Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tired of Christmas Music?

The day after Christmas, my daughter Joy said, "I'm glad Christmas is over. I get tired of hearing Christmas music everywhere I go."

I agree with her to a point. What passes for Christmas music in the stores is often nerve-jangling junk. Still, it is hard for me to put away the really good Christmas music that we play at home. I usually keep playing it at least until New Year's Day.

Most years I add a new CD to our Christmas collection. This year I didn't do that, but I am just about to remedy that.

I discovered that Fernando Ortega has a new Christmas album! I am an Ortega aficionado. You can view details and listen to a few excerpts here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

An Elegant Pumpkin Soup

I love this velvety soup and often serve it as a first course for a Christmas or Thanksgiving meal. This year I tweaked it a bit and added the peanut butter. I'd like to tweak it again and try curry instead of ginger, just for variety. It can be garnished with toasted pecans, croutons, or pears.

Pumpkin Soup
serves 6


  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons instant chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
  • 2 1/2 cups half-and-half or light cream
  • 12 oz. cups pear nectar
  • 2 T. peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper


  1. In a large saucepan combine onion, water, and bouillon granules. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until onion is very tender; cool slightly. Do not drain.
  2. Transfer mixture to a blender container or food processor bowl. Add pumpkin and peanut butter, and a little of the half & half. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Return pumpkin mixture to saucepan. Stir in remaining half-and-half , pear nectar, ginger, and white pepper. Cook and stir until heated through. Do not boil.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Low Key Christmas

I love Christmas festivities: concerts, special books, recipes, parties, and the like. But many years I have been guilty of cramming too much into the schedule. I wanted my kids to hear ALL of the books and learn ALL of the carols and make too many cute ornaments.

This year I streamlined and culled. No shopping trips for clothing--we wore clothes we already owned. Only one Christmas party. A few books and poems, savored more slowly. One concert, Handel's Messiah, our traditional kick-off to the season.

We had a wonderful Christmas!

Our stay-at-home day included dinner guest, singing our favorite carols, a scrumptious meal, good coffee, musical "jams" on newly-unwrapped instruments, Boggle games, and jogging camaraderie at the end of the day.

The day after Christmas can be such a letdown, but today I am feeling a lingering sweetness that is like a benediction settling my soul with contentment.

"And all the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them."
Nehemiah 8:12

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Shepherd's Song

Vintage Picture from The Graphics Fairy

The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for Thee?
My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word: the streams, Thy grace
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Out-sing the daylight hours.

~~~~George Herbert, 1593-1633

Monday, December 22, 2008

Joseph's Dream

Joseph's Dream
Georges Dumesnil de La Tour 1593 – 1652

"But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." Matthew 1:20

I recently did a Biblical study on Mary, the Mother of Jesus. One thing that struck me was that Mary was a very literate young woman. This is obvious from her beautiful "Magnificat," which is a literary gem that is saturated with correlations to Old Testament scriptures.

It is refreshing to see a painting depicting Joseph as a literary man as well, a deviation from the usual rendering of him in his carpenter role. In my mind, a man who is skilled with his hands AND his intellect constitutes the highest ideal.

I still wonder, though, why is Joseph usually depicted as being bald???

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mary, Did You Know?

The only thing better than listening to your favorite Christmas music is to hear it sung by one of your own. My daughter Melody sang this at our worship service today and I thought I would share it. I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

In the Bleak Midwinter

Family Time

My husband took a day off yesterday, so my daughter set up her new camera and shot these family pictures. It was nice to have a little time together on a snowy day. My husband and son spent a considerable amount of time chipping off the 2 inches of ice on the driveway, and then "chipped in" (literally) to help the neighbors. There were several guys outside and the camaraderie made the hard work more enjoyable.

The girls had their own camaraderie indoors by the fire. We set up the card table and played dominoes.

I like snow days!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fun with a Flute

"A flute with no holes is not a flute, and a doughnut with no hole is a Danish"

--Chevy Chase

My friend Shelene plays a flute with holes. When I told her that I once played the flute, she handed it to me and asked me to give it a try. I was terrible!! Partly because it has been nearly 30 years, and partly because I was never accustomed to the open-holed type of flute.

Last evening, she came to church with TWO flutes: her own and a hole-less one for me to play. She patiently took me through the B flat scale, refreshed my memory on a few finger positions, and then shoved some Christmas duets in front of me.

What fun! Twenty minutes of carols in two parts for the sheer joy of it.

Shelene is always drawing people in to sing with her or draw with her or talk about books..... and she is only 22! I love her.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Book Review: Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

This year I have deviated from my usual Opal Wheeler book, entitled Sing for Christmas. I've borrowed it every Advent season from the library and we know most of the stories of the Christmas carols by heart.

My new find is Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins. It adds richly to our repertoire of Christmas lore by incorporating the stories of modern Christmas classics into the mix. I have found myself skipping the chapters on the carols and reading the stories of how "Mary, Did You Know?" , "Do You Hear What I Hear?", and "White Christmas" were written. The short chapters are perfect for family circle time.

The carols are heirloom treasures, but I am also unabashedly fond of some of the more recent Christmas songs as well. "Something old, something new" could apply to Christmas as well as to weddings, in my opinion!

Here's a little quiz I designed from the pages of this book:

  1. Which Christmas song became popular after a cowboy singer introduced it at a rodeo at the Madison Square Garden?
  2. Which song was used by the Catholic church to teach doctrine "in code" ?
  3. Name the Christmas song that President John F. Kennedy declared to be his favorite.
  4. The first song ever to be broadcast on radio waves was a Christmas song. What is its title?
  5. A hyperactive young man was encouraged by his parents to develop his musical/performing skills. He eventually penned the lyrics of which modern-day classic Christmas song?
  6. Name the song that became a holiday prayer during WWII?
  7. A poor Appalachian waif sang a Christmas folk song that was passed down to her by previous generations. A historian was entranced by the haunting strains, and made it famous. Can you name the song?

answers: 1)Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 2) The Twelve Days of Christmas 3) Silver Bells 4) O Holy Night 5) Mary Do You Know? 6) I'll Be Home For Christmas 7) I Wonder as I Wander

Hello! Cupcake

This was my daughter's final creation for her "Hello! Cupcake" class at co-op. The class title was taken from this book. Artiste has always been enamored with nutcrackers, and draws them incessantly at Christmastime.

We had such fun at co-op this session. My children enjoyed enrichment classes in photography, beaded jewelry-making, chess, creation science, and cooking. These opportunities add another dimension to their homeschooling experience, and I am thankful.