Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Are you a Thermostat or a Thermometer?

If you are on any form of social media lately, there seems to be a trend whenever something news worthy happens. People post videos or leave comments stating their personal opinion on what is happening. But do we really understand the impact that have not only on our own lives but on the lives of people around us or who visit our social media sites?

When you think about these things and your life, are you a thermostat or a thermometer?

A thermometer is affected by its surroundings, depending on the temperature, it either goes up or down.

A thermostat affects its surrounding. It controls the heat or coldness.

Do you merely react to what is happening around you or do you have some sort of impact on it.

In the Bible we have two clear examples of who were thermostats and one who was a thermometer.

Noah and Mary, the mother of Jesus were thermostats. Despite where they were living, and things were definitely a whole lot worse than the world we are living in, they remained unaffected by things happening around them. They refused to be influenced by their environment. They held on to their moral upbringing and remained uncompromised in their faith.

Lot on the other hand was a thermometer. Living in the land of Sodom, definitely an evil place and not one you would want to live in. He was not happy there. He could have been a leader among the people living there and influenced things going on, but he didn't. He compromised. When the angels came announcing the destruction of the city, he had a hard time being convinced it was time to go. Even though he was spared, along with a handful of his family members, he wasn't strong enough to influence the lives of people around him. Even his wife took a sneak peek and looked back to see the destruction and faced the consequences of her decision to disobey the angels warnings.

It shows there is no power in a uncompromised life.

We often complain about how we are based on what is happening around us. Our job as Christians, however is to permeate and effect the culture around us.

When you walk into a room as a Christian, it should impact the people there. They should know you are a Christian. Not in a pious or self righteous way, but you should affect conversations.

So what does your social media sites say about you?

Would someone who stops by your page for the first time know without a doubt you're a Christian, or it is difficult to tell?

Do you stay positive when the negative things are happening all around you? Do you refrain from being impacted by what is happening around you and stand firm in your faith? Do you complain about how things are so bad in your life or are you making positive changes?

Might be time to move from becoming a thermometer and become a thermostat instead. Let's make a positive change both in the messages we are reflecting on our social media sites and even what is happening in the world. We can be the type of change that influences people not being influenced by what is happening.

I love how The Message translates Romans 12:1-2, "So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."

From the NIV, " Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." 

For some of us, it might just be the time to adjust our thermostats!!! I think now, more than ever, we have the ability to reach out to people and influence the positive change in our culture. Social media makes the more popular than ever before. 

And when you walk into a room and people change because you are there, count it all joy! You are impacting them in a powerful way by the how your life is a witness to them. 

The best compliment I received on my Facebook site by someone I "friended" is that it is so positive. It's encouraging and uplifting. That is just what I mean when I say how our lives and social media can have impacts on people we don't even realize. What does yours say about you?


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Seeds of Faith and Seeds of Doubt

Do you ever have one of those days in your spiritual walk that make you wonder if you have gotten off the path and have wandered away? Those days when doubt creeps in, a heavy weight feels like it has landed on your shoulders and you just feel like crying but can't really figure out why?

What do you do?

I had one of those days and unfortunate while dealing with it, things kept happening to intensify that effect from a handful of text messages I could have dealt with better had I not been feeling that way to being asked repeatedly for help from everyone who could. Those are the days I think you are beyond feeling overwhelmed.

You are just wiped out.

Even though the days and weeks before you were doing fine, things are going along perfectly, you're reading your Bible, doing your devotions, serving to the best of your ability and then WHAM!

It's like you woke up in your body but in a different period of time.

It's like you lost that lovin feeling.

Then people will ask you "What's wrong?"

They want to know how they can help.

How can they when you can't even figure out what went wrong, what is going on and how to get over this horrible feeling of uncertainty.

I didn't even feel like listening to my praise and worship music like I do every morning when I get up. Even just the idea of celebrating Christmas left such a horrible taste in my mouth. I wanted to run away and tell everyone to just leave me alone.

But I didn't.

