Foodie Stocking Stuffers

stockings on fireplace 1


If you’re looking for a last-minute idea for stuffing Christmas stockings and you like something quick, easy and somewhat wholesome, try Trail Mix.

I’ve made trail mix with a variety of ingredients and if you’re planning to make a large batch, you can save money buying your own ingredients over buying pre-made and dividing it up. Of course, it can’t hurt to look at what the brand names are using to get ideas.

Mix and match from the following list of ingredients

Chopped walnuts
Chopped pecans
Dry roasted peanuts
Cashew pieces
Chopped dates
Chopped dried apricots
Chopped dried pineapple
Dried blueberries
Dried cranberries
Sunflower kernels
Pumpkin seeds
Baking chips
Air-popped popcorn

Your trail mix can be as unique as you want to make it.

To package your trail mix, buy small cellophane gift bags with twist ties and fill them with about a cup of mix. Or line a small Christmas tin (get them at the second hand store) with tissue paper, then stuff with trail mix in a zipper bag. Again,  packaging and presentation are all up to your imagination and creativity.

While you’re at it, you can always make a few snack bags for yourself to keep in the car when you need a quick pick-me-up while out running errands or shopping.

Speaking of shopping, are you done yet? Beat the rush…you know how crowded the stores are when people wait ‘til the last minute to shop for Christmas dinner fixin’s


The Best Christmas Stories

Stylist magazine has put together a list of the 50 Best Christmas Books.
Today, to get a bit personal, I selected a few of my favorites. You can tell us in the comments which are your favorites. Were you surprised to see some titles were actually books before they became films?

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
This classic tale of how a miserly and grumpy fellow finds the true meaning of Christmas has been re-enacted on stage and screen for decades. Though I’ve read the book (which is surprisingly short) and seen several versions of the story, my favorite is the old black and white movie I saw as a child. Jacob Marley’s ghost appearing on that door knocker horrified

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
Even as children, we enjoy seeing a bad guy go right. The Grinch is another story about finding the simple meaning in the joy of Christmas. Seuss’ art captivates.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
While the story itself includes a single plot line, Christmas is suggested. One of the residents of Narnia describes it as a place where “it’s always winter but never Christmas.”

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
I read this short story while in junior high school as assigned reading. Suggesting the role Christ plays in our lives, the simple story tells of the sacrifice made by a man and a woman in love. They’re both poor but want to give the other the perfect gift.

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles Schulz
Here’s a book that was inspired by the Christmas TV special of the same name. With wit and wisdom, Schulz creates some unforgettable moments. The characters dancing to Schroeder’s tiny piano, Charlie searching for a tree for their play and Linus telling Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
One of my favorite sleuths once again solves a mystery even though he’s supposed to be celebrating the holiday. In all my reading and watching on BBC the stories about Poirot, it’s gratifying to know he is a man of faith. He is dogged in fighting evil and his faith is one of the motivators for exposing criminals.

The Greatest Story
Found in Luke 2 and Matthew 1 of the Holy Bible, the story of Jesus Christ being born is by far my favorite Christmas story. It’s the reason we have a “Christmas.” It’s the reason there are stories about people finding the real meaning of Christmas.

This is the story of hope. Jesus is the reason we celebrate. No one will ever steal Him away from us because nothing can separate us from His love. We don’t have to worry about a winter with no Christmas. We can always be sure He’s the best gift, the perfect gift. He’s conquered evil and that’s no mystery.

Tell the “greatest Christmas story” to everyone you can. Then tell them why Jesus came. That’s a gift you can give all year long.


The Best Christmas Gift

Is it too early to talk about Christmas gifts? I think not. This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. Those who celebrate the Christian calendar mark Advent with a variety of activities.  Advent gives us a chance to recognize the coming of the Savior and the gift that He is to the whole world.advent-candles-5

Today in my small group we talked about forgiveness. The subject always brings to the forefront various emotional responses.

Comments by my friends indicated that, like many other people, they sometimes have a difficult time forgiving. Some have a difficult time accepting forgiveness; especially the complete forgiveness of God.

During our last fifteen minutes we answered some questions from the book we’re studying. The final question asked us to compare one of the best Christmas gifts we’ve ever received with the grace we receive from God.

From our discussion and from what I’ve learned from scripture, here are some ways our traditional gift giving differs from God’s gift of grace.

One Size Fits All
When we receive a Christmas gift from a family member or friend, that gift was chosen specifically for us. On the other hand, God’s grace is for anyone, no matter who they are. The grace God extends to teachers, mechanics, CEOs, presidents, those in prison, people with disabilities, entrepreneurs, geniuses and baristas is one size fits all. God is no respecter of persons. The same grace that saves a blogger will save a movie producer. No kidding.

