Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Birthdays and a Child is Born!

Well, this was truly an amazing weekend.....

My niece Maisie was born Saturday the 17th!

Happy Birth-Day Maisie!


 My daughter Maddy and my sister Stacey also celebrated their birthdays on the 18th! 

Happy Birthday Maddy and Stacey!
 

December is such a fun month for our family!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside....





The 
I'll be Home for Christmas Linky party 
is still going strong!



Please link up and spread some Christmas Cheer!

Blessings and best wishes,

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hundreds of Christmas Ideas at the 12 Days of Christmas Traditions Linky Party!

Welcome Christmas friends to Day 12 of my 12 Days of Christmas Traditions series and welcome to my very first
I'll Be Home for Christmas Party!

I'll Be Home for Christmas Party

I can't quite believe I have finished this series already! I hope you have enjoyed the 12 Days of Christmas series and that you have enjoyed hearing from the wonderful guest posters who have joined in with the series. I have really enjoyed putting it together and can't wait to do it again next year!


If you weren't able to check out all of the posts I invite you to have a look at the full program and perhaps go back and re-visit some of them soon.

December 2 ~ Candy Canes
December 3 ~ Gingerbread Houses
December 4 ~ Oh, Christmas Tree!
December 6 ~ Christmas Stockings
December 7 ~ Christmas Puddings
December 10 ~ Christmas Music
December 11 ~ The Spirit of Christmas
December 12 ~ I'll be home for Christmas Linky Party!


Now it's time to share YOUR Christmas homes! Please help me Keep the Christmas Spirit Alive and link up any of your Christmas posts about your home for Christmas!


You can share decorating ideas, pictures of your Holiday Table or videos of your Home Tours.




I would love for you to share how you celebrate Christmas!





Today, I am sharing a little slideshow that I made on Smilebox of our home decorated for Christmas.

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So, let's get this party started! Please join in by linking up any posts that help to Keep the Christmas Spirit Alive! You can link up anything will help spread some Christmas cheer! Please link up your decorated homes, Christmas recipes, Christmas Tree pictures, your favourite Christmas song....anything Christmassy!

Please use the linky tools below and link up to the actual blog post/s that you would like us to visit, not just the home page of your blog. There are also links for separate categories if you would like to link up posts about Christmas recipes, Christmas trees, Christmas stockings, Gingerbread houses, Advent calendars, Candy Cane ideas or posts about Santa Claus himself!






Christmas Trees






Christmas Recipes





Advent Calendars






Candy Cane Ideas






Gingerbread Houses






Christmas Puddings





Thank you so much for visiting today and for joining in with my 12 Days of Christmas Traditions. Thank also for linking up your Christmas posts and helping to Keep the Christmas Spirit Alive. Don't forget to try and spread some Christmas cheer by coming back later and visiting some of the wonderful bloggers who have linked up. I am sure you will make their day by leaving them a festive comment!

My favorite Christmas movie so far… LOVE IT!


Best Christmas wishes,

Natasha


Please join me each weekend for the Say G'day Saturday Linky Party!
You can also visit me at PINTERESTTWITTER, GOOGLE+

Sunday, December 11, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Traditions~The Reason for the Season

Welcome Christmas friends to Day 11 of my 12 Days of Christmas Traditions Series...Can you believe that the I'll Be Home for Christmas Linky party is tomorrow! These last 11 days have flown by so quickly! I hope you will back on the 12th to link up your Christmas posts!


I thought it would be a wonderful idea to end the series with a post all about the Reason for Season...after all, Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus! 


To help with today's post I am honored to welcome the beautiful Sandi who is from Prince Edward Island in Canada. 

Welcome to Rose Chintz Cottage

Sandi is the author of two blogs: Rose Chintz Cottage and Christmas Pudding! I love visiting Sandi at both of her blogs but I especially love her Christmas blog. Sandi says that her blog is 

about all things Christmasy and the magic that this special season evokes. Just like a Christmas pudding is a rich mixture of wonderful ingredients, so my blog is a mixture of sorts; collections, stories, poems, photos, and recipes, etc. Please come in and make yourself comfortable. I hope you will join me for a mug of hot apple cider and Gingerbread. I believe Christmas is the most magical time of the year; a special time which should dwell in your heart all year round. The sights and sounds of the season have a way of making one's heart glad!

