Tuesday, December 23, 2008

First Fruit Cake

It is the day before the day before Christmas and there is a flurry of activity at our house. Actually, the flurry of activity is in our kitchen. We have been baking since Saturday - sausage balls, pumpkin stuff, lots of cookies, dipped pretzels - and yes, some of this has already been eaten or given away.

So yesterday we made our very first fruitcake in honor of my Grandma's memory and we made fudge according to her recipe. I always wondered why it took her days to get ready for Christmas dinner and now I know. The smells of great food and the excitement of just being at her house for Christmas are some of my favorite memories and hopefully I can pick up her mantle with grace and give my family some really great memories as well.

Making the fruitcake required several phone calls to my dad to compare notes and decide exactly how long to cook the layers as Grandma didn't think that information was important enough to write down. I think 13 to 14 minutes will do though. It was a long process but we had fun and Lindsay took lots of pictures for me. Here are a few of our favorites:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ho, Ho, Ho

The children are nestled all snug in their beds
While the list of things to do swirls in my head.

Gifts to wrap, candy to dip, cookies to bake,
Sausage balls to roll and a fruit cake to make.

Last minute shopping, something new to wear,
Hot pink color for the teenager's hair.

Stockings to hang, toys to put together,
A quick glance at the news to check the weather.

One last stop by the mall, one more package to mail,
Find baby Jesus and locate the Christmas bell.

The list isn't too long, I'm almost there,
The anticipation of Christmas looms in the air.

So up from the desk and off I go
With a twinkle in my eye and a ho, ho, ho!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Everything Pink

Three kids and a dog makes for a sufficiently full house, or so we thought. Just when we had given the last of the baby things away, and the youngest was about to turn five - surprise!

What a wonderful early Christmas gift three years ago today when Miss Kelsey graced us with her presence, finally. She was the only little Cortright who had to be persuaded to enter the world, but a little persuading was all it took.

She loves everything pink. In fact, I just put the cakes in the oven as I will be attempting to build a pink and purple castle cake (hopefully, I'll post pictures later.) I purchased pink sprinkles and I'll be making pink icing.

In fact, when we went out to purchase her Christmas dress, she wanted pink. I was finally able to convince her that red is in the same family.

Having one more little one in the house lets us continue to enjoy the wide-eyed wonder that disappears with age. So today we'll have castle cake, dress like a princess and enjoy the wonders of childhood through the eyes of a three-year-old who sees life in shades of pink.

photo update: here's our leaning castle cake - we won't win any prizes, but we will always remember the year we made the castle cake.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sacrificial Love

This week we are tailoring our reading towards Christmas, so we read the Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. No matter who tells this story or how, my eyes always water and I am always moved by the love these young people show for each other.

The story goes something like this:

Tomorrow is Christmas and Della only has one dollar and eighty-seven cents. She has been trying desperately to save enough money to buy Jim a grand Christmas gift. Jim and Della live in a modest flat and earn a modest income; there's not much left after the bills are paid each week.

Della has really long, beautiful hair and decides to sell her hair in order to make money for the gift she longs to purchase for Jim. She hurries to the hair goods store, lets down her cascading brown locks, and asks breathlessly, "How much?" The woman gives her twenty dollars and Della is off to find the perfect gift for Jim.

Finally, Della finds a simple, yet exquisite chain for Jim's watch. It is the only one to be found in all the stores; no one else will have one like it. Della has found the perfect gift and races home to await Jim's arrival.

Jim, too, has no money to spend on Christmas gifts and his heart desires to purchase a gift for Della. Jim's only prized possession is a gold pocket watch. He sells it.

Jim doesn't have to search for the right gift for Della because he already knows that she longs for the beautiful combs with the tortoise shell and jewels. Of course, he knows that she will never dream of actually having them in her possession as they are quite costly for someone who earns but twenty dollars a week. This is all the more reason to trade his watch for the look on her face.

But it is the look on Jim's face as he comes through the door that is startling when he realizes that the beautiful hair he purchased the combs for is vanished. And Della's gift is also rendered useless at the present since Jim sold the watch her chain was meant to accompany.

The gift this Christmas was love, sacrificial love.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Scenes from the Christmas Parade

Today I put on my elf hat with the jingle bell and found my Christmas spirit.

