Thursday, December 24, 2009

The real meaning

This time of year, at least in our local paper, there is a lot of banter back and forth about the "true meaning of Christmas." Christians point to Jesus' birth. Atheists/humanists and even Pagans argue that Christmas is just a repackaged Pagan celebration, manufactured by Catholics to trick people into following their beliefs. But I think we're missing the mark.

I just stumbled upon this quote

The true meaning of Christmas is the act of our Almighty Father’s great love to us by giving us His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, whom is the Son of God, whom is the love of God, and whom loves the Father by obeying all of his commandments to save us.

The real purpose of Christmas is to save the people of this world and have eternal life. We can be saved by believing Jesus Christ as our Savior and by following all the commandments of God.

The "true meaning of Christmas" isn't about us at all. It's about what God did for us. It's about Him and His love for us. How we celebrate should be a reflection of our thankfulness for His grace and love.

Christmas wasn't created by the early church to bring Pagans into their fold. It was created by God, to bring us into His fold.

Merry Christmas.

(Quote from

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Almost here

My current Facebook status is

(insert my name) doesn't feel like we've been running against the clock, hurtling towards Christmas this year, but rather it feels like we've been meandering slowly, and all of a sudden realized that Christmas is here already. Must be the lack of snow thus far.
That's how it feels, anyway. We finally have snow today, though still not quite enough to cover the grass fully. But it's better than none, which we've pretty much had so far. Funny how something like a sparkling white blanket over everything changes ones perception of the season. I cannot imagine living where there is never snow. No chance for a white Christmas ever. But I digress...

Il feel like Christmas has snuck up on us somehow this year. Usually I feel rushed, but this year it still feels like I have all the time in the world. I don't, but it does not feel like Christmas is only days away. I also don't feel stressed by that. The turkey is thawing, the cranberry sauce made; I'm looking up recipes for candy cane ice cream for dessert, and debating crispy roasted potatoes (which the kids will eat) versus the mashed variety (which the kids won't eat). It all feels quite laid back.

We've given more this year, having found a way to help a child in a developing country through Ten Thousand Villages. And we've donated food to the local food bank, including some jars of a peanut butter alternative for families who can't afford it, but have a child with a nut allergy. I don't say this to toot my own horn, but rather to hopefully inspire others. Helping and giving don't have to be difficult. The donation was made online and the food was given during a food drive. We only had to shop and drive by the drop off location. Neither took us out of our way. But both actions will have an impact on someone. And that is what matters.

Maybe that's part of what's been so relaxing about this season - knowing that we're doing alright and have been able to help others as well. A lot of people can't say the same. Especially about being alright. No clue what the new year will bring, but for now we are okay. The recession didn't really hit hubby's work, the kids are well, we have a roof over our heads and family and friends who love us. Our marriage is strong and God is still in control.

With that, I bid you all a Merry Christmas. If I may quote from our Christmas card this year...

May the closeness of friends,
the comfort of home,
and the peace of God
renew your spirits this holiday season.

And His name shall be the hope of all the world. Matthew 12:21

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Candy Part 2

Candied peel is a very old way of using up every part of citrus fruit, coming from a time when oranges and grapefruits and such were rare treats for a brief time each year.

I found a few recipes and took bits from each to come up with this...

Strips of citrus peel are simmered in water for 20 minutes or so to remove the bitterness (some recipes have the step being repeated with fresh water every 5 minutes). Then you make a syrup of one or two parts sugar to water (I did two) and simmer the peel in it until translucent (about half an hour or so). Remove it to a wire rack and let it cool, and then toss it in sugar and leave it to dry for the day. The finished peel can be dipped in chocolate, if you like. Store in an airtight container.

Candied peel is a nice addition to a dried fruit and nut plate, or nibbled with some coffee or hot chocolate.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I've been on a bit of a candy kick lately, it seems. Not necessarily eating it, but making it. I've made candied grapefruit peel, which is really yummy, salted hazelnut brittle, which was a bit disappointing, and some wonderful sponge candy, topped with chocolate and sprinkled with crumbled flaked salt. That is wonderful! Here is the recipe.