Because life still goes on around you even when you are dealing with something beyond the blues. People still need your input and you are called to put your emotions in check and paste on that happy face and fake it.

Not even food sounds appealing either.

I didn't even want to pick up my Bible and read my morning devotions or do my study. I didn't even want to pray. I had nothing I could think of to pray for and I certainly didn't want to talk about what I was feeling, because I didn't know myself.

I even tried to speculate what it might be but honestly, I could probably chalk it up to a series of things coupled with lack of sleep and being so worn out in serving everyone I had nothing left to give.

Perhaps that is why Jesus often went away to just spend time with his Father, to pray. To revive; to be filled with the Spirit so He could give more of himself away.

Add to that mix spiritual warfare at its finest.

The enemy is like that.

Wanting to take advantage of the situation. To keep us down.

So I did what anyone does.

I cried.

A lot.

I told myself I didn't want to feel this way and I will not be ruled by my lying feelings. I prayed and asked God for help. He didn't answer right away. In fact it took til this morning to feel any better at all.

I read my Bible despite being so torn in my mood that I couldn't even pay attention to what I was reading. I found a lot of wisdom in the day however.

During my study of what I was supposed to be reading. I came across the story of Michael and Satan arguing about the condition of Moses body and rather than argue with Satan of lying about it, Michael simply stated, The Lord rebuke you, and he left the judgment of Satan up to God.

I didn't remember this until late last night I thought more about how bad my day was going but that in the past, I may have lashed out at the first person who made me made and let them have it. But I didn't.

I didn't even talk to people who had made me mad to tell them how I felt. I simply chose to be quiet. Quite out of the norm for me as well. I will  usually confront issues rather than wait.

In the midst of my reflection I realized how very much God did answer my prayer, just not in the way I had imagined.

He never left my side even though the feelings persisted.

I could take joy in noting how far I had grown in my spiritual walk this year because I am doing things He would be proud of. My small harvest of spiritual seeds of faith.

Confessing things I am afraid of saying.

Doing the right thing despite how I feel.

Praying first instead of as a last resort.

Controlling my tongue in anger.

Letting rumors lie.

In the end, it wouldn't have been the way I would have handled things. In fact during my last plea to God last night knowing I was facing a spiritual attack, I simply called out, "The Lord rebuke you." The voices of torment went away and I feel into a deep sleep.

This morning I can still feel the effects of yesterday as they tried to rage again but I was able to push it away. Today is a better day.

Today I got through the storm that sought to overcome me, and like I learned yesterday....

You can't stumble if you aren't walking or running in the race for God.

Yes....I'm doing something right. I'm definitely seeing my growth in God and it's a great thing. One that makes me smiling just thinking about it. I got a long way to go, but as long as I am walking, I am moving in the right direction.

Next time the enemy rages against you planting seeds of doubt in your mind, simply take Michael's advice, and say, "The Lord rebuke You and let God deal with him instead.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Childhood Christmas Memories

They say that music soothes the savage beast, but sometimes I believe that music can do so much more. It can move you to tears, it can take you back to someplace in your past where you can instantly remember that song and the memory it is tied to. Memories are like that. Perhaps that is why memory related illnesses are the most difficult to bear as well as the loss when a loved one moves from this life to their eternal home.

It's those memories we take with us.

We treasure them and keep them tucked away in our hearts when a song can bring them back to life and give us a brief look back in time. 

I am constantly looking for songs to add to my Pandora play list for Christmas. There are songs I love and ones that make me cringe. Ones I have to instantly delete, thumbs down (which means they won't come back as a song choice) or unlike them.

For me, my music taste is always evolving.

Constantly changing.

And the older I get, the more I find myself listening to songs my parents did. They take me back to my childhood and a time when I can spend a little time looking back at my past with fondness and love.

Johnny Mathis does it every time.

Perhaps it was my mom's favorite, but to this day, I can't listen to one of his Christmas songs and not go back to my old childhood home and remember Christmas with my brother Mike. Listening to the songs, decorating our house and tree for my mom who worked two jobs. Taking out our Hot Wheels and playing for days while the music played in the background.It was back before the invention of cassettes, DVD's and streaming music. Back when you listened to records. Old 33's that offering the crackle as the needle found its way along the groove on my mom's stereo console.

