It's not what you gather, but what you scatter, that tells what kind of a life you have lived.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Whew! Game over!

Well, the holidays are over, except for New Year's, and that is just plain fun, so it doesn't count on the stress-o-meter. I hope your holidays were as nice as mine. I actually had the gifts for the family that's here in Montana done a couple of days before Christmas, and I have those that have to be mailed almost finished. I know that's backwards, but my family knows that's the way I work. Every year, I swear that I will have them ALL ready by the 1st of December, but it has only happened once! This year, I am going to try it again, and because I will be reporting to you, maybe it will get done!

I have twelve living grandchildren, so if I do one a month, I will have them all done but the last one by the end of November. Then I just have one to do at the beginning of December, and I'm done. Sounds like a good plan, but we'll see how it goes. In the same month as I do the kids, I can do the parents, too, and REALLY be done! Wow! I'm on a roll here......

Well, this is just a short note to wish you all the best, and to show you what Christmas in Montana looks like.

Snow in the air
long before the first flakes
started their long fall from the heavens
snow in the feel, the smell,
the texture of the air
feeling the falling barometer
the shift in the weather
Falling lightly at first, while
I stood at the sink,
mesmerized, watching
their dance downward
Go upstairs, roust the girls,
hear the excitement, the joy
at the first real snowfall
Accumulating white, flake by flake
on the ground, the cars,
still quiet snow, light and airy
a film of white, cell by cell
cleaning the world
in white

by Raymond A. Foss
Wishing you all the best for the coming year. May all your dreams come true. Gramma G.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day Twelve of the Twelve Days of Christmas

The 12th Day of Christmas!!! Wow! How are you fairing? Are you done with everything and relaxing for the evening? Or are you still running around like a chicken with its head cut off? (Do you know that chickens will really do that if you don't have a hold of them when you cut off their heads?) Well, if you are like me, I usually have a kazillion things to do on Christmas eve, NOT including filling stockings. Today's project is a little doll to help you get rid of your frustrations, so you can enjoy tomorrow. It's called a dammit doll, and it's almost as simple to make as the idea behind it.
You can see by the photo that she (or he, depending on your frustrations) isn't real detailed. Just a basic body shape, two pieces sewn together, with the seams on the outside, even! Stuff her lightly, and sew the head shut. Be sure when you cut her out, you cut an extra 2" at the top so you can fringe it for hair. I rarely even put a face on her. She has more genericity that way. (HA! I just made up a new word! It means she's more generic, and represents ALL your frustrations, without name or face.) There is a little poem that goes with her, and it goes like this:
When you want to hit the wall or just stand up and shout,
Here's a little dolly that you cannot do without.
Just grasp it firmly by the legs and find a place to slam it,
And as you whack the stuffing out, yell "Dammit, dammit, dammit!"
Be sure you have one every year around this time. In fact, you could pack her away with the decorations, and then you'll know right where to find her next year. Have fun with her and make a dozen or two for your family and friends.
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
God bless you all at this time of celebrating His greatest blessing to us all....the birth of His Son.
Merry Christmas, Gramma G.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day Eleven of the Twelve Days of Christmas

On day eleven, we get fruits and beads and pretties. We are making a beautiful handmade garland to festoon your home. Mine is hanging above the window in the living room, hence the blinds you see in the photo. This one will take a little longer, but it's worth it!

Start by slicing apples and oranges about 1/4" thick and drying the slices. This can be done in a dehydrator, which is the method of choice, or on cookie racks placed on cookie sheets and put in the oven on the lowest temperature, usually about 150 -200 degrees. Turn them at two or three times a day until dry. How long this take will depend on a few things, but shouldn't take longer than 2 or 3 days. If you do this in the oven, you need to leave the door open a crack so the moisture can escape.

While the fruits are drying, you can be getting the rest of the material together. You will need large, wooden macrame type beads and little wooden thread spools, both of which you can get at a craft store like Michaels. Mine has a combination of the two, and I used approximately 40 pieces. You might use more or less, depending on how you space them. You will need 2 or three fabrics (or more, if you like), complimentary to one another, torn into 1" wide strips and cut into 5" lengths. You will also need a piece of jute or heavy cotton string, about 8 ft. long.