Christmas Pudding

Thank you, Sandi, for writing today's post all about the 
Reason for the Season!

Natasha invited me to do a guest post for her Christmas Party and I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the importance of the Real Reason for the Season.



"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" - Luke 2:11

Christmas is a most wonderful time of the year! I truly enjoy the music and the lovely decorations we see everywhere. I love the food, the gift giving, and joyous times with family and friends. All the traditions we enjoy as a family somehow have the ability to whisk me back to my childhood and every year at this time, I feel the little girl within me come alive once more.

But Christmas is so much more than that!

If not for Jesus Christ coming to earth as a Babe in a stable long ago, we would not be celebrating this beautiful season at all.


When my hubby and I were pastoring our church, we held an Advent service every week beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Each Sunday, a candle was lit followed by some scripture and we loved getting the congregation involved.


An Advent wreath of evergreens was made, representing eternity, and I arranged five candles in it.


Each candle represented an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Advent Wreath Candles

Four candles are arranged in a wreath: three purple candles and one pink candle. In the center of the wreath sits a white candle. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the Light of Christ into the world.


On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the "Prophecy Candle" in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents Hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.


On the second day of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents Love. Some traditions call this the "Bethlehem Candle," symbolizing Christ's manger.


On the third day of Advent, the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the "Shepherds Candle" and it represents Joy.


The fourth and last purple candle, oftentimes called the "Angels Candle," represents Peace and is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent. I oftentimes lit the pink candle the week before the white candle was lit.


On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the white center candle is traditionally lit. This candle is called the "Christ Candle" and represents the Life of Christ that has come into the world. The color white represents purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Saviour. Also, those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.


May we all remember the REASON FOR THE SEASON.


"For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a Baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger. " ~ 
Luke 2:11-12


This stable was specially built for me by a gentleman in our last church. All the figurines are from Avon and they date from about 1981-1989. Each one was a gift from a family member or friend so they all hold sentimental value. Every year I display my nativity in the china cabinet.

"O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant;
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the Kings of angels.
O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord." 

Let us be glad and rejoice because Christ has come!

Thank you Natasha for having me. 


From my home to yours~

Merry Christmas!

Keeping Christmas in my heart all year round ~ Sandi

Thanks so very much for taking the time to write this amazing post all about the true spirit of Christmas Sandi!

If you would like to visit Sandi's Christmas blog please just click here. She is currently in the middle of a wonderful series called the A-Z of Christmas. I am sure you will love reading her beautiful blog and this fun Christmas series!

Thanks so very much for visiting today and for helping me Keep the Christmas Spirit Alive, 365!

Please come back on the 12th to join in with my I'll be Home for Christmas linky party! You can share posts about Christmas Crafts, your decorated Christmas home, Christmas recipes, Christmas Songs...anything Christmasy!

5 Minutes Just For Me



See you on the 12th!

Blessings and best Christmas wishes,

Saturday, December 10, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Traditions~ Christmas Carols

Welcome Christmas friends to Day 10 of my 12 Days of Christmas Traditions Series.


I'm so glad you have stopped by to share in some Christmas cheer! If you weren't able to visit yesterday, please click here to read all about Christmas food from around the world!

Today's post is all about Christmas music!

Since we have already talked about Christmas traditions around the world I thought it might be fun to talk about one of my favourite parts of Christmas...the wonderful Christmas carols! I am so honoured to welcome another very special guest blogger to Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive, 365 today to share her knowledge of the history of  Christmas carols for today's special musical post! Thank you for helping me today, Holly!


Holly Massie is one of the original members of theStairwell Carollers, a charitable a cappella Ottawa choir, who sings sacred and secular renaissance music, as well as settings of traditional and contemporary Christmas carols.

group shot jpg


Winner of the 2010 OMFA provincial competition, this non-profit group has raised over $40,000 for local Ottawa/Gatineau charities,through the sale of concert tickets, CDs and cookbooks.



Holly is the author of a few blogs, most notably, The Stairwell Carollers Choir Blog and My Ottowa, Canada's Capital, where she plays tourist in her own home-town! She has also guest-posted for me at my other blog, 5 Minutes Just for Me. Please click here if you would like to read her post about Peace on Earth.

If you haven't already visited Holly before please do pop by and visit this very talented musician.

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Thank you for Decking the halls with holly and wassailing all around the town...Holly!