3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbspns water
2 Tbspns corn syrup
1 1/2 tsps baking soda

Because the final steps must be executed rapidly, before you start cooking the sugar have ready: a baking sheet that has been well greased or lined with a silpat, a whisk and the premeasured baking soda.

Spread the sugar out in an even layer in the bottom of a large saucepan. Drizzle the water and honey over the sugar and place on a burner over high heat. Cook, without stirring, until it reaches 300F. You will observe the sugar melting, then the syrup forming small, tight bubbles, then the bubbles will become larger and looser and finally, the syrup will begin to take on an amber color.

When it reaches 300F., immediately remove it from the heat. Quickly add the baking soda and whisk just until the baking soda is mixed in. In one quick motion, dump the foaming syrup onto the prepared baking sheet. Do not spread or disturb, as this will cause it to deflate. Let it stand until cool to the touch, about 10 minutes.

Melt some chocolate (semi-sweet seems to taste best with this, since the candy isn't as sweet as you'd think). You can either drizzle it over the cooled candy, or spread it. Then sprinkle it with some flaky salt, like Maldon sea salt. Let the chocolate harden and then break the sponge candy into pieces and store in an air tight container.

I am taking these to a girls night tonight. I love the combination of salt and sweet, and this candy is a really nice mix of both flavours.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cards are finished

Our Christmas cards are finished and in the mail. We're ahead of the game this year, largely due to ordering our cards from an online site. They are photo cards, so no pics to print and cut out. They are already printed, so no signing. And I make lables for the envelopes, so no writing anything out. It feels a little impersonal, but I hate hand addressing envelopes. So long as there are no unusual charges on our credit card, I'll probably use this service again.

We are finished shopping for the kids. Still need to call my middle sister. Youngest sister mentioned something about only buying for the kids this year. I should check into that before I go buying them presents. I'm fine with that.

So we're heading into the part of Christmas that has always been a bit of a letdown for me. I love the preparation and the getting ready. And I'm good with the settling in and enjoying it all. But it's the few days before, and the day of that kind of leave me feeling empty. I grew up with Santa as the point of Christmas. Santa and the whole family celebration. So a fat guy and food were the focus. And it always felt like a bit of a letdown by the afternoon of Christmas day.

I think some parts of Europe are on to something. They do the gift thing on the 6th of December, then have other feast days through the month and then Christmas day is about Jesus. Then there are 12 more celebration days before it's all over. Here we have a prolonged season for the sole purpose of more shopping. It's all backwards and inside out. We celebrate for the sake of stuff instead of celbrating for the sake of celebrating.

We're working to make it different for our kids, but it's a process. We don't do Santa at all. Neither of us feels right about it, and we both feel like it's a lie to lead the kids on like that (for us... I cannot tell you how many people get their knickers in a knot over the "L" word, like by not doing Santa we're condemning them to hell for telling their kids that he is real). It's a personal decision that works for our family. But the rest is a process. The re-learning how to celebrate Jesus, without totally abandoning the family and food and fun that really is a part of the season as well.

I've toyed with the idea of serving dinner on Christmas day to the needy. There's a restaurant in town that does this. I'd wait until the kids are older, mind you. But I like the idea. We don't go to anyone's house for dinner on Christmas day, so we wouldn't be missing out on that at all. For now we give to local food banks. Things like peanut butter alternatives, for families of kids with peanut allergies who can't afford to buy it (it's pricey). And this year we bought an education package through Ten Thousand Villages and got an ornament for our tree to commemorate it. We want the kids to know that doing for others is important all the time, and contrasting it against the materialism of Christmas brings it into sharper focus, it seems. It;s also the time when need is felt most accutely as well.

Hopefully we're doing right by them. I hope that Christmas for our kids is about celebrating Jesus and what He's done for us. It seems strange to link Christmas and Easter, but Christmas makes no sense unless we look at the whole picture and the reason *why* it matters that Jesus was ever born at all.