Start by a sliding all your beads, spools and fruit slices onto the jute, in any order you like. (For ease of instruction, I will call the spools beads from now on. You will slide whichever one you have on your jute.) Its good to have a bead on either side of a fruit slice to hold it in place. Fold down about 5" at one end and tie an overhand knot to form a loop. Take one of your fabric strips and tie it over the knot. (You can just tie this once, it doesn't have to be tied in a knot. It's not going anywhere and has no stress on it.) This will keep your bead, etc. from sliding off the end. Tie another 2 strips on, then slide a bead over next to them. Then tie 2 or 3 more strips, and slide a bead or fruit slice, whichever you have strung next. You are going to just keep tying strips between beads and fruit slices until you have filled all but the last 12" of the jute. Make a loop at the last end and tie an overhand knot, tying strips over the knot, as before. Hopefully you can see from the photo and the drawing what I mean. This garland has a cozy, homespun look and feel, and it makes me feel right at home when I look at it. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Now...the fruit of apple and orange are used to make Wassail. If you have never tried it, you don't know what you're missing. Here's a really simple recipe. Take 1 gallon apple juice, 1 qt. cranberry juice, 7 sticks of cinnamon, 15 whole cloves and 1 sliced orange. Put all together in a large pan and heat on medium heat until warm. You can turn it down and simmer it all day to make your house smell good, too. It's a wonderful drink to get you warm on a cold winter's day. Enjoy!

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves of green.

Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen,

Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too.

And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year!

And God send you a Happy New Year.

I hope you are enjoying the last few days before Christmas as much as I am. I finally got my gifts taken care of, as much as I can on a VERY limited budget. My husband will be losing his job any day now, so we really have to watch what we spend. But I'm used to doing a lot with just a little, so I know we'll get through this one way or another. "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." Anne Bradstreet.

'Night all. Gramma G.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day Ten of the Twelve Days of Christmas

I love snowmen. The more the merrier! I like them short or tall, fat or skinny. So today's project is a snowman. He's the tall, rather skinny sort, and he's made from PVC pipe. You need a piece of 2" PVC(inside measurement) anywhere from 4" to 8" long, and it's kind of fun to make one of each and group them together. Clean the writing and markings off the pipe with the appropriate type of cleaner. Your friendly hardware guy can help you there. Then measure around the pipe and cut a piece of fabric or fleece or flannel an inch wider than that measurement, and anywhere from 8" to 12" long. The difference is to adjust for the height of the snowman and how long the hat will hang down. The snowman in the picture is 6" tall and his hat is 10". You can see that if it were much longer, it would touch the table, and that's OK if that's what you want, but I don't. Make adjustments according to your own preferences.
Next, make a seam the length of the hat, starting with 1/2" width and tapering it to a point at one end. Trim excess fabric away and turn right side out. Turn up about 1/2" to 3/4" for the cuff of the hat and set it aside. Cut a piece of matching or coordinating fabric 1" wide and the length you need to tie it around the snowman for a scarf. I made mine 16". Fringe the ends and set this aside also.

Now it's time to give him a face. I have included the pattern that was used on mine, but you can give him any face you like. Acrylic paints are good for this and so are paints pens. Spray him with a little crystal glitter spray and then a clear acrylic and let him dry. When he is good and dry, put his hat on his head and tie his scarf around the bottom of the pipe. and you have a very easy, very cute little snowman!
Here's an old, child's fingerplay:
A chubby little snowman (arms make a fat tummy)
Had a carrot nose. (fists out in front of nose)
Along came a bunny, (hold up tow fingers, hop hand)
And what do you suppose? (shake pointer finger)
that hungry little bunny, (rub tummy)
Looking for his lunch, (shade eyes and look around)
Ate the snowman's carrot nose (fist in front of nose)
Nibble, nibble, crunch! (open and close fist twice, grab nose with fist moving toward nose)
Some of my best friends are flakes, so guard your noses, everyone, and good night to all. Gramma G.
P.S. Sometimes this blogging is so frustrating. This program just decides sometimes that it won't put spaces where I want them!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day Nine of the Twelve Days of Christmas

There is an old tale that says there is a German tradition of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and whoever finds it on Christmas Day receives on extra present. But there's a lot of doubt about that. The Germans don't seem to know anything about this custom except what they've been told by the Americans. It seems to really have started with a man in prison during the Civil War. He is close to dying and asks for one last pickle before he dies, (yeah, right, a pickle!). The guard gives him a pickle, which gives him the strength to go on, and after the war is over, he writes to his family in Germany, telling them of the life-saving pickle. They make it a tradition to hang a pickle ornament on the tree each year to celebrate his survival. The tradition never catches on in Germany, but somehow makes it's way back to the United States as a rather comical Christmas tradition which no one call really explain, but which everyone enjoys. With this little history lesson, we will proceed to create our own Christmas Pickle.