Yep, I put on the elf hat and took all the kids to the Christmas parade. As small town parades go, ours was fine, but these were the most spectacular scenes:

After the parade, it is our tradition to go to Krispy Kreme and purchase lots of sugar and then to Starbucks to purchase lots of caffeine. And yes, I wore my elf hat with the jingle bell everywhere (much to the chagrin of some of my children) and spread my Christmas cheer to all. Even the girl who waited on us at Starbucks thought I looked, "quite festive."

As a side note, my boys are now white mocha converts.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Love, Wrapped up in a Person

A scientist said, making a plea for exchange scholarships between nations, "The very best way to send an idea is to wrap it up in a person." That was what happened at Christmas. The idea of divine love was wrapped up in a Person. - Halford E. Luccock

Divine love wrapped up in the Person of Jesus Christ.

A love so perfect that it allows us to choose or reject this love. A love so intense that it searches the ends of the earth for us and never gives up. A love so deep that it walked up a hill to lay down its life so we could live.

Never in a million years can we wrap our minds around that kind of love, and even knowing that we would have a hard time understanding, Jesus still came to the manger in Bethlehem.

Divine love wrapped up in a Person.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Favorite Things

Oh no, maybe I am stealing Lindsay's idea. She is posting a Christmas song daily as a countdown to Christmas and while my plan is to share my favorite quotes from movies and books, and perhaps a memory or two, here I am posting about a favorite song.

Forgive me, Lindsay.

I just love to watch The Sound of Music and my favorite song from the movie is, of course, My Favorite Things. It is most definitely a warm and fuzzy kind of song.

This won't be quite as beautiful as what Maria sang in the movie, but just stopping to write down some of my favorite things about this season keeps life in perspective. So here are a few of my favorite things:

multicolored Christmas lights twinkling in the evergreen
little hands filled with candy decorating gingerbread
baby Jesus missing from the manger, again
mixing, rolling, cutting, baking, eating
kids playing carols on the piano, arranging the Christmas playlist
laughing with friends, celebrating with family.

Leave a comment and share some of your favorite things.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It Truly is a Wonderful Life

Each man's life touches so many other lives. ~ Clarence (It's a Wonderful Life)

You all know the story of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. George has a really bad day and begins to think maybe his family and friends would be better off without him. But Clarence, the angel sent to watch over George, falls right in the middle of his life. Throughout the duration of the movie, Clarence shows George what a huge hole would have been left in the lives of his family and friends had he not been around.

Even though George didn't think he had ever contributed that much to folks, Clarence shows him the seemingly small contributions he had made that literally saved the life of his brother and changed the course of life for the druggist. If George Bailey had not been around to touch their lives, they would not have been able to touch lives in turn and on and on.

Like it or not, each one of our lives touches so many others. Often we don't realize how we have encouraged someone to carry on even in the midst of the hard stuff. Just trudging through the muck of our life can inspire others to face their own mucky life with determination and courage. Reaching out to help someone in need may give that person just enough to help someone else.

Although we may not be able to see for ourselves the huge hole that would have been left had we never been born, the lives we touch, even in the simplest ways, whose holes we help fill go on filling more holes, who go one filling more holes, and on and on and that's the way the world goes round. If even one person was missing, the impact would be monumental.

Here the bell ringing? Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I Can Tell You What Christmas is All About

I just love A Charlie Brown Christmas and my very favorite part is when Charlie Brown says to Linus, "I guess you were right Linus. I shouldn't have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about."

To which Linus replies, "I can tell you what Christmas is all about." Linus steps out on the stage and asks for lights.

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"

Then Linus picks up his blanket, walks back over to Charlie Brown and says, "That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown."

And Linus is right, that is what Christmas is all about. It's about God himself coming to earth as a man and becoming the sacrifice for our sins. It is this huge gift of love that allows us to love others. It is this gift of love that causes us to want to search high and low for the perfect gift for those we love just to see the smile on their face and the sparkle in their eyes when they open our gift. It is this gift of love that causes our wide-eyed children to see the Christmas Holiday for the miracle that it is. It is this gift of love that causes us to reach out to those in need - in need of things, in need of friends, in need of love.

That's what Christmas is all about.