Christmas House Tour

IMG_0987Do you enjoy visiting friends at Christmas? I do, and I love to see how people decorate their homes for the Christmas Season. Recently I read an inspiring book called The Nesting Place, by Myquillyn Smith. She also writes a blog that shares ideas for repurposing furniture and decorating on a budget, emphisizing creativity and beauty, not perfection.

This month “The Nester” invited readers to post photos of their homes decorated for Christmas on her blog. That’s such a fun idea I decided to borrow it and invite my blog-reading friends over to our home for a virtual visit.

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Welcome to our home! I like to gather evergreens and holly to fill the pots on our front steps and to make a swag to hang by the door.

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One of the first things you’ll see when you come in the front door is this olive wood nativity set Scott and I brought back from our visit to Israel shortly after we were married. Joseph has lost his staff and the star has come down off the stable roof, but we still enjoy puting it out each year.
IMG_0992I like to bring out my Teddy Bear Collection each December. This year I placed them on our front landing at the top of the stairs so our young guests could enjoy them. The largest bear in the back, “Joshua Bear” was one we gave our son Josh when he was a baby 30 years ago.IMG_1021Each December I also bring out my basket of Christmas books. We’ve collected these over the years and read many of them aloud to our kids and grandkids. There are a lot of happy memories in that basket.IMG_1007Our living room is the gathering place in our home on Christmas and all year long. I try to make it cozy and inviting.
IMG_1008I found this pretty pillow online at Dayspring. I especially like the contrast of the bright red birds against the cream and gold background. This simple white nativity below was given to us by dear friends who are missionaries in Kenya. When I put it out it reminds me of them and the wonderful work they are doing there. The quilt table-topper was a gift from another good friend.
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Since I’m from Oregon where we always cut down a fresh Christmas tree, we continue that tradition here in New Jersey. Scott and I visit a the McLaughlin Tree Farm in Robbinsville, near where our church meets.

IMG_1001Our dining room with just a peek at my corner desk. We’ll be eating Christmas brunch here before we open our gifts.IMG_1005These gold angles were given to me by my mom, Dorothy Swain. The Mitchell Tolle print of the grandmother teaching her granddaughter to quilt also reminds me of my mom who was a wonderful quilter and artist.

IMG_1003This colorful angel was given to me by my sister-in-law, Traci, and I enjoy bringing it out each December. IMG_1011We hope you enjoyed your visit. Scott and I wish you a very Merry Christmas. May you be blessed with God’s peace and joy as you celebrate the Savior’s birth.

Would you like to see some more homes decorated for Christmas? Visit the Nester’s Blog for the Christmas House Tour.

Blessings and Happy Reading!

Carrie

 

Christmas in Edwardian Times

A maid serves Flaming Christmas Plum Pudding

A maid serves Flaming Christmas Plum Pudding

Hi Friends,

Many of the Christmas traditions enjoyed by the English during the Edwardian era were similar to those we enjoy in the US today, but some are quite different. I loved learning more about Edwardian Christmas traditions as I did research for my novel, The Governess of Highland Hall, which is set in the fall and winter of 1911- 1912.

Preparations for the Christmas holiday began the last Sunday before Advent, which was called Stir Up Sunday. A rich plum pudding batter was prepared, using some ingredients that sound a little odd to an American, including beef suet and brandy. But I suppose you have to taste it to appreciate it. Each member of the family would take a turn stirring the pudding batter and add a good-luck coin that would be discovered on Christmas day when the pudding was served. It was then steamed for six hours and stored over a month for the flavors to ripen. On Christmas day it is steamed again for an hour and a half, then more brandy was added and it was served flaming. The flames were originally meant to represent Christ’s passion.

Edwardian Christmas Other traditional food served on Christmas included roasted nuts, minced pies, dates, figs, chocolate, boar’s head, sheep’s tongue, roast pork, goose, or turkey. The birds would be stuffed with chestnuts, pork, and apple stuffing, and sprinkled with fat and salt, then served with apple, gooseberry, and bread sauces. Besides plum pudding and fruitcake, a rolled Christmas cake called Buche de Noel was often served for dessert.