I have found through trial and error, that Crayola Model Magic is just about the best stuff to make the pickle from. It's a very light-weight, air-drying type of clay (which is not really clay) and its easy to work with. It comes is colors, when you can find them, but I just use the white and paint it. Take about a 2" ball of model magic and roll it around in your hands to get it warm and workable. Start rolling it between your hand until you have a hot dog shape about the size of a pickle. Now put a slight curve in it and use a toothpick to make a few grooves, not too deep, and some little pock-marks. Form a little time ball for the nose, and fasten it to the pickle about an inch down from the top. Above the nose, make two indentations with the toothpick. This is where you will glue the eyes. Last of all, push a little eyehook or a hairpin into the top for hanging it by.

Now, let it dry according to the instructions on the package. When dry, paint with green paint, and a little yellow for some highlights. Glue two small black beads in the eye indentations and tie a ribbon through the hanging loop. I like to tie a piece of curly curling ribbon on the hook, too, to add a little decoration. Spray with clear acrylic spray, and your pickle is ready be hidden in your tree. I also like to make a little bag to keep it in so it stays nice. I put a little paper crinkle in the bottom for cushion, and this all makes the pickle seem really special. Whether its a German tradition, an American tradition, or no real tradition at all, it has surely become one to a lot of folks, who play I Spy on Christmas morning so they can be the one who finds that pickle! If you would like to see a cute video about Christmas pickles, go to :

I hope you will add the Christmas pickle to your family's traditions. Whether real or not, its fun.

And remember what Albert Einstein said; "I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Inspiration is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." Use your imagination a create a pickle for your tree. 'Night, Gramma G.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day Eight of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Day Eight's project is a wreath made from puzzle pieces. Its really very cute. To start with, gather you puzzle pieces. You will need anywhere from 12 to 20, depending on the size. The smaller ones are better, but the larger ones work also. You are going to glue them to a cirlce of cardboard, so place five or six of them in a circle, with the pieces as close as you can get them without overlapping. This is the approximate size circle you will need. Cut the circle out of heavy cardboard or chipboard, something along that line. Cut a hole in to center, so that it looks like a wreath and the width of the wreath is no wider than your puzzle pieces.

Now take your puzzle pieces and your cardboard and paint them all green, both sides. I prefer spray paint, because its faster, but you can use acrylics and a sponge brush, too. When they are dry, start hot-gluing the first layer of puzzle pieces onto the wreath. The next layer should cover the joints and spaces of the first layer. I usually do just two layers, but sometimes a third layer is needed to fill all the gaps. When you have it all glued together, take a little white paint and a stenciling brush, or a very stiff-bristled brush, and dab a little white (snow) around the edges. Not too much, just a dusting.

The next step is to put some berries on it. You can use little red buttons, or jingle bells, or beads. Whatever you like that will add that little bit of red. Glue a red bow at the top, and you can either glue a ribbon loop to hang it on the tree or a pin back so you can wear it. If you have used small puzzle pieces, you can use two of the extra ones to make earrings. Put a dusting of snow on one edge, glue a little red button (or whatever you used) onto it, glue earring posts to the back and Voila! Your have earrings to match your pin. These make cute gifts, too.

I apologize for such a terrible photo. My camera died and I borrowed my daughter's and her doesn't work either! I am trying to find one that I can afford, and I am using the camera on my cell phone until then. I hope you can visualize what it is, but if you have any problems, just email me at and I will try to help. Thanks for your patience.

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la."

Here's the quote for the day, from William Arthur Ward. "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." Always share your gratitude with those whom you are thankful for. 'Night, Gramma G
P.S. I got a new camera, so I replacced the photo with a better one. GG

Friday, December 19, 2008

Day Seven of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Today's project is a bird's nest. There is an old legend that says that great happiness and good fortune come to those who find a bird's nest in the branches of their Christmas. I like the legend, but I like bird's nests even more, so I have several to choose from to nestle in the branches of my tree every year. If you are not lucky enough to have the real thing, you can make one. They also make nice gifts, with a little card attached telling the legend and wishing it to come true for the receiver.