Those were the days when tinsel, the real stuff, was hung on the trees like glistening icicles.There was a proper way of putting those on and you had to do it one at a time. This made it look amazing if you did it right and gave the illusion of real icicles on the tree.

I remember growing impatient with that tedious process and would throw handfuls in a glob on the tree. I didn't realize that my mom could see them and had to go back and restring those.

I remember Bubble Lights. We never had enough to decorate the tree so there was this strand my mom would bring out and add to the tree. It was like a misfit, but we never seems to notice. We just loved watching the bubbling liquid inside.

I remember all my mom's old vintage blown glass ornaments. The ones we would be oh so careful in removing them from their cardboard box to make sure we didn't break them. I loved looking at the beautiful colors, the glitter that got all over your hands, and finding just the perfect place for these odd-shaped but colorful beauties. In love them so much now, my family is always looking for them in antique stores to take me back to my childhood by finding them on my own tree.

I remember thick strands of colored garland that we would drape in huge swags around the tree. We had blue, green, red and gold.

I remember my brother and I, secretly decorating this giant wood beam that ran the length of our living room and entry way in these giant swags and then adding just the right colored glass bulb to complete the look. I also remember how many of them broke when the swag fell off the nail we thought we secured in that beam. I don't think Mom ever noticed how some never found there way back into the box.

By far, my all time favorite memory were the old fashioned glass bulb lights that went on the outside of our home. We couldn't wait to get to work, untangling them *think Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation* and then stapling them to the eaves under the roof. Then painstakingly screwing in the glass bulbs one by one, ensuring that you NEVER put the same color side by side. Unfortunately by the time you got through a handful of the bulb boxes, you always ran out of the ones you needed and it messed up your color design.

See I was a bit OCD even back then.

You had to wait til it got dark to see which ones didn't work, and then had to go through the process of screwing and re-screwing new bulbs in. This was before the invention of the light sets that when one bulb burned out the rest stay lit.

In fact is is hard to find those anymore. I love it when I see old decorated homes that still use these. If I could find them, these babies would be back up on my house again.

It never failed too, when we found ones that were burned out, we couldn't wait to take them out into the street, throw them high up in the air and wait for them to explode when they landed. Silly, I know but we loved to listen to that sound.

One of my all time favorites was Ribbon Candy. I am thrilled to see that it is making a comeback now that vintage is coming back again. I loved seeing these in all kinds of shapes, colors and flavors. It was a rare find it you had one that wasn't broken. I found some like it and gave it to my kids last year.

Oh music and memories!!!

What are some of your childhood favorites? What takes you back to your childhood Christmas? I'd love to hear and thanks for stopping by and sharing mine.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

History Behind Christmas Traditions

A long time ago, I bought a journal from Land's End and it was entitled Christmas Memories. It was a red, hardback book that would capture 20 years of Christmas memories, from what you had a dinner, to the guests who stopped by.

Places for favorite Christmas photos and Christmas Cards (when people sent them). What you did on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as a place for Christmas gifts. I have written in that book for so many years. There are a couple of skips in the book before I really kept to being diligent. There are some sad memories when we lost special people who impacted our lives as well as trials that threatened to overwhelm us. I even had one year I completely skipped because I didn't want to celebrate Christmas because my ex made sure to have our divorce finalized on Christmas but because the courts were closed, he had to settle for the day after.

Yet God brings blessings where we don't often look for them and He restored what was lost more that double what I lost in my new husband who proudly stepped in and filled in all those broken places and restored my faith in enjoying Christmas once again. In fact that moment stands out more so than any other Christmas memory.

In this Christmas Memory book are also the history behind some of the traditions we incorporate into our home every year and I thought I would share some of them with you.