Leah, soprano, from our 1993 Regional Contact episode for CTV
Holly, Mistletoe and even our Christmas tree are most likely vestiges of a pagan heritage that some Christians would rather forget. To avoid persecution from the Romans, Christians adopted a number of the traditions usually practiced for Saturnalia. This helped them blend in with the pagans and avoid harassment for their christian faith.

Holly leaves and berries are often added to wreaths because of a folk tale dating back to the first century that said the crown of thorns was mixed with holly. John McCollister


Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly


Though most of us now live in modern homes rather than great vaulted halls, we still (deck) decorate at Christmastime. with holly, wreaths, candy canes and ivy.

There is evidence that this old carol originated in Wales but the words are believed to be American. If you wonder why American lyrics would celebrate old English customs, the answer is simple. The lyrics were written in 19th century America when Mr.Washington Irving was glorifying English customs and Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" was at the height of its first popularity. 






Christmas Caroling
 "It may seem strange to us today that carols were originally used for dancing, since to dance in church smaks of irreverence. ... The Franciscan Friars were particularly devoted to dancing, and it may be that they brought the carole and its associated dances to England in the early 13th century."
From The Book of Christmas Carols, Fairmount books, inc.

The earliest carols were plainchant hymns from the middle ages.Modern choirs prefer many voices, so these songs are rarely sung. Holy Songs, 1582, by J. M. Neale collected the best carols of the Medieval period. Through the centuries, hymns and songs of Christmas, originated throughout Europe, were in vigorous use until a sudden decline of interest in the 18th century. It was reversed with the new idea of a  "congregational hymn" encouraging multiple voice parts to lift the songs to exciting new heights.
From the New Oxford Book of Carols (easily the most exhaustive Christmas carol book on the planet!)

Wassailing from house to house involved carrying a wooden bowl filled with spiced wine as a gift for the household.
Stairwell Carollers carrying a wassail bowl --That's me on the right. This is also from our 1993 Regional Contact episode
 SOMERSET WASSAIL
















Thanks so very much for taking the time to write this amazing post all about Christmas Carols, Holly!

Do you have any special Christmas carols that you always play at Christmas? Do you have a favourite Christmas song? If you do please leave me a comment and let me know! I love playing carols at our place and when I don't have them playing at home I just come and read this blog and I can hear them any time of year!

Since we are on the subject of Holly I would love it if you could keep my sister Holly in her prayers this week...she is about to have baby number three! The baby is due any day now and we are all waiting anxiously for her arrival...yes, they are having a little girl! I will keep you posted about the baby's arrival but if you could Holly and John and their sweet little family in your prayers I would be so appreciative!

Well, I'd best be off to see if there is any news! Before I go I must thank Becky for having me today at her Songs of Christmas link up!

Blessings and best Christmas wishes,

Friday, December 9, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Traditions~Cranberry Citrus Shortbread Icebox Cookies

Welcome Christmas friends to Day 9 of my 12 Days of Christmas Traditions series!


I'm so glad you have stopped by to share in some Christmas cheer! If you weren't able to visit yesterday, please click here to read  all about Christmas around the world!

Today's post is all about food!

Since we have already talked about Christmas traditions around the world I thought it might be fun to share some Christmas recipes from around the world! I am so honoured to welcome some very special guest bloggers to Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive, 365 today to share their favourite Christmas recipes for today's special foodie post!

Christmas is traditionally a time where families get together to share in the Christmas spirit by exchanging gifts and sharing a meal. We have started preparing for Christmas at our place by doing a bit of baking.


This week we made some spiced muffins and some Cranberry Citrus Shortbread cookies which were totally scrumptious!





This is the first time I have made them with lemon instead of orange and I really loved that flavour combination. They are so buttery and rich and they taste like Christmas!



Cranberry Citrus Shortbread Icebox Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Add vanilla, almond extract, orange zest and dried cranberries and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low.


Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter beating at a low speed until blended.
Form dough into 2 logs, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; wrap in parchment, and refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 3 days).


When ready to bake these little Christmas jewels, preheat the oven to 350F/175C. If  the logs are frozen, let the logs stand at room temp for 10 minutes. Remove parchment. Slice logs into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, and space about 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment.


Bake until pale golden, about 12 minutes. Let cool.


Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week...that is if they last that long!