Find a small, vine wreath, or make one if you have vines in your area. If you are making it, you will need more vines than you think to make a nice, full wreath. Take 5 or six vines about 18" long and form a circle a little smaller than you want your nest to be. Now take another long vine and start twining it around the circular vines, going in and out and around, so that the wreath becomes sturdy and holds together. When it's the size you want, simply weave the end into the other vines and you're done!

Now you need some moss. Spanish moss is the best because it's kind of straggley. (Not really, but that's the best word I can come up with.) Use the moss to fill in the whole in the wreath and to pad the nest. Hot glue it in place, but be careful, because it's thin and the glue will come right through to you! (I always keep a cold drink next to me when I craft, and I can dunk a hot-glued finger in it and stop the burning immediately.) Your little nest is done. Add a little bird or some tiny plastic eggs and put it in the branches of your tree. I don't know if the legend holds true for homemade nests, but I like to think so.

"And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests...." Luke 9:58
"Another parable he put forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches." Matthew 13:31,32

Today's thought is from Gramma G. Jesus is the reason for the season, and that's the most important thing to remember. 'Night all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day Six of the Twelve Days of Christmas

When the wise men came to see the baby Jesus, they presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Now, we all know what gold is, but do you know what frankincense and myrrh are? Frankincense is an aromatic resin obtained from the Boswellia tree. It is used in perfume and incense, and in aromatherapy. The Egyptians ground the charred resin into a powder called kohl, which was used to make the eyeliner you see in many of the figures in Egyptian art. It was also used in religious rites, and is mentioned in Exodus 30:34 as an ingredient of incense.

Myrrh is also a resin from a tree, this time the Commiphora Myrrha tree. It is a reddish-brown color, and is also used in perfumes and incense. It was the main ingredient the Lord told Moses to use in making the annointing oil. It was also used as an embalming ointment, and as a penitential incense for funerals and cremations.

Now, what does this have to do with anything? Well, I love potpourri, and those earthy smells. I love watching the flames in a fireplace when they change colors because of the different ingredients in whatever you put in there. So today's project is potpourri that smells good, and pine cones that will make the flames turn colors.

For the potpourri, you will need the following: cranberries or holly berries, cinnamon sticks, small pine cones sprinkled with ginger, sweet gum balls or other seedpods, dried bay leaves, dried holly leaves, glycerin-preserved evergreens, whole cloves, and cinnamon oil. Dry the cranberries by making a small hole in each berry and letting them air dry. You can also put them in a dehydrator, which will do the trick a lot faster. Break up some of the cinnamon sticks and leave some whole. Mix all the ingredients together and sprinkle with a few drops of cinnamon oil. To make the mixture smell even nicer and look good, too, bake some little gingerbread men and over cook them until they are dry, and add to the mixture. This is a very pretty potpourri that will make your whole house smell like Christmas. It makes a nice gift, too.

The pine cones are even easier to do. You need some craft glue, some sodium chloride, which is table salt, some potassium chloride, which is no-salt substitute, and some copper sulfate, which you will have to have your pharmacist order for you. You will also need 3 gallon-size ziplock bags and a paint brush. Put each chemical into a seperate bag and set aside. Using the paint brush, paint craft glue onto the pine cones, one at a time, and immediately put them into one of the bags with the chemicals. Shake well and remove from bag. Place pine cones on waxed paper or foil to dry. To use them, just toss them into the fire. The sodium chloride will turn the flames a bright yellow, the potassium chloride will make violet colors, and the copper sulfate will turn the flames a pretty turquoise. Keep your pine cones in a basket by the fireplace, and give some away.

"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." Matthew 2: 11

As with the wise men, we should remember that gratitude is the sign of noble souls. 'Night, Gramma G.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day Five of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas is all about blessings. We give the gift of service, which is a blessing to others, as well as to ourselves. We give other gifts as well, and we receive gifts, of service or otherwise, which bless both the giver and the receiver. It all starts at Thanksgiving, and continues on to Christmas, and long after, if we are true Christians. So today's project is a blessing box.

You start with a box of some sort. Not too big, not too small. An oatmeal box works well, or I have discovered a garbage bag box works great! I use a Hefty Tall Kitchen, 13 gallon size bag that comes in a box of 40 or 45 bags. The box has the opening on the top and makes a perfect slot for our purposes. Cover whatever box you choose with pretty paper, or have your children draw pictures of things they are thankful for and use them to cover the box. If you use an oatmeal box, cut a slot in the lid. If you use a different box, such as the garbage bag box, be sure to put glue around the edge of the opening and cut the paper to the shape of the opening. If your box doesn't have an opening already, cut one.