1. Candy Canes: They originated in Germany more than 250 years ago. They were simple plain white sugar sticks designed to keep children quiet during church service back in 1670 as the story goes and since they wanted them to be a reminder of Christmas, they were formed into the shape of a shepherd's crook to remind them of the birth of Jesus. Later as the flavors of peppermint and wintergreen were to the red stripes. Christian meanings behind the candy cane is the J-shape reminds us of Jesus, the white of the cane represents the purity of Christ and the red stripes for the blood that He shed on the cross.

2. Poinsettias. Originated in Central America, especially in the area of south Mexico where they bloom during the winter. There is a legend of how the Poinsettia and Christmas came together.

There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.

'Pepita', he said "I'm sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy."

Pepita didn't know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene.
Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the 'Flores de Noche Buena', or 'Flowers of the Holy Night'.

The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.

3. Advent. Advent is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas (or sometimes from the 1st December to Christmas Day!). Advent means 'Coming' in Latin. This is the coming of Jesus into the world. Christians use the four Sundays and weeks of Advent to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas.

There are three meanings of 'coming' that Christians describe in Advent. The first, and most thought of, happened about 2000 years ago when Jesus came into the world as a baby to live as a man and die for us. The second can happen now as Jesus wants to come into our lives now. And the third will happen in the future when Jesus comes back to the world as King and Judge, not a baby.

Some people fast, or observe dietary restrictions like not eating meat or dairy during the countdown of those days. We most recently see these as Advent Calendars or a wreath that holds numbered bags to be opened each day as is a German tradition. People place small gifts or candy inside to make counting down the days even better and more exciting.

Other people celebrate the Advent with a candle that is burned down to each day marked on the calendar.

Some use what is called an Advent crown in which one candle is burned on the first Sunday, two the next Sunday and so on with each having a separate meaning.

First Candle - represents Isaiah and the other prophets who foretold of the coming Messiah.
Second Candle - represents the Bible.
Third Candle - represents Mary, the mother of Jesus
Fourth Candle - represents John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin, who told people to be prepared and to look out for the coming Messiah.
Fifth Candle - usually placed in the middle of the other four represents Jesus Christ, the Messiah who is the Light of the World. This candle is lit on Christmas Eve!

4. Christmas Trees. Both pagans and Christians used the fir trees, for pagans to celebrate the end of winter solstice, but Christmas for a sign of the everlasting life of God. Since fir trees stay green all year long and don't lose their needles, they symbolize life and the hope that comes from trusting in God when winter seems like it's an end to all life. Some countries refer to it as the Paradise Tree and can mean to represent the tree God provided in the Garden of Eden to symbolize everlasting life.

The first first person to bring a Christmas Tree into a house, in the way we know it today, may have been the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. A story is told that, one night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. It was so beautiful, that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.

5. Christmas Presents. This is based on the giving of gifts from the Wise men or Magi that came to see Jesus' birth. They offered three distinct gifts: Frankincense: a perfume used in worship to signify that people would worship Jesus. Gold: associated with Kings because Jesus would be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and finally Myrrh: a spice used to prepare bodies when they were to be buried because Jesus Christ would die for the sins of all mankind.

There you have it, some of the history surrounding the traditions we have in our home during Christmas. What are some of your favorites? 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kat's Christmas Movie Recommendations

I have often times been asked to share what some of my favorite Christmas movies are so I thought I would share some of them with you. Mind you, they have changed over the year and as I have gotten older, my tastes have been refined a bit by the classics most people don't even know about. In no particular order they are:

1. White Christmas: I mean nothing gets better than Bing Crosby. I prefer the simplicity of the story. The tale of love that is struggling to find a place in people's hearts, in this case Bing's character. It also blends the story of Bing's past serving in WWII, and we find him returning back to help his old General save his historic inn. The music is beautiful and the wardrobe is classic in every way. When women still dressed up no matter what they were doing.

2. It Happened on Fifth Avenue. I actually found this one while looking for Christmas Classic movies that I might have missed and it truly does offer something that will embed itself in your heart long after you finish watching it. It tells the story of a homeless man who finds lodging during the Christmas season by taking advantage of wealthy homes that are left vacate. It is a true classic comedy in every way with a compelling message.