Shelf Life
Traditional Christmas gifts all have a shelf life. Even the most carefully constructed technology or the most expensive jewelry eventually shows wear. Rust and moths destroy. But the grace of God is never ending. His mercy is new every morning. God’s gift of grace will always be the same and will always be there when we need it. It never wears out.

Price Tags
That bubble bath, the golf clubs, your new iPad, her Barbie doll and the TV set as big as your living room wall come with a price tag you know is set in dollars, pounds or euros. However, God’s grace is immeasurable. The price tag attached to His grace is the life of His only Son. Who can put a price on a life? Who can put a price on the Son of God?

The Incomparable Gift
Anyone can bestow a gift we feel, see and experience with our senses. Only God can offer the perfect gift of His grace. Fur coat? Expensive cologne? Surround sound stereo system? No comparison at all to what God gave us in Jesus.

The Holidays All Come Together
As of this writing, tomorrow we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in this country where I live. Then Sunday is the first day of Advent. Christmas, the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth, comes soon afterward. Gratitude, expectation and anticipation, and worshiping the Messiah’s birth make this time of year special for those of us who believe in Jesus and what he did for us at the Cross.

It’s not too early to talk about and think of Christmas gifts. Especially if the gifts we’re excited about are God’s acceptance of us, His love for us, and His grace toward us.

Happy holidays.
And come, Lord Jesus.

Seeking The Savior

Is Christmas still “the most wonderful time of the year”? Christmas, for those who celebrate it, is probably the time most filled with traditions.

We bake cookies, peanut brittle and fudge. We get crafty and make tree ornaments, stockings and wreaths. We decorate the tree with a new theme. Some of us even mail Christmas cards.

We might even call shopping a tradition. I know people who make a day of shopping one of their special times for family fellowship. Friends will meet to tramp the mall and have a “cup of good cheer.”

Do you remember the traditions of your childhood? Maybe childhood isn’t so long ago for you. For others of us childhood is decades ago. What do you remember as your favorite tradition?

My youth at Christmas time included some great expectations. We knew there would be a Christmas program at our church and the kids in our family who were old enough would have a part. There was even a tradition associated with the program. At the end, when we were all released, each child was given a small paper bag filled with candy and nuts. The contents were predictable—it was a tradition after all—but we squealed with delight all the same.

When I think of reciting a poem in front of our small congregation (almost without a hitch), my hands shaking, then receiving my treat later, I still get nostalgic. Our program, like that of most churches, revolved around a nativity scene and the story of Christ’s birth from the second chapter of Luke. We also included arrival of the Magi bringing gifts.

I didn’t need a song to tell me Christmas was the most wonderful time of the year. My family seemed to come together like at no other time. And we had our own traditions.

The Christmas tree was one of our favorites. I come from a large family and decorating must have seemed a little chaotic for my mom, but she let us go full force with the job. The only things we weren’t allowed to touch were the vintage (even then) glass ornaments. My older brother most enjoyed flinging icicles at the tree, which by no means would ever have been artificial. Not in those days.

We did other things to prepare for Christmas, but my absolute favorite tradition was driving around our small town looking at the variety of light displays families used to decorate their homes. Usually, the night of the Christmas program was our special night to make the journey.

In the days before tiny lights with built-in gadgets to make them twinkle (to recorded music, no less) and huge air-filled snowmen and Santas, people kept their decorating modest for the most part. Or at least tasteful. Even families who could afford to decorate with more lights, steered away from the “Christmas Vacation” style of decorating.

I guess we were old fashioned. Christmas meant more than showing off.

Since it was a small town, it didn’t take us long to drive around and see the lights. Short drive though it was, we regarded it as a real treat. Like I said, our family would come together like no other time. We children “oohed” and “aahed” as if we were at a fireworks display. Sometimes Dad would roll to a stop at a house if its decorations needed a little longer to take in.

The display I regarded as most special decorated the lawn in front of the church on main street. There, year after year, we’d roll to a stop to admire the nativity scene. Two small floodlights in the ground shone upward, making it easy to see Joseph, Mary and Jesus at night. We counted off each character, especially baby Jesus, whose story we’d just enacted.

For us, that stop on main street was like the magi looking for the holy family.

This year, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family again. A sister, my children and grandchildren. When my sister and I reach our hometown, we’ll drive down Lincoln Avenue and surely, I’ll be on the lookout for houses with pretty decorations. They indicate to me that people still enjoy that tradition.

But mostly, I’ll keep my eye out for the church and its classic nativity scene. As I’ve done for years, I’ll be seeking the Savior.