenly over the surface. Rendered Butter(another warning: this makes way more than you will need for one batch of baklava, I know Jon shrinks the recipe down accordingly)
5 lbs. Sweet butter
1/2 cup flour
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add the flour. Cook on low heat until foam disappears from the top. When clear, remove from heat and cool. Pour the pure butter into jars. Be careful not to pour the salty residue. Note: Rendered butter is used in Arabic pastries. Stored in jars it will keep for many months without being refrigerated.
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 Tbs. Lemon juice
Mix sugar and water and bring to boil. Add lemon juice and boil for 7 more minutes. Cool. Makes 2 cups Attar.
1 jar grape leaves (found by the pickles in some grocery stores. Safeway carries them)
Help children to make their own nativity. We have done this with simple cut out shapes of felt that were then played with on a flannel board to retell the Christmas story. We have used wooden spools bought at the craft store and painted, and playdough and clay shapes molded by small hands.
We have bought a big slab of red potter's clay and made small clay lamps that are similar to the lamps used at the time of Christ. Even teenage boys like the process of lighting these.
Look for more arts and crafts in the weeks to come. We will link to many of the amazing things other people are doing.
(Click the link for a post with the recipe)
Stuffed Grape Leaves
Spinach Pies (you can also buy these at stores like Costco in their frozen section labeled as Spanakopita)