The Edwardians decorated their homes with holly, ivy, yew, laurel, mistletoe, paper chains, ribbons and candles. But the Christmas tree was not set up until Christmas Eve. It was decorated with paper and glass ornaments as well as toys, sweets, mistletoe, candles, and ribbons. Some families had table-top-size trees, while many had larger, floor-standing trees.

Father ChristmasFather Christmas had been a figure in English history since medieval times. He represents the Christmas spirit of goodwill, but he did not bring gifts. He came from Odin and wore a blue-hooded cloak and white beard, and had an evergreen wreath around his head. St Nicholas, the Christian saint, visited Dutch children on Christmas Eve and left toys and candy in their straw-filled clogs. If the children were bad a birch rod would be left instead of sweets. By Edwardian times, Father Christmas and St. Nicholas had merged together, and Father Christmas was pictured in a red suit and brought gifts to good children who hung up their stockings on Christmas Eve.

Christmas cards were very popular during the Edwardian period. Since postage rates were so inexpensive, many Christmas cards were sent and received by friends and family.

ice skating Edwardian Christmas CardElectricity had become more common during the Edwardian era. In 1912 Princess Louise opened the first modern Christmas illuminations, with “festoons of garland lamps,” using 10,000 light bulbs.

Christmas Day would have started with the family attending a church service, although some families attended on Christmas Eve. Before dinner was served at mid-day, they pulled open paper Christmas crackers and put on paper hats. After dinner, they enjoyed playing games and gathering around the piano to sing carols. Some of the favorites were ‘Good King Wenceslas’, ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’, ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman’, and ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. This last carol had Victorian moral for young: ‘Christian children all must be mild, obedient, and good as He’. Wealthy families might have had gramophone to play their favorite Christmas music.

Girl in the snowGifts for adults included pens and stationery sets, manicure & grooming kits and for the wealthy, driving clothing and caps, with Burberry being the leading brand.

For boys, toy soldiers were very popular, and for girls, dolls and tea sets. For younger children, wooden animals and wooden alphabet & number blocks. Some of these would have been bought in department stores, which had emerged in the late 1860s, and were a mainstay of Christmas shopping rituals by the Edwardian period.

The day after Christmas, Boxing Day was celebrated, and gifts were given to those in need. It was also a day of sports and outdoor entertainments, such as ice skating and hunting. But the cinema was becoming more popular, and movies made especially for Christmas, such as an early adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas Carol were shown and enjoyed by many.

Do you think you’d enjoy Christmas in Edwardian England? Which Christmas tradition is your favorite?

The Gift of a Song

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Hi Friends,

Christmas is a wonderful season . . . but if you’re like me . . . sometimes you need to stop, take a deep breath, and receive God’s peace and joy. Last night as I drove home from Bible study realized I was rushing, and there was really no need. When I reached my neighborhood I slowed down to enjoy all the Christmas lights while I listened to Christmas carols on my car radio. It really made my heart happy to sing along and see the lights twinkling in the dark, cold night.

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Do you need a break in all your Christmas preparations? I thought you might enjoy this beautiful song by the Piano Guys. I hope it lifts your spirit and helps prepare your heart for Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Carrie

Christmas Read-Alouds Everyone Can Enjoy

Hi Friends,

Reading aloud is such a wonderful way to bring family and friends closer and share a special experience together. We homeschooled our five children, and reading aloud was always one of my favorite parts of the day. We read the Bible aloud, and we often read historical fiction or award winning childrens’ books to compliment what we were learning. We also have a special collection of Christmas books that we bring down each December to enjoy together.

Here are some of our favorites:

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan ToomeyThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechoski

“Christmas is pish-posh,” grumbles Jonathan Toomey, the best wood carver in the valley. He’s a Scroogelike recluse; but he has a gentle grouch, and it turns out that he hides a sad secret. He is transformed, not by Dickensian ghosts, but by an eager seven-year-old boy and his widowed mother who ask him to make carve a Christmas creche. The spirit of Christmas heals a sorrowing woodcarver’s heart in this splendid edition of a holiday classic. Lynch’s beautiful illustrations, in shades of wood grain, are both realistic and gloriously romantic, focusing on faces and hands at work before the fire and in the lamplight. This is wonderful read-aloud story that even young children will enjoy. Amazon link.

christmas-on-jane-street-billy-romp-hardcover-cover-artChristmas on Jane Street by Billy Romp

The warm, wonderful, real-life tale of the family that brings the Christmas spirit to life on a street corner in Manhattan. Every holiday season for nearly twenty years, Billy Romp, his wife, and their three children have spent nearly a month living in a tiny camper and selling Christmas trees on Jane Street in New York City. They arrive from Vermont the day after Thanksgiving and leave just in time to make it home for Christmas morning—and for a few weeks they transform a corner of the Big Apple into a Frank Capra-esque small town alive with heartwarming holiday spirit.

