Christmas Cookies Anyone?

386741_2668163541909_324005759_nThis is the first Christmas I will not be baking cookies. When my mother was ill my sister and I took over some of the baking and that is when I found my love of baking Christmas cookies.

The year my mother had her first heart attack dad bought the Tastykake Christmas cookies and they eventually became a part of our Christmas cookie tradition growing up, the box they came in right next to moms delicious cookies. My mothers favorite to bake were butter cut out cookies and peanut butter. We were no Martha Stewart or I guess in my day it was the Galloping Gourmet when it came to decorating. But we had fun. We never used icing, instead mom used a egg yolk mixture and then we topped it off with an assortment of sprinkles and candies. There were more types of cookies she would bake and we would always help – eating the broken ones or the ones that were burnt around the edges.

404543_2760139881260_50935956_nAs I got a home of my own I added Butter Drop Ins, Angel Pillows and Santa’s Whiskers to my cookie collection. I would store cookies for weeks until Christmas using all the proven techniques to keep them fresh.

As the children grew they ate them as fast as I could bake them. We would also give away containers full of cookies. One year I took them out to the ambulance company that came and helped me after I passed out. Then there were the years I shipped them to my  husband and son when they were deployed. Over the years my kitchen became a bakery filling my home with aroma of fresh baked cookies.

When our son moved out of the house and life got busy with jobs and other commitments I only baked the families favorites and started to buy German cookies and Scottish shortbread that are now easily available. What is Christmas without the traditional Lebkucken, Christmas Stollen, and Scottish Shortbread that melts in your mouth?

9693_4837674018315_186367325_nOur daughter loves to bake as much as I do, but we are both finding out bakery cookies are just as good! So now we go to Wegmans and stock up on German Lebkucken, buy our favorite cookie – Oreos with the red stuffing and choose a few Christmas cookies at our favorite bakery. We are also blessed with my sister who still loves to bake and will bring over our mothers Butter Cut Out Cookies and friends who will not have me go without cookies.

Although I have never met a cookie I did not like I am at that age where I have to watch what I eat. And with my biggest cookie fan no longer here to enjoy the delicacies I bake, I find it is time to lay aside my baking sheet and wooden spoon – for now. I am sure once grandchildren bless my home I will once again fill my home with the aroma of cookies baking.

405158_3610376136635_1392016750_nSo now what do I do since I am not baking? Glad you asked…now my life is filled with craft and sewing projects. Instead of a messy kitchen table I have a messy craft table. The aroma of baking cookies has been replaced by the aroma of my Scentsy Warmer that fills my home with Christmas Joy.

What is your favorite thing to do for Christmas, is it baking, cooking, or crafts?

Posted in Family Life, Home, Reflections, Special Moments | Tagged , , , , , , , | 69 Comments

It Is Beginning To Look Like Christmas

Picture unknown artists

Picture unknown artist

It is now the day after Thanksgiving here in America so it is now the official start of the Christmas season and to celebrate it I thought it fitting to post to the song by Bing Cosby,

It Is Beginning To Look Like Christmas

So rejoice everyone – the Christmas season has begun! Whatever you do for the Christmas season celebrate every moment from baking dozens of cookies to shopping for or making that perfect gift.  Don’t let the naysayers get you down, it is time to celebrate the holiday of our Saviors birth. 

What is the first thing you do to kick off this joyous holiday?  For us it has always been decorating the house and putting the tree up.  I worked retail and waited tables for many years, so depending on when I worked we would either put the tree up on Thanksgiving or the first weekend I had off which was usually the first day of advent.  And of coarse you already know, by now I have been listening to Christmas  music!

Let me be the first to wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Posted in Home, Music, Special Moments | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments

Giving Tuesday

Giving-Tuesday-BannerWhat is “Giving Tuesday“?  A few weeks ago my denomination, the Presbyterian USA issued a challenge to all of its Synods, Presbyteries and Churches to participate in Giving Tuesday. I had no idea what this was, but the more I read the more excited I became.  It is one day set aside from the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping to donate money for worthy causes.  One day to take the focus off of ourselves and to focus on the needs of our churches and communities.  Isn’t this what the Christmas season is all about?  