3. Holiday Inn: Once again back to Bing Crosby in which case you can never go wrong. He stars with Fred Astaire as a couple of entertainers who have now decided to break up their act. Bing decides to open an Inn that is only open on holidays. It isn't so much a Christmas movie but it wraps up with the opening at Christmas time in which old relationships are mended and new ones formed.

4. The Bells of St. Mary: Another Bing Crosby classic. This movie tells the tale of a home for wayward boys who suddenly find themselves looking for funds to rebuild. Bing plays the Catholic Father O'Malley for the home and soon finds himself at odds with one of the Sisters played by Ingrid Bergman. They hope that a wealthy real estate man will offer to donate a new home for the boys if they can only persuade him to give up his latest project which is adjacent to their home.

5. It's A Wonderful Life: Life truly doesn't get any better during Christmas than watching Frank Capra's beloved classic about George Bailey (James Stewart) and Mary (Donna Reed) who fall in life during their childhood and soon marry after George returns home from college to handle the Bailey Building and Loan for his ailing father. The message of hope and redemption is a clear as the ringing bell on the Christmas Tree and this one is by far one of my all time favorites.

6. Miracle on 34th Street (1994) I love the more recent remake of this movie over the classic 1947 version. There is something wonderful of watching an underdog rally the city and it's residents to help fight the greater good in the belief of Santa Claus. I love watching this one during Thanksgiving and love Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins and Dylon McDermott. Their chemistry gives you the "Ah!" factor.

7. The Shop Around the Corner - This is the original movie where You Got Mail was remade. Once again James Stewart plays a shop clerk Alfred Kralik and Margaret Sullivan plays Klara Novak who find that the person they have been writing letters to are actually the same person.

8. Christmas in July - I actually discovered this one way before Christmas for the first time, browsing Turner Classic Movies one day and wondered, how did I ever miss it. An office clerk, James MacDonald (Dick Powell) loves entering contests in the hopes of someday winning a fortune and marrying the girl he loves Bettie Casey (Ellen Drew). His latest attempt is the Maxford House Coffee Slogan Contest. As a joke, some of his co-workers put together a fake telegram which says that he won the $25,000 grand prize. As a result, he gets a promotion, buys presents for all of his family and friends, and proposes to his girl. When the truth comes out, he's not prepared for the consequences.

9. Holiday Affair - The Christmas-season romance of a young widow and a sales clerk who (thanks to her) is unemployed. Hol­i­day Affair is a roman­tic com­edy star­ring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, Wen­dell Corey, and Harry Morgan. Set dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son, this clas­sic movie cen­tres on a war widow who can­not afford to buy her son a toy train for Christmas. When a war vet­eran dis­cov­ers her plight and offers to buy the toy, a com­pli­cated hol­i­day romance begins, one that is not with­out lively com­pe­ti­tion for the widow’s affections.

10. Boys Town - While not exactly a Christmas movie per say, the theme surrounding this one has it in my much watched collection each Christmas. Against all odds Father Flanagan (Spencer Tracy)starts "Boys' Town" after hearing a convict's story. Whitey Marsh(Mickey Rooney) comes there. He runs away but, hungry, returns. He runs away again but, when friend Pee Wee is hit by a car, returns. He runs away and joins his brother's gang. Flanagan and the boys capture the crooks and the reward saves the town.

That wraps up my Christmas Classic Movie list. If  you haven't taken the time to watch any of these, trust me you'll want to add them this year. I'll be adding my Hallmark Movie Channel favorites tomorrow! Let me know what your favorite Christmas movies are in the comment box below.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Great Household Tips - What works from Pinterest

I found it interesting yesterday when I went through my Pinterest board "Household Tips" to find the recipe for cleaning my stovetop grates, how many of these I have pinned but never tried, even when I could have used those tips so many times in the past, and struggled with stuff that hasn't worked. I thought I would share some of what I have found in hopes that it might make your life so much easier and to get through those chores we all dread.