Now cut some brightly colored paper strips and put them in a baggie by the box. Each day, maybe right before you bless the evening meal, have each family member write on one of the strips something they are thankful for, and drop it into the box. Maybe you want to do this only with the Sunday meal. It's all up to you and your family, of course. (If you have a large family, you may only want to do this once a week, or you will have too may strips.) On Thanksgiving day, read all the strips and then staple them into a paper chain to use for decorating for Christmas! And start all over! Decorate a new box every year, and this will be a wonderful family tradition that will help you all to remember what you are truly thankful for.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Here's a thought from Oprah: "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." So true. 'Night, Gramma G.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day Four of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Angels We Have Heard On High! Sweetly singing o'er the plain. Angels are most often associated with music. We read in the Bible about heavenly choirs of angels, we say she sings like an angel, we say a beautiful song or rendition of a song is heavenly music. So today's project is an angel. And of course, she has to have music to go along with her. (I'm sorry the photo is so lousy. My camera is having issues.)

First, you need to find a Christmas carol that you really like, or use the one mentioned above. Make a photo copy of the sheet music, maybe from a hymnbook or sing-along book. You will need a wooden plaque to put the music on. You can stain the wood or paint it, or leave it it's natural color. Your choice. You can size the music so the whole thing fits on the plaque, or you can just use a part of it. I like just using a part of it, and I tear the edges so that it looks like I once had the whole piece, (which I really did!) and decoupage it onto the plaque. You can use a commercial decoupage medium, like Royal Coat, or you can make your own from 2 parts white glue and 1 part water.

While the plaque is drying, it's time to make the angel. This can be done in any number of ways, but I will give you two ideas. One way is to make her out of salt dough. Form the angel and bake her at 250 degrees for about 2 1/2 hours. When she is cool and hard, you can paint her, or leave her the natural color, and varnish her for protection.

The other way is to make a small rag angel. This is fast and easy, and all you need is a piece of muslin 6" to 8" square, a small ball of stuffing, some moss for her hair, and a little ribbon. Fold the muslin corner to corner, forming a triangle. (If you tear the muslin square, you get nice raveley edges, which I really like.) Place the ball of stuffing inside at the middle, and tie the muslin around it with a piece of string or some heavy thread. Glue the moss on the head for hair, glue the two side points of the triangle in front for her arms, and glue a piece of ribbon around her head for a halo. You can use a fine-point permanent marker to give her a little face, or leave her just like she is. (Faceless is kind of cute.) You can also glue a little tiny rosebud to her hands and one on her halo to add a little decoration. Now glue her to the plaque, leaving enough of the music exposed so you can tell what carol it is. Put a picture hanger on the back, and proudly display your musical angel. Or give her as a gift. These are great gifts for your children to make for teachers. My kids made the salt dough version many years ago, and I know for a fact that their teachers still have them and bring them out every year at the holidays.

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for I bring 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 Saviour, 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 is the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:10-14

Remember, if the only prayer you said in your whole life was "Thank you", that would suffice. 'Night, Gramma G.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day Three of the Twelve Days of Christmas

In the Bible we read of the wise men who came from the east to worship the Christ child. They followed the star, and who knows how long it took them to get there. They had a visit with Herod first, and then when they found the holy family, the scriptures say they came into the house, not the stable, and saw the young child, not babe, so it probably took them a while to get there. The nativity sets we get today almost always include them, but they probably were not there at, or even close to, the birth of the Savior. But that's OK. They came and worshipped, and they need to be included.

Today's project is an ornament representing the star that lead the Wise Men to Bethehem. It's fairly simple to make, and will be enjoyed by all, especially any little ones that are around to help make them.

