Sunday, December 30, 2012

Two favorite things I cooked over the holidays ... one old, one new

I love delicious food over the holidays and enjoy cooking for my family. Some old favorites and some new recipes, made it on my menus.

While at the dentist office, I enjoyed their copy of Real Simple and copied this recipe to try for Thanksgiving. I liked it so much, I made it again for Christmas Eve. 

Carmelized Onion Dip

2 tablespoons butter
2 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Carmelize onions in melted butter (over medium heat) for 30 - 35 minutes.  Let onions cool then combine with the rest of the ingredients. 

Both Jenny and I have December birthdays. For mine, we went to a favorite Turkish restaurant (Cafe Orchid in Chicago)

When I asked Jenny what she would enjoy, she requested an old recipe of my mom's that I had forgotten about. It was so delicious. Again, I fixed it twice over the holidays.

Beef and Pepper Rice Skillet

1 1/2 pounds round steak, cut in strips
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup sliced onions
1 cup rice (jasmine is my favorite) 
1 can beef broth
1 can water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 2-ounce jar pimento, drained (I omit this.)

Brown beef in oil. Stir in onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add rice, broth, water and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes. Stir in peppers and pimento and cook 5 more minutes. ( I always keep the meat portion the same, but double the rest of the ingredients.)

What did you cook over the holidays

image credit 


Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Prayer

A Christmas Prayer

Loving Father, help us remember the
birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song
of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds,
and the worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door
of love all over the world. Let kindness come
with every gift and good desires with
every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the
blessing which Christ brings, and teach us
to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy
to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening
being us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake. Amen. 

I love the words of this poem, written by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894). And it is my prayer for you this Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas to you, dear blogging friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

All is Bright ~ Finding Fun at Christmas (part two)

Top five Childers' traditions (with adult kids)

1. Coffee.

We love to go out for coffee, which always leads to much talking and laughing. 

We have a tradition of enjoying coffee together  (when we are on the same continent) on  RED CUP DAY, which is the first day that Starbucks switches to red Christmas cups. 

We have lots of favorite coffee spots in Chicago ~ Starbucks, Ipsento, Letizzias, Intellegetcia, Metropolis, Julius Meinl ...

2. Christkindlmarket.

Because we spent so many summers in Europe with Royal Servants, we all love anything that reminds of those crazy fun times.

Chicago has a great Christkindlmarket ... beautiful German ornaments, bratwurst, and delicious mulled wine in a commemorative ceramic boot. 

3. Movies.

We have a lot of favorites and with our schedules we have trouble seeing them all together, but we try. White Christmas, A Season for Miracles, All I Want for Christmas, Little Women, A Christmas Story ...

4. Church.

Our family enjoys going to church together. At Christmastime we love ... the music, the decorations, the Advent wreath, The Lessons and Carols and the beautiful candlelit Christmas Eve service. (And our church has a coffee shop ... winning combo for the Childers' family.)

last year
 5. Family.

Dave and I both come from large families. We cherish the holidays that we have all been together, but most often it is "just us." And there is something sweet and simple about that.

When my parents lived in the Philippines, my mom always said, "I can picture just what you are doing on Christmas day ... enjoying good food, good movies, good books, and good conversation."

We enjoy being together. 

What are some of your favorite traditions?

image credit: market, movie, church

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Decembered Grief

Grief is all around us. Right now it is in our national news. And for many of us, it is in our neighborhoods, churches and our own homes. 

December is a month of celebration and joy. It is a difficult time for those whose grief is fresh and raw. I remember well how hard we tried to have a normal Christmas, when we had just buried our mom and nephew. 

My dear friend, faced this same dilema when she was raising three small boys alone, after her husband was killed in a plane accident. She found Harold Smith's book A Decembered Grief: Living with loss while other are Celebrating, to be a good guide to help her process and intentionally plan that first Christmas.

Every December, I read some of Harold's words and pray for my friends who are grieving:

"After experiencing grief, loss and death, I have come to believe in a Christmas that cannot be limited to 24 hours on the 25th of December. I have come to believe in a future Christmas when all God's children will be home. I have come to believe that in our first moments in heaven we will realize how much He (Jesus Christ) gave up to spend those years among us,  to invite us to spend forever with Him. I believe that His coming locked this world into a loving embrace and that this December season, He will be as close as our grief allows."

We cannot fully enter into the grief of others, but we can do small things that make a difference. Today, ask the Lord to give you His ideas for ways to lighten the load of those that are grieving in your spheres of influence.

Linking up with sweet Jen
Linking up with another sweet Jen 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

All is Bright ~ Finding Fun at Christmas (part one)

Christmas is fun. (right?) Yes, we are busy, (shop, cook, bake, wrap, clean, mail, get groceries ...) yet amidst the frenzy, there is always time for intentional fun.

I am a simple girl, so I choose to keep our Christmas simple. But you might be a gold and glitter fancy girl. Both styles are fun.

Top five Childers' traditions (when our kids were young.) 

1. Christmas books and a delightful December 1 tradition.

2. Christmas crafts - you do not need lots of ideas. We did the same three every year, which is how traditions are made:

          *gingerbread houses

          * ice candles

          *decorative soaps

3. Celebrating Advent.

4. Teaching spiritual truths with our Nativity collection. 

5. Focus on others. (no one wants selfish kids)

And a sad p.s. ~ I was at a cozy coffee shop working on this Christmas post. When I arrived home, I heard of the tragic school shootings.