Christmas on Jane Street is about the transformative power of love—love of parent and child, of merchant and customer, of stranger and neighbor. The ideal Christmas story, it is about the lasting and profound difference that one person can make to a family and one family can make to a community. Amazon link.

An Edwardian ChristmasAn Edwardian Christmas by John L. Goodall

This small book is a treasure! It is all illustrations with no text, but each page follows the story of a family visiting wealthy relatives in a large country house during Edwardian times. Depicted in loving detail, is Christmas as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century, indoors and out, above stairs and below, as seen through the eyes of a boy and girl. My favorite illustrations are of the family walking to church by starlight, and everyone gathered to play games on Christmas Day. It was first published in 1978, so you may want to look for a used copy online.

Peter Spire's Christmas!Peter Spires Christmas!

This is also a wordless picture book by the Caldecott Medal-winning artist of Noah’s Ark, and it contains more than ninety full-color paintings capturing the spirit and joy of Christmas through the delights of three young children. My children all loved this when they were young, and it can be enjoyed by preschoolers through adults.  First published in 1996, you will also want to look for a used copy online.

Some of the other books in our collection include:

Esther’s Gift by Jan Karon, A Cup of Christmas Tea by Tom Hegg, The Christmas Cross by Max Lucado, A Little House Christmas by Laura Ingles Wilder, A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, Mary’s First Christmas by Walter Wagerin Jr., Christmas at Long Pond by William T. George, The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, Christmas by Jan Pienkowski, Santa Are You For Real by Harold Myra, The Nutcracker, A Three Dimensional Story Book Illustrated by Michael Welply, The Christmas Stories of George MacDonald, Mele Kalikimaka, Christmas in Hawaii by Julie Mehta, and The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Do you enjoy reading aloud? Can you add a favorite Christmas story to our list?

Favorite Christmas Recipes

Hi Friends, There are a few special recipes that we pull out and prepare each year at Christmas time. When we gather with family and friends here are two that we usually make and enjoy sharing.

7-Layer-SaladSeven layer Salad

  • Romaine Lettuce – 1/2 medium head, thinly sliced
  • 2 Cups Baby Spinach
  • Red Cabbage – small wedge, thinly sliced
  • 1 Can Water Chestnuts, sliced
  • 1 Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 Ounces Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 1 Pkg. Frozen Petite Green Peas, defrosted and well drained
  • 1 Red Pepper, for decoration
  • 1 Green Pepper, for decoration
  • 1 Yellow Pepper, for decoration
  • Fresh Parsley

Salad Dressing:

  • 1 Cup Light Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt, Plain and Non-fat
  • 1/2 tsp Curry Power

Directions:

Place the sliced Romaine in the bottom of large clear glass bowl. Add a layer of baby spinach, then add sliced cabbage, water chestnuts, red onion, cheese and peas in layers. Mix the dressing in a separate bowl. Spread it over the salad, covering it completely. Decorate the top with a design made from pieces of red, yellow, and green pepper, and parsley. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until time to serve. This salad can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time.

Gingersnap-CookiesGingersnap Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cup flour (I use half whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 11/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (to roll the cookies in before baking)

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream brown sugar and butter. Add the egg and mix. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until thoroughly blended. Pinch off small amounts of dough and roll into 1 inch diameter balls. Roll each ball in sugar and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, or until tolls are rounded and slightly cracked. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Pumpkin Bread, Tortilini Soup, Lemon Curd, Zucchini muffins . . . Would you like to see more of my favorite recipes? Visit my Pinterest board!

What is one of your favorite recipes to prepare at holiday time?

Blessings and Merry Christmas!