Start with a piece of waxed paper and some sparkly fabric paint or glitter glue. (The glitter glue makes a harder ornament that will probably last longer.) Draw a pattern for your star ornament and place it under the waxed paper so you can see it. Use the fabric paint or glue to draw the ornament on the waxed paper. Make sure your lines are thick enough to have body when they are dry. Also be sure to draw a loop on one point so you have somewhere to put the hanger. Let it set overnight, thread a tiny ribbon through the loop, or just an ornament hanger, and hang it on your tree! You can make quite a few in one sitting and let them all dry at once. After they are dry, you can turn them over and do the other side too, so that they are puffy on both sides. Have fun making different types of stars...just outlines, filled in, long pointy type stars like you see in nativity pictures, whatever your heart desires. There is no right or wrong, just fun. (This is a good way to make snowflakes, too.)
"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem....And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him..." Matthew 2:1, 11
Have a wonderful night as you watch your stars twinkle on your tree, and imagine how it would have felt to be there with the wise men. Here's a thought for you: Friends are like stars. You don't always see them, but you know they're always there. 'Night, Gramma G.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day Two of the Twelve Days of Christmas

What do you know about candy canes? There are many stories and "legends" out there about this simple little candy, but most of them evolved after the candy cane came into use. One story has it that a candy maker in Indiana made the cane to represent Jesus. The stripes represent the beating He took, the red for His blood, the three small red stripes for the Trinity, etc., etc. One story has it dating back to early Christians and being a secret symbol by which they recognized each other. The truth is that the candy cane didn't come into being until at least the latter part of the 17th century, by which time most of Europe was already Christian! And as for the Indiana candy maker, candy canes were around long before there WAS an Indiana, and they were originally all white. The stripes didn't get their color until the beginning of the 20th century.

The story I like the best is only part fact and part fiction, but I still like it. It says that a priest in Cologne Cathedral about 1670 invented the candy cane to help keep the little children in the live nativity quiet through the evening. Now, we know he didn't "invent" it, but he probably did have the canes made in the shape of the shepherd's crook to entertain the children. It was still all white, though.

The candy was originally straight, too. It was made as a decoration for the Christmas tree soon after Europeans adopted the custom of having Christmas trees in their homes. The bent shape made it easier to hang on the tree, too. Christmas cards from before 1900 show all white canes, and those printed in the early 20th century show stripes on them.

Whichever story you subscribe to, the candy cane is a great thing! It represents the embodiment of the season, because you see them everywhere, whether in a secular setting such as with a department store Santa, or in a religious context, representing Christ as the good shepherd who saved us all. (If you turn it upside down, it's a "J" for Jesus, too!) I love candy canes, so today's project is two candy cane recipes. One for the actual candy, and one for a scrumptious bread in the shape of a candy cane. Take your pick.

Mom's Recipe For Candy Canes
3 c Sugar

1 ts Peppermint flavoring
1/2 c Water
3/4 c Lt. corn syrup
3/4 ts Red food coloring
1/4 ts Cream of tartar
Combine the sugar, water, syrup, and cream of tartar in a large sauce pan and heat till the sugar is dissolved well. Divide equally into two saucepans, and bring to a boil, but DON'T stir until each is 280 degrees. Add 1/2 tsp. peppermint to each pan and add the coloring to one, leaving the other plain. Pour onto an enamel or marble table to cool. Oil the table first, so the candy won't stick. Now, like taffy, you have to stretch and pull the candy and form it it into ropes of red and white. Put one rope of each color together and twist them around each other to form your candy canes. Leave them on the oiled surface to harden. Voila! You have real candy canes. Give them to your family and friends (and don't forget the neighbors)
, with a little card attached sharing the story you like the best about it's origins or meanings.

Now for recipe number two. This is a candy cane coffee cake that is really yummy. I got the recipe from "A Taste of Home" magazine.

Candy Cane Coffee Cake
1 TBS active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 - 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
1 TBS confectioner's sugar
1 jar (12 oz.) cherry jam

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, sour cream, eggs, sugar and salt. Add the yeast mixture and flour. Beat until smooth, but do not knead. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top, and cover and refrigerate overnight.
For the filling, mix the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla until blended. Now punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll out each half out into a rectangle16"x10" and place on a baking sheet. On each long side, cut 1 1/2" wide strips about 3" into the center. This will leave about 4" in the middle uncut. Spread the filling down the center of each rectangle, and starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across the filling. (I hope you can see from the picture what this is supposed to look like.) Pinch ends to seal and curve one end, forming a candy cane. Cover and let rise until doubled, about one hour.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Carefully remove from baking sheets to wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Stir the jam and then spoon over the tops of the loaves, creating stripes. (Be sure to refrigerate your leftovers because of the eggs.) Do the same as above, with a little card telling the story you like best.