My first thought was to postpone talking about Christmas fun. As a mom, my heart and prayers go out to these families.

But, my second thought was ... we do not want to waste a moment in creating wonderful memories for our families. 

So, today, hug your kids and gather your family around your table to make gingerbread houses. That is what we are doing today with our darling borrowed children. 

Added Sunday night ...

We had so much fun today.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

All is Calm ~ Three ways to find your sanity at Christmas

order scones from your favorite bakery or bake at home?
Eleven, yup, there are eleven days until Christmas. What is going on at your house right now?

          *are you raising young twins?

          *did your daughter just get engaged?

          *are you hosting the neighborhood cookie

          *did you just move and have extra free time   
           this year?

Christmas is a good time to be intentional. Take an honest look at what your life is like this season. It is not too late to choose what you want the next eleven days to look like.

Three ways to find your sanity at Christmas:

Look at each thing that you have on your list for the next eleven days and see if you want to keep it just as it is, (because it is already perfect and just what you and your family love) or apply one of these three b's.

1. Bag it. You can find extra time and a considerable amount of freedom by just saying NO to a few things. This year I said no to:

          *sending out Christmas cards to our
            whole mailing list

          *baking cookies

2. Better it. Think about some of the activities and traditions that you do each year. Are there any ways that you can tweek them to make them better? This year:

          *I had a pajama day  and planned all of the
            food for our holidays. (so fun)

          *I ordered more gifts on-line. (so easy) 

3.  Barter it. Do you love to bake cookies, but hate to wrap presents? Find a friend that is the opposite and swap jobs.

And, you do not have to be a "lone ranger" Christmas magic woman. Let others help. This year I:

          *let my husband do the grocery shopping

          *let my favorite restaurant cook a special 

I wish you a wonderful, fun and peaceful next eleven days.          

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holy Night ~ Finding Christ at Christmas

Every year, as I pack up my decorations and reflect on the Christmas season that we just celebrated ... I wonder. It is a wonder that is filled with both joy and fear.

This wondering ... what will I (my family, friends, church, neighbors, country) be experiencing by the time this season rolls around again? What joys and sorrows will accompany me the next time I carry my Christmas tree up the stairs and begin to decorate?

I am turning 60 in a few days ... this is my 60th Christmas. And I have had all sorts of holidays.

From the Christmas we dedicated Jenny (just 15 days old) as part of our large Johnson family celebration (the privilege of Grandpa being your pastor) ... to the difficult Christmas that held recent memories of two family funerals. (my mom and my 30 year old nephew) 

I am sure that you have had Christmas seasons on all levels of joy and sorrow, as well.

What does all of this have to do with Holy Night? For me, the one consistency of 60 Christmas days ... is Christ. Christ in the joy. Christ in the sorrow. Christ in the known. Christ in the unknown.

Three ways to find (remember, celebrate, honor) Christ at Christmas:

1. The music of Christmas

The music of Christmas (both secular and sacred) can move my heart to deep worship. Sometimes it is the words and other times it is that beautiful chord progression, or amazing harmony.

Do not even get me started on a wee child's sweet voice or beautiful children's choir singing Christmas melodies.

I love the music at church, the music at Target, the music of the Salvation Army bell ... I love it all.

But my favorite, is the intentional listening to music at night (alone, with Dave, or with whoever is visiting.) Just the Christmas lights and a few favorite songs.

          *my favorite this year is Casting Crowns
           "Peace on Earth"

          *my favorite for many years is "The 
           Worship Medley" from The Brooklyn 
           Tabernacle "Light of the World." Often,
           Dave and I will listen to it on repeat ...
           for a very long time.

          *And, have you enjoyed a beautiful
           rendition of "The Birthday of a King"?
           (and so many others) 

2. The words of Christmas
I also, love the words of Christmas. 

When I was in the first grade, I memorized the Christmas story from Luke 2. Those lovely King James words are still in my head ... "and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger."

          *If you want a fresh perspective on the 
           Biblical narrative, read the Christmas
           story with children and act it out with your
           nativity set. (Dave and I borrow some children.) 

          *Have you ever looked at the Bible story
            through the eyes of the cigar smoking
            swearing children of the Heardman 
            family? (The Best Christmas Pageant
            Ever by Barbara Robinson) 

          *There are so many ways to enjoy the 
            Advent words, too. The books (thank you,
            Katharine) and the blogs (thank you,
            Diana.) When our kids were young, we
            loved Family Celebrations: Meeting Christ
            in Your Holidays and Special Occasions,
            by Ann Hibbard.

          *Have you ever looked at Christmas through
            the eyes of those who are grieving? This
            post is getting too long, so I will share my
            favorite comforting words from Decembered
            Grief, later this month.

3. And finally, the words and music of Christmas.

I love events that bring both music and words together. Our Sunday mornings at church, the wonderful Carols and Lessons of the season, and the traditional candlelight Christmas Eve service.

Wherever you are this season, I pray the lovely and haunting words and music of Christmas ... lead you to the Christ child.

image credit: night sky      

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