Although it is a very worthy day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we do this all year long?  Imagine how many families, homeless people, abused women and children that we can help not to mention the many people we can feed when the food bank donations around the country go down after the holiday season. 

My challenge to you is to participate in Giving Tuesday on December 2 and then to continue that giving all year long.

The following two quotes are from the #GivingTuesday and the PCUSA Giving Tuesday webpages.  Click on the links for more information.

“We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.” {quote from Giving Tuesday.org}


“How refreshing to start the Advent season with a focus on the blessings we have been
given by God. Your gratitude for God’s blessings can be reflected as a
gift to support our mission.

GIVINGTUESDAY is a global initiative devoting one special day to Giving.
We invite you to make a donation on this special day and don’t stop
there…encourage your family and friends to also make a donation.
Here’s the challenge – On Tuesday, December 2, join us online anytime
during the 24 hours to support your church or the Presbyterian Church by going to PresbyterianMissionExchange/GivingTuesday”  {quote from PCUSA Mission Exchange}

giving tuesday

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Back To The Basics by Pastor Joe Quatrone

Pastor JoeI usually do not do a “review” before I read a book, but in this case I will make an exception, since I am familiar with Pastor Joe’s articles.  Most may already know Pastor Joe Quatrone, his blog by his name is found here:  Pastor Joe

I have been reading his blog now for over a year if not longer.  His passion for what God has called him to do began when he was involved in a tragic accident at age 14.  You can read his testimony on his blog.

Pastor Joe’s articles has reached out to many of us as we yearn to learn know more about God and to offer us hope in this chaotic world. 

I will be reading his book soon, have it downloaded and ready to go!  But with confidence I can recommend his book “Back to the Basics: A Guide For Christian Living”.

“Using simple language, you’ll find you don’t need a theology degree to understand these biblical truths, only a heart open to God’s Word. “Back to the Basics” is convicting with its introspective observations and promising with its practical applications. This affordable publication addresses intriguing questions; such as,

  • Why must there be consequences to actions?
  • What are the benefits of waiting for God’s will and how would I even know what that is?
  • How can I stand strong in my faith against society’s ungodly pressures?
  • How does my relationship from the past affect my relationship with God now?
  • Is there a secret to contentment?
  • How can I be secure in my salvation?
  • What happens when I die?

This short book is truly motivating and for this affordable price, it should be on every church library shelf and on every Christian’s Kindle. Get your copy here.

* If the Lord has touched your life in a special way through my writings, please share this book with your friends. Thanks.”

   { Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr }

My prayer is for all of us to grow closer to God as we find what God’s desire is for our lives.  Please share your thoughts on how this book has enriched your faith.

Posted in Books, Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Thanksgiving Traditions

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479Here I am getting ready for the second holiday season without Tom. In 35 years of marriage we have only missed two wedding anniversaries, two Christmas’s and one Thanksgiving and one New Year. Not bad for a military wife, but then he only served active duty for part of our marriage before serving the rest of his career in the PA National Guard. Lets face it, although I am proud of the National Guard and all the work they do in their states and across the sea, it is a lot easier being married to a weekend warrior then a full-time soldier.

In that 35 yrs we have made some new traditions while keeping some of the old traditions. When I was growing up we did not have many old family traditions.  Coming from a military family and a grandmother with “itchy” feet my father’s family was thrown to the four corners of the earth. My mother being from Germany never celebrated Thanksgiving so it was a new experience for her. My father was raised in the depression had a very difficult life so I always thought it was his dream to have the traditional Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.

Dad would always buy the biggest turkey, no matter how tight the household budget. He would cook everything in that turkey including the bone for his turkey soup. To this day I cannot eat stuffing, turkey soup or homemade gravy after I helped him one Thanksgiving – he literally used all the “extra’s” that come with the turkey, for flavor he would say, but that did not encourage me.

Now mom on the other hand was not a turkey connoisseur , I can still hear her say why do we have to eat turkey? But always wanting to become American she adapted. I am sure dad taught her everything she needed to know to make the best roast turkey this side of the Atlantic Ocean. She never did understood the concept of eating turkey only once a year. I always assumed they compromised for Christmas by having ham instead of turkey or the Christmas goose.