It is funny, that some of the chores I dreaded doing as a child, I know LOVE doing as I am older. I actually LOVE doing laundry. I find it gives me some time to catch my breath and I love folding clothes and smelling how fresh and clean everything is. I even pray over some of my families clothes knowing that each article of clothing can be a blessing in some way. My family never knows what putting those clothes on is really doing for them. One day they will :D

Glass Shower Doors: My first dreaded chore, that I abhor is cleaning my bathroom shower. I have one of those kinds with glass doors that seem to collect hard water stains like most women collect shoes and like I, collect books! Because our shower is pretty small, it is hard to get in there and really scrub the areas on the glass and tile to get all that shampoo and soap reside off along with the hard water stains. I've tried several tips from slicing grapefruit and using salt, (DOESN'T Work but smells great!)

What I have found that works fairly well and smells pretty good is toothpaste. Take some inexpensive toothpaste and put it on a sponge. I used a tube of the stuff we get when we go to the dentist, I have several of them and wanted to see if it would really work. I would have to say it got rid of all my soap and shower scum from the glass as well as about 50% of the hard water spots. I had to work pretty hard on some of them just to make a dent in the hard water spots. But I have to say, I was more than impressed, plus my shower smells minty fresh.

Next to clean the dreaded Shower floors. Since ours are textured, it makes getting most of the grime hard to get off, and takes a fair amount of scrubbing. I discovered Magic Erasers (Bath Scrubber).

Within a few minutes my shower walls and floors looked amazing with a fair amount of elbow grease. Trust me, these babies work great. A word of caution, apply a little elbow grease not too much or you might wear down the surface, especially if you have had yours reglazed before.

Stovetop Grates: Because my stovetop grates are double what most people have on theirs, I found most of the tips on Pinterest are for the small grates. I opted to take my grates and do the same thing, but on a larger scale. You will need Ammonia, (You wouldn't believe how hard this was to find in the stores) and a couple of large trash bags, and rubber bands. Take your stovetops grates and place them inside a couple of trash bags, carefully to avoid ripping your bags. We actually used about 4 since ours are so big and bulky. Add about 1 cups of ammonia to the bag, keeping your face far from the bag opening. Tie a rubber band around the bag. It is the fumes that cut through the baked on crud, for me about 10 years worth. LEAKS: Yes the ammonia will leak from the bag so please make sure to place it well away from sensitive plants, I placed mine in the sun on the concrete.

Wait about 24 hours, and then carefully open the bag, again away from your face. The fumes are pretty powerful. Wash off the grates in warm soapy water. If there is still stuff remaining, place them back in the bag for another treatment. I had one grate that needed more time in the bag because I removed them about 14 hours and thought they might be done. I am fully impressed because I had tried Bar Keeper's friend, Soft Scrub, and you name it, and NOTHING worked. Now my babies look almost brand new. Only the area around where the flame comes into contact with the grate is still discolored but I think this is a success. Dispose of your bags following directions according to the back of the ammonia bottle.

Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide: Making a paste of these simple ingredients will take all the discoloration off your stainless steal pots and pans. I used it on my tea kettle and cookie sheets and now these look amazing!!! Simply make a paste and rub the stains off using a paper towel or cotton rag. Then rinse clean.

Stainless Steel Appliances: Best trick I've discovered it using WD-40. That's right that can that probably exists in your garage if you have a husband.

Simply get a cotton cloth and spray a small amount into the towel. A little goes a long, long way. And wipe down whatever it is you're cleaning. I did my sugar canister to show you the before and after I captured here. I use it on my microwave trim, my stove front, dishwasher and canister sets, but it works amazing!!!

That's it for now. I will be posting more tips including how to get your whites really WHITE next week. I'll be sure to post before and after pictures too, since I didn't consider that before trying these tips! Would love to know how these worked for you or if you have any ideas to share!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Christmas Tradtions from the Smith Family

It's that time of year again as Christmas draws closer, decorations begin to go up and shopping malls are packed to capacity. I thought I would take a moment and share some of our families Christmas traditions with you and hope you might share some of yours with me.