As I said earlier, I have asked a few blogging friends to help me by sharing some of their favourite Christmas recipes and I am ever so grateful that they have kindly helped me out!
Bon Appetit


First we will hear from Debbie from A Debbie-Dabble Christmas who will be sharing her story about her Polish Christmas.

Both Joe and I are of Polish descent. One of the polish traditions that we both grew up with was "Holy Supper" which is served on Christmas Eve. It is a meatless meal. Some serve a bean soup first. My parents did not. Fish is usually the mainstay of the meal. As a child, we had whiting ( my Dad loved it) and Herring (my Mom loved this), haddock and scallops. But the entree' that I could not wait to taste on Christmas Eve was my Mom's home-made Pierogies!

Polish Pierogies Recipe and Video

Pierogies were ALWAYS served on Christmas Eve. Joe also had pierogies as part of his Christmas Eve Holy Supper. He also had whole potatoes, boiled but with no butter. Why they did not use butter, I have no idea. I use butter now!

I used to help my Mom make the pierogies, which are dough pockets filled with mashed potatoes with onion. They are boiled and then served with butter and sauteed onions! I LOVE them.... I miss my Mom's and to be honest they are very time consuming to make. It would take a whole day for us to make them for Christmas Eve Holy Supper.


There is a church near Joe's parents where the older women of the parish make pierogies weekly. They are already cooked with the butter and onions and packaged nicely in clear take out container which can be frozen. They are a mere $6.00 a dozen . We usually buy 10 dozen at a time and pop them in the microwave when we want to taste a bit of 'heaven"!! LOL

Picture of Mushroom-Apple Pierogies Recipe
Source: foodnetwork.com 


Hugs,

Wow, those Pierogies sound delicious Deb! I am going to have to find some of them somehow!

Next up to take us on a culinary Christmas journey is Pernilla over from Swedish Corner - Down Under to share her recipe for pickled herrings!

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Pernilla is a Swede who is living here in Australia. Pernilla's blog showcases all sorts of wonderful Scandinavian crafts and décor. I'm so honoured that she could join in and share her pickled herring recipe with us today-thank you Pernilla!

We eat lots of fish in Sweden and especially around Christmas we eat different styles of herring. Pickled herring is my favourite Christmas dish -I've loved it since I was able to eat real food :-)  


Swedish Pickled Herring recipe:


Mix:
200ml of sugar
200ml white vinegar
0,5 teaspoon of crushed white peppercorns
2 teaspoons of crushed pimentos/allspice berries
1 bayleaf
5 cloves

Let mixture come to a boil and make sure the sugar disolve.
Leave to cool on the stove.

Put in layers of herring and sliced Spanish red onion in a preferred jar.
Pour cool mixture into the jar and let it stay in the fridge for at least 1-2 days to set.

Enjoy!

God Jul - Merry Christmas
Happy Holidays from Australia



Thank you, for sharing this amazing recipe Pernilla!

Now we are heading to Germany to find out about a typical German Christmas Dinner! Thank you so very much to the very sweet Johanna from the beautiful blog silber-rosen.blogspot.com for sharing this delicious post!

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What do the Germans eat on Christmas? There is no typical German Christmas dinner at all. The priority of Christmas is in Germany on the evening of 24. December. Actually the Christ Child was born at midnight and in former times the gifts were given after the midnight mass. Today we unwrap our gifts earlier, on the late evening of 24. Because the day of 24th is a normal working day, something easy will be served for dinner. A favourite is something that can be prepared in advance, like potato salad and sausages or something easy like that. On 25th we have a big feast dinner.

There are several special dinner traditions for each region in Germany. In former times, meat was a special for Sundays and holidays, like Christmas For example a goose, filled with apples, sweet chestnuts and spiced with sweet sagewort and majoram will be roasted and served with red cabbage and potato dumplings.




In Swabia they serve instead dumplings of homemade Spätzle. Many family's love poached carp with potatoes and hot butter for Christmas dinner. Families with ancestors from Silesia made in former times to the carp a brown gravy, thickened with special gingerbread. This gingerbread for gravy contains almost no sugar but the usual spices. Since the 60's the turkey has captured the hearts of many German at their Christmas dinner tables. With the turkey one can either serve the filling from white bread, bacon and celery or one can eat it with rice and fine buttered vegetable. In this day and age every family follows their own preferences. Today many Germans eat for Christmas Dinner Swiss raclette or fondue. In every case a rich meal with festive decoration is usual, according to the own financial opportunities and taste.