There is a clip in a movie “Avalon” which is a movie about Polish Immigrants that reminds me of my mother. Change the accent to German and I can almost hear my mother say “I don’t understand this holiday…we don’t eat turkey all year why do I have it eat now”.

movie clip ~ I will never understand this holiday

So our Thanksgiving holiday was a table filled with all the traditional Thanksgiving Day foods and our family of 5 would eat leftovers it seemed for weeks, although I am sure it was only days afterward.  My sister and I would normally argue over who was to wash or dry the many dishes dad left for us.  Dad would say you can tell a good cook by how many dishes and pots he used…well if that is true, then my dad was a master chef!

Tom comes from a traditional American family, big dinner of turkey and ham, tables filled with food that everyone brought, family gathered around, cousins running all over the place, along with a kids table, I am sure. He was amazed when I told him I was not that fond of turkey. Poor guy did not realize he was not going to have turkey for Christmas, ham would become our  traditional Christmas dinner. He never complained as long as he had his homemade pumpkin pie, his favorite holiday pie. Being newly married and wanting to impress him since he said his mother never made homemade pies I made my Aunt Marty’s pumpkin pie from scratch…from then on I would bake all my pies from scratch using love as my secret ingredient. For 35 yrs, we would have pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and one year I surprised him and made him one for his birthday!

The only time we did not have turkey was for our first Thanksgiving, we had chicken. This was before you could buy turkey breasts or smaller turkeys. I would start baking my pies the day before and instead of homemade stuffing we had stove top. Although I do remember the first time I made homemade stuffing I burnt it…don’t ask me how, I followed the directions and sticking to my convictions I used store-bought broth instead of making my own.

It is time to make new traditions but keeping the many happy memories of the past Thanksgivings.  I remember my parents, my brother and Tom with tears, laughter, and smiles. My traditions are not like the Norman Rockwell pictures or from what is shown in holiday movies.  But like how all traditions are started, both my old and the new ones my children and I will make together, they all start from the love I have for them.

My children and I will still have turkey with all the trimmings and instead of pumpkin pie this year I am making a pumpkin roll. Instead of football it will be watching all the traditional Christmas movies, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “White Christmas”, It Happened On Fifth Avenue”, “Christmas in Connecticut” and to keep things silly “A Christmas Story”. 

What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition? I would enjoy hearing about all the different ways we celebrate, including my Canadian friends.  For my friends across the world, do you also celebrate a thanksgiving holiday?

Posted in Family Life, Home, Reflections, Special Moments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Honoring Our Veterans

Veterans DayThe past few days I have been thinking on what to write to about for Veterans Day. Most of know the history of Veterans Day or Armistice Day and in case you do not just click on this link: Veterans Day for the history of how we came about to celebrate this day.

There will be poems and articles of our brave men and women who over the years served this country, either on the battle fronts or behind the lines. I read somewhere today that over 48 million served in our armed forces since 1776. Most not seeing combat, for every combat soldier there are 5 or 7 soldiers serving in supportive roles.

So, what better to way honor Veterans Day than to honor the men and women I know personally who served?

Many of you know I am an Army brat, that khaki green runs in my blood.

Today I would like to honor the veterans that I have had the privilege to know

My grandfather served in the Army during World War I; My father served in the Army in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, only seeing combat in WWII in France, Belgium, the Rhineland and Germany; my brother enlisted just as the Vietnam war was coming to an end; my husband enlisted in the Navy and served in Europe with the NATO Forces in the middle of the Vietnam War, then after college re-enlisted in the Army serving with Joint Services in CENTCOM (Central Command), Gulf War and the War on Terror, retiring from the PA National Guard with over 30 yrs service; my son served proudly with PA National Guard in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

One cousin served in the Army doing 2 tours in Vietnam and another cousin some of you may know served in the Marine Corp retiring after a few tours in Vietnam and 30 yrs of service. My two brother in-laws served, one in the Air Force in Europe and one in the Army also doing duty in Vietnam.