Because the month of December and Christmas in general is my favorite time of the year, I can't wait to get all my Christmas decorations up. I have been collecting them since my mom worked at Hallmark years ago and now with yard and garage sales being so plentiful, I am still scoring more to my collection every year.

In fact, I try to get my house ready before Thanksgiving, much to the disappointment of my youngest daughter Kailee who believes that Thanksgiving is being sadly overlooked. But honestly, who decorates their home for Thanksgiving? Sure I have fall decorations but those go up before the end of September and stay up til the Christmas ones come out.

Most of the time, it's just me and Steve putting up all the decorations, pulling tubs out from our storage shed and hauling them into the house, where we plug things in to make sure that they work before putting up garland, bows, and lots of antiques I've found through many of my searches.

The one thing we hold off doing until the entire family is here is decorating our Christmas tree. We take the time to go through all our ornaments and remember those special times in our kids lives or even our own as each ornament tells its own story. In fact that is a tradition in our home. Each year, the kids pick one ornament that identifies a year in their life. It might deal with sports, a career, an interest but something they feel represents them.

We write their names on the bottom so that one day when they move out and get their own homes going, they have a pretty good starter collection going.

Another tradition, like most, is baking cookies. Each year I have vowed to reduce the numbers of varieties I bake, but usually end up making them all. Caitlyn's favorites have been magic bars, Steve's are Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls and Kailee's are Candy Canes.

Even my brother Mike, has his favorite, Spiced Pecans. I make a huge batch for him each year, and make sure he has them.

I make sugar cookies and wait for a time when all of us are together again, and we have a Christmas Cookie decorating contest, with the winner getting a $10 gift card of their choice based on votes from our Facebook posts and comments telling us which one they think is the best. 

Another tradition is visiting the Christmas lights in Alta Loma. My husband Steve, grew up there and it has been something he has done as part of his families tradition, plus he knows just how to get there and find the best places to park.

We usually rent a SUV or mini van to take whomever wants to come, and we all head out.

I give the kids each $5 to support the families who put on the event to buy a cup of hot chocolate or soft pretzel while we take part walking around and enjoying the display.

We even try to take a picture to make it a memorable event.

One of the Christmas traditions, my husband brought with him that we started in our new family is painting of plaster houses. We try and get each person to paint at least one to add to our growing collection each year.

We sign and date them and once again, when the kids move out, those will go with them as well. They have grown so much over the year with friends of the kids painting them that we are struggling to find a place to put them.

On Christmas Eve night, the kids each open a gift, even though they aren't really kids any longer. They already know what it will be, a set of pajamas to wear either to bed or for Christmas morning. When the kids were much younger, I used to include a Christmas book to be enjoyed that night before bed. We usually order dinner out that night because we know we'll be cooking all day on Christmas Day. We top it off with a movie or two from our Christmas movie collection.

Christmas Day is savored because it is over too soon. Coffee is made, music is ready and playing and Steve and I are usually showered and ready before waking our kids up. Now that they are older, there is no rush to wake up early.

We all take our time and do stockings first, each person revealing with they have, while I diligently write it all down, because no one can remember what they got from one year to the next.

Then we move on to presents and we each take the time to watch each person open their gifts.

Once the gifts are opened, showers begin while breakfast is being made. Phone calls go out to family that are home celebrating their own Christmas'. We generally watch Christmas movies all day long with each family member picking their all time favorite movie for us all to watch. They change ever year. Dinner preparations begin early with each person requesting different things. Steve has to have beets (yuck on my end), Kailee needs sparkling apple cider, Caitlyn wants Deviled Eggs, and I love stuffing. We make sure that we have plenty of fixings so that Caitlyn can take left overs home for a few days. We make turkey, stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes, corn, green beans with bacon, biscuits with honey and butter, deviled eggs, and for dessert either apple or harvest pie, a blend of cheesecake and pumpkin pie.

That is how the Smith family celebrates Christmas, what traditions does your family incorporate that have been passed down through generations? I'd love to hear.