Thank you so much Johanna for telling us all about Christmas dinner in Germany!
Next up on our trip around the world we are going to visit Karan from Cozy Christmas Corner




Every year December brings many expectations for the coming of Christmas Day. As counting down days and planning for the big day of celebration , we seem to incorporate a lot of different old Christmas traditions that make our season so meaningful. But where have these traditions come from? For example, where does the tradition of The Yule Log some from?

The custom of burning a yule log was a tradition borrowed from the early Solstice Festival called Julle. Large bonfires were lit to honor the Sun God, Thor. It was done to entice the sun to return , despite having many long dark days of midwinter.After the Norman invasion of England in the year 1066 the yule log tradition was passed on to the British. The British adopted it as a part of thier Christmas celebration. Traditionally a large log was brought into the house on Christmas and placed on the hearth with celebration. Songs were sung, stories told.and children danced. Offerings of food and wine and decorations were placed upon the log. It would be lite from the pieces saved from the Yule log which had been saved from the previous years log. This log would be kept burning from Christmas Eve right though Christmas Day .Celebrating Yule means no work as long as the log burns.One beleif was that the ashes if left in the fireplace would protect the house for the next year from any natural disasters. A few ashes were sprinkled into the well to keep the water good. Some ashes were also sprinkled around fruit trees and vines for a good harvest.

Some now make a Yule Log Cake as an important part of a Holiday Meal.


Yule chocolate log


Ingredients
5 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
MOCHA CREAM FILLING:
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
MOCHA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup baking cocoa
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brewed coffee
2 tablespoons milk

Directions
Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with parchment paper; grease the paper. Place egg whites in a small mixing bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks on high until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating until thick and lemon-colored. Combine flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to egg yolk mixture until blended.
Beat egg whites on medium until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating on high until stiff peaks form. Stir a fourth into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites until no streaks remain.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until cake springs back (do not overbake). Cool for 5 minutes; invert onto a linen towel dusted with confectioners' sugar. Peel off parchment paper. Roll up in the towel, starting with a short side. Cool on a wire rack. In a mixing bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar and coffee granules. Beat until stiff peaks form; chill. Unroll cooled cake; spread filling to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up again. Place on serving platter; chill.
In a mixing bowl, beat frosting ingredients until smooth. Frost cake. Using a fork, make lines resembling tree bark.

Thank you for sharing this great post about the tradition of the Yule log and this yummy recipe Karan!

Our final recipe today comes from America from Jonquil who blogs at awhimsicalchristmas.com! Thank you for joining in with my 12 Days of Christmas Traditions series Jonquil and for sharing your yummy pie recipe.

A Whimsical Christmas


One of my favorite holiday foods is homemade apple pie! I don’t bake very often so when I do I thoroughly enjoy it. Of course, I make this pie every year for our Thanksgiving feast, but it is also a great dessert or mid-day snack ;-) on Christmas day.
My recipe comes from the Betty Crocker cookbook that is old and taggered and has been in my family for years, but this is the best recipe I have ever found for apple pie and it amazes our guests every year! It’s pretty simple and straight forward, especially for how amazing it turns out.
Betty Crocker Apple Pie Recipe:

Here is a picture of my pie this year…looks amazing doesn’t it!!!! I could live off of these pies! ;-)


Thanks Jonquil-that pie looks like heaven on a plate!

Thank you so much to everyone who shared 
such wonderful recipes today!

So, have you started cooking and baking for Christmas? What types of special foods do you eat at Christmas time? Are you willing to share your recipes with your favourite bloggy friends?! If you would like to share your Christmas recipes with us today, please link up below. Like I have mentioned before, there is no requirement to link back to me but if you would like spread some Christmas cheer, I would be so happy!



Thank you for linking up today!


I can't believe that we are near the end of the 12 Days of Christmas Traditions Series-how exciting! I hope will be able to join me again tomorrow as I am welcoming another guest poster who will be telling us all about Christmas music!

See you tomorrow.


Best Christmas wishes,

Natasha


Please join me each weekend for the Say G'day Saturday Linky Party!
You can also visit me at PINTERESTTWITTER, GOOGLE+
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