I have had the honor to work with one lady who served as an Army nurse on one of the hospital ships in the Atlantic during WWII. There was the young man who was a close friend of my fathers who served in Korea but tragically took his own life, suffering from shell shock or what we call today PTSD. I have worked with men serving on board air craft carriers and one gentleman who retired from the Navy was on the first sailors to serve aboard the USS John F. Kennedy, the only ship of her class and the last conventionally powered carrier built for the United States Navy.

There is my neighbor, a retired Korean War Veteran, who for years he served on the military honor guard at funerals of many veterans. Now retired from the military honor guard and no longer being able to get around he put on his uniform one last time to serve as part of Tom’s honor guard.

One gentleman at our church comes every year in his old Army uniform for our Veterans Day service. Another gentleman who served in the Army during WWII has not been able to attend church, came out Sunday to be a part of the service. He spoke at our youth group one Veterans Day and told us he did not do too much during the war. He served in what is now Iran, keeping the supply trucks moving along making sure the troop’s supplies were getting through to places like North Africa – no he did not too much did he, he only made sure food, supplies and letters from got through to the men on the front lines.  Like many Veterans he doesn’t see himself as a hero.

My friend’s husband, whom I never met, passed away over 30 years ago from cancer, served in the Coast Guard. There are sons and daughters of friends of mine serving in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Husband, Wives, Brothers and sisters of friends over the years that choose a career in the military leaving the comforts of home to serve in places like DMZ zone in Korea, the Middle East, Iceland and submarines or battleships.

Who is your Veteran or perhaps you are the Veteran? Please add them to my list – let us honor them by remembering what they did. No matter when, where or how our Veterans served, they are our protectors and defenders of freedom.

Posted in History, Home, Military Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Book Review – Heart and Home

It feels good to be back on my computer (almost said typewriter!) writing down my thoughts and creating stories. Although like most of my projects I have about 5 ideas going around in my mind at the same time. I guess that is how God created me, with an over active imagination, like my favorite character in literature, Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gable who was always looking at life through her “scope of imagination”.

Heart and HomeOn to one of my projects – my latest book review, Heart and Home by Jennifer Melzer

Over the summer I was determined to get back into the habit of reading and I am now comfortably in a routine. I used to sit and read at a drop of hat, anywhere, anytime. Well, life gets busy, especially now as I still struggle with finishing everything that needs done. Through trial and error I now end my busy days in comfy clothes, all curled up in my favorite spots with my nose in a book.

One of my favorite summer reads was a book written by my cousin, Jennifer Melzer. She did an interview on my friends blog – Marcia Meara, you can find it here. …http://marciameara.wordpress.com/?s=Jennifer+Melzer

Our family comes from a long line of story tellers. Imagination and writing is in our blood. If my father had written down all of his stories we would have been rich! So although he never made it to be a famous author, he did keep us rich in his stories or maybe I should say tall tales.

Jennifer lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter and dragons, “but dreams nightly she is laying on the beach watching the stars fall over the Atlantic Ocean”. Although our family are mountain people, there a few including my grandmother, Jennifer’s great grandmother and my daughter who love the ocean. Jennifer like the rest of the family is a story teller. Unlike those that came before us who would sit in front of the fire and telling tall tales, Jennifer sits at her computer for hours perfecting her craft as she tells her own fables.

Jennifer has a an imagination that would make Anne Shirley proud! She writes fantasy romance fiction, and as it says on her facebook page she “spins yarns woven from heartstrings”. I am proud of her accomplishments, although I do not normally read fantasy fiction I wanted to read her latest book which at the time was “Edgelanders“. While waiting for it to come out, I noticed another book she wrote, ” Heart and Home“, an endearing story of the area we live. So I chose to start off with that one.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Janice McCarty is a young journalist living in Pittsburgh when she gets the phone call we all dread. Her mother has suddenly passed away. She left her home in Sonesville, PA 8 years before and had seldom returned home. As she arrives she begins to feel out of place. While her friends married, had children, attended church suppers, quilting bees and a scrapbooking club, she had found a career in journalism.

Her plan was to make sure her dad was taken care of before she headed back to civilization where her job awaited her. Soon her life gets complicated by a former class mate and football star who had ambitions of his own. They kept bumping into each other in their small home town or maybe they were being thrown together by her mother’s restless spirit who, “leads her daughter down a path she swore she’d never take, and Chandra McCarty’s ghost has no intention of letting go until her daughter finally sees she’s more than just a byline, and home is where the heart is.”