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, kwwping watch over their focks by night." Luke 2:8

Remember, the Twelve Days of Christmas are not about how much you can give, but about spending time with your family and loved ones, doing good and enjoying each other's company. Here is a quote from Mother Theresa, who showed the whole world how to treat one another. "Spread love everywhere you go...let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier." 'Night, Gramma G.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas 2008 - Day 1

On the First Day of Christmas.....This is the beginning of my 12 Days of Christmas ideas. Make a small manger out of heavy paper and put a bag of straw or a mini bale of hay by the side of it. For each good deed done by a family member, they get to put a piece of straw in the manger, and hopefully by Christmas eve, there will be enough straw in the manger to cradle the baby Jesus. Here is a pattern for a paper manger that is easy to make and easy to store for the years to come. Cut heavy brown cardstock to the dimensions shown on the pattern. Fold and cut according to the pattern. Slip the two rectangles, which are the legs, into the slots you have cut and you have a manger! It will look something like the drawing to the left. Kids love to do this, and adults think its pretty fun, too, so give it a try.

I plan to keep these ideas simple and easy, so that you actually have the time to do them, without too much prep time or money spent. I hope you like them.

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7

Remember what this season and this celebration are all about as you go about the daily job of living, and hold Him in your heart, for this will bring you peace. 'Night, Gramma G.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Baa Humbug! :)

Christmas is coming up too fast and I am not ready! I am working madly to get something done for each of the kids, but I think I am fighting a losing battle. Maybe more of them will get gift cards. Yuk! I think gift cards are so impersonal, but I am up against a brick wall--both time-wise and also not knowing what to give them. They are getting older now, and have very definite likes and dislikes, and I don't know them well enough to know what they like. I didn't find an old-fashioned game this year to make for everyone, so I'm wracking my brain, small though it is, for something that I can give them that I can make in a week. HA! HA!

The library pocket books are almost finished, and they are looking really cute. I hope the library ladies will like them as much as I do. Sometimes I wonder why I do this? I could just make fudge and cookies, and call it good, and don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that, but I always seem to feel the need to do something more personal. And that something is never quick to make. I always swear that I'm going to start in January for the next Christmas, but I never seem to do it, except for last year. By last December, I had almost everything made but the last-minute stuff, and it sure was nice. I will be trying to do it again next year. I am going to try to simplify my life, and that will help.

I've been talking to some of my children, trying to convince them that they need to down-size Christmas for their kids. They need to teach their children what Christmas is REALLY about, and it's not presents and parties and stuff. In fact, they have too much stuff. I was talking to a young mother last week who says that she and her husband started a family tradition a few years back that has simplified their Christmas and given them a lot more time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and on giving service. She has three children, and they each get 6 presents for Christmas. One from mom and dad, one from each set of grandparents, one fron Santa, and one from each of their siblings. That's all. No more. No going into debt for huge amounts of money, no trying to make sure that all the kids have the same number of presents, no lo-o-o-o-ong lists for Santa.....just 6 simple gifts. I thought about that for a week, and I think its one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time. By the time her children get to be teenagers, they will know that they are not going to get a mountain of presents and they won't expect it! I wish I had had such an idea when my kids were little. We have always made our gifts, but I really like the simplicity of her plan. I just wish my children would embrace that idea.

Well, I really got off on a tangent there, didn't I. But I guess what really bothers me is that I've got grandchildren that don't even know what the true meaning of Christmas is! They know nothing about the Savior, his birth, death and sacrifice. To them, Christmas is Santa and presents, and the more the better. This makes my heart hurt. I'm just not sure what I can do to change it. I am going to think on it.

I wanted to do a "12 Days of Christmas Series" for you with ideas for gifts and for service, but I don't know if I have it all together. I will start tomorrow, which really is the 1st Day of Christmas, and we'll see how it goes. I may skip a day here and there and let you come up with your own ideas. So here's to you and your good ideas. If you do something and it works out well, let me know. Post it in the comments for me (and others) to read. Or you could tell me about something that may not have worked out like you wanted it to, too, and maybe we can figure out a way to make it better next time. All will be welcomed.

Oh, by the way...I am 54 today! I am never sure I will make it to see another birthday, but I did this year. My husband turned 54 two days ago, and we are quickly approaching honest-to-goodness old age. We feel old now, but I know there's worse to come. I tell myself that every day that I wake up is a good day! Both of my parents died at the age of 59, so I have a few years left to go. I'll try to make them good ones.

For now, I must bid you adieu, and remember.....time with you is better than ice cream! 'Night, Gramma G.
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