You will enjoy this story about a young woman who comes face to face with her past only to realize that her past will soon become her future.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have not yet read any of Jennifer’s other titles, but they are on my list. Jennifer’s writing style, imagination and attention to detail has me anticipating reading her other titles. I hope you enjoy her books too and please leave a comment with your review as well.

You can find her list of books on Amazon by clicking here – Heart and Home

Her latest book is Sorrows Peak -  is also available on Amazon

Posted in Books, Home | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Day After Thanksgiving

I dedicate this song to everyone who waits until Thanksgiving to play Christmas music, decorate and start their shopping!

You can thank my son for giving me the CD – now I will think of all of you with smiles as I listen to this song and secretly sing to you “It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas”!!

You know I love all of you! :D 

“The Day After Thanksgiving” by Brandon Heath
 
There’s still plenty of leaves
Golden on the trees
Hoodies, blue jeans and football
Bonfires and school nights
Scarecrows and hayrides
It’s fall everywhere except the mall

I don’t want to hear about Santa Claus coming
No silver bells or a dozen drummers drumming
I don’t want to see an inflatable nothing
Till the day after Thanksgiving
(And not a day early)

Don’t plug in those electric candles
Or dangle those stockings from the living room
Those tangled up lights are more than I can handle
Till the day after Thanksgiving

Then oh let it snow
Go and tell everyone you know
That Christmas is here
Every day between now and new year

Don’t deck the halls with the tinsel or the holly
You can make me grumpy but you can’t make me jolly
Elves don’t even make curly haired dollies
Till the day after Thanksgiving

Then oh let it snow
Christmas card, everyone you know
Then pour on the cheer
Every day between now and new year

I want the cookies and the mistletoe kissing
Angel on top of a tall tree glisten
Wrap it all up in a pretty red ribbon
The day after Thanksgiving

(You can put antlers on your car for all I care)
As long as its the day after Thanksgiving

Posted in Home, Music, Sunny Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Here Comes Santa Claus

CharlieBrownChristmasUpdate.JPG-675x550It it is time to start thinking “Christmas”.  Actually I think of Christmas all year-long as I reflect the birth of Jesus.  Then as I start sing Hark the Angels, Joy to the World and other favorite Christmas classics, soon I am singing, I Want A Hippopotamus, Nestor the Christmas Donkey, Deck the Halls, I’ll Be Home For Christmas and of course Here Comes Santa Claus sung by my two favorite singers, Doris Day and Gene Autry.   I could type a list of all my favorite Christmas songs.  You name it I love it!

I know everyone is going to comment that it is not Thanksgiving yet and you are right!  Years ago I thought how sad that we get to only listen to Christmas songs for 30 days out of the year.  So  I decided to started listening to Christmas songs the first day of school to celebrate the children going back and having the house to myself!

Then the movement of the stores to have Christmas in July came and I was hooked in bringing out the Christmas songs in July. 

This year I did start a bit later than usual only recently switching my regular CD’s over to Christmas.  But I am proud to say my daughter is following in my footsteps and is also listening to Christmas music. 

And you realize that with the Christmas music comes the Christmas movies. 

So call me crazy and you would be right because I am crazy for Christmas all year-long!

Enjoy your first Christmas song of the season…now you can get back to thinking about Thanksgiving as I get back to listening Christmas songs on Pandora.

But remember Christmas is only 88 days 7 hours and 37 minutes away (as I write this).

 

 

 

 

Posted in Home, Music, Special Moments | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

Silence

 

 

 

 

 

 

The silence of the morning
Tick tock goes the clock
A lonely bird cries out
 
The stillness opens the heavens
God fills our waking souls
The morning fog gives way
To the chill of an autumn day
 
Day is done
Silence fills the busy day
Darkness covers the weary land
As Crickets sing a nighttime lullaby
 
The silence of the evening
Tick tock goes the clock
God quiets our tired souls
 
                      Patty Beggs September 23, 2014
Posted in Home, Inspirational, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments