An Important Question

Merry Monday

An Important Question

In 1991, Mark Lowry wrote the lyrics to a popular Christmas song and the music was written by his friend, Buddy Greene. It has been recorded by a number of famous stars over the years. The question posed repeatedly throughout the song is “Mary, did you know?”. Let’s take a quick look at the lyrics:

Mary, Did You Know

Mary did you know that your baby boy will some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am

To put it simply, the answer is YES!!!!!

How did she know? Let’s find out.


The answer is given in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 1:26-38 King James Version (KJV)

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

The Annunciation - Leonardo Da Vinci - Uffiizi Gallery

The Annunciation – Leonardo Da Vinci – Uffiizi Gallery

Basically, when an archangel comes to you and tells you that you will bear a son born of the Holy Spirit and destined to sit on the throne of David, you can consider yourself properly briefed on the details. It is also likely that Mary would have been familiar with the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. The high points are summarized by the genius of Handel’s Messiah in the oratorio HWV 56.

So, when writing a religious Christmas song don’t forget to check scripture to see if the answer is already there.

Christmas in July Beverages

Christmas in July Beverages

So, “Christmas in July” occurred this week. Not everybody is into it. Whether you celebrate it or not, here are some awesome Christmas themed beverages to help you cool down during the Dog Days of Summer here in the Northern Hemisphere.

I’m a big fan of eggnog, so I was excited to find this recipe on Party411.com among their Christmas in July party ideas.

Eggnog Milkshake

1 cup Vanilla Ice Cream
1/3 cup Eggnog
Nutmeg
Shot of brandy, rum or whiskey (optional)
Combine ingredients in a blender, and mix until blended. Top with a dash of Nutmeg.

If you can’t find eggnog this time of year you can always make your own:

Eggnog

4 cups milk
4 cups heavy cream
12 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
4 whole cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla extract, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon and place over a low flame. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring constantly to keep from scorching. Combine eggs yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Slowly pour some of the hot milk into the bowl to temper the egg yolks. Then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Stir constantly for about four minutes until the mixture thickens, but do not bring it to a boil. Strain out the cloves and let stand until cooled. Stir in the heavy cream.

Guests will love the attention to detail!

Of course, you can have eggnog any time with help from Amazon. The great thing about Borden’s shelf stable eggnog is that it’s not going to take up valuable room in your fridge until you’re ready to open it. A great alternative is to use the holiday flavored syrups from Amoretti to bring your coffee or tea to life.

     

Some more tantalizing treats

Leigh Ann at Your Homebased Mom has a wonderful recipe for Frozen Hot Chocolate that was inspired when she was reviewing her friend Laura Powell’s book Warm Up Your Winter: Holiday Hot Chocolate and Cider Recipes

Frozen Hot Chocolate
I’ve also leaned on Martha Stewart for some classy Christmas beverages to tickle your taste buds. She certainly does not disappoint with her collection of non-alcoholic holiday drinks.

The drinks that caught my eye were her Peppermint Hot Chocolate and the Black Currant Cider Sparklers.

As a Christmas in July drink, Peppermint Hot Chocolate may be a bit counterintuitive. With a slight tweak, we can make the beverage a bit more summer-friendly. Prepare the cocoa as described in Martha’s recipe adding a few drops of blue food coloring to render a deep blue beverage. Shatter a peppermint stick to create stars that you can sprinkle across the surface of the drinks and then add two peppermint sticks to each cup. Once prepared, chill the cocoa in your refrigerator. This will create an American flag themed cool cocoa treat that you can serve proudly for Christmas in July.

What attracted me to the Black Currant Cider Sparklers is that it gives me a chance to use one of our favorite celebratory beverages. My family loves Martinelli’s Gold Medal Sparkling Cider as a non-alcoholic alternative to champagne for celebrations such as New Year’s toasts, birthday parties and classing up the table for Thanksgiving Dinner. Adding a bit of black currant juice to an already beloved beverage reminds me of my mom’s famous Thimble Cookies. My extended family always enjoyed looking forward to my Mom’s mountain of Christmas Cookies and in particular the Thimble Cookies!

Melting Snowman Cookies
Of course, with all of these cool summertime holiday themed drinks it’s only fair we get some Christmas in July cookies. To this end, Charlene at My Frugal Adventures has a whimsical Christmas In July cookie idea. Melting Snowman Cookies are a comical notion for a mid-summer Christmas celebration and a great way to enjoy a bite of the holidays with your Christmas in July beverages

Why Fruitcake Is The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Why Fruitcake Is The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Fruitcake is an unjustly maligned holiday treat, in my opinion. I love fruitcake!
Of course, you might say ‘you are what you eat‘ but that’s not very kind now is it?
Fruitcake
Here are some reasons why fruitcake is awesome:

  • Variety. Despite Johnny Carson’s joke that there is only one fruitcake in the world and people just keep passing it around, there are tons of fruitcakes available on the market. There are gluten free and organic fruitcakes available to those who are health conscious. There are sugar-free fruitcakes for those who are diabetic (don’t ask me how that works, but I have seen them advertised). There are inexpensive dollar store fruitcake slices and there are high end fruitcakes that are lovingly festooned with the finest fruits and nuts and soaked in the most decadent booze. There are fruitcakes for every taste and need!
  • Fruitcake has a long and illustrious history. Fruitcakes have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs! Since they kept well and were tasty, the Roman legions carried them on long campaigns of conquest. In the Middle Ages, the fruitcake got an upgrade. Spices, honey and preserved fruit were added but the portability of the cake remained. This made it popular as a campaign staple among the Crusaders. In the colonial period, they added nuts and sugar to make it even more tasty. To top it off, the Victorians added a dash of alcohol to give it a little kick. Fruitcake has even been to space! A slice of the fruitcake that was prepared for the Apollo 11 mission is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.
  • Fruitcake can save your life! Due to the preservatives (alcohol) in the cake, it can be prepared months in advance and stored as a foodstuff for the bleak midwinter when the harvest is months in the future. In fact, proper fruitcake ages like a fine wine and must sit at least a month before being fully enjoyed. If properly perserved and stored in an airtight container, fruitcake can last up to 25 years! What’s more, because it is so dense, moist and heavy you can even use it as a weapon if the need arises. According to Harper’s Index, the average fruitcake is as dense as mahogany wood!
  • Fruitcake has supernatural powers! If you are a woman, put a piece of fruitcake under your pillow after attending a wedding and you will dream about your future husband! If you’re a guy, you’ll just have a quick bit of breakfast in bed. Nut growers used to make a fruitcake at the end of a harvest and then save it until the end of the following harvest as a good luck charm. Fruitcake can be brought back from the dead! If your fruitcake has gone stale due to improper storage, you can resurrect this delectable treat by steaming it.
  • Because it’s Christmas! Fruitcake is the gift that keeps on giving because you can either eat it or regift it. Personally, I’m in the eat it camp. I’m surely not the only one because in Berryville, Virginia at the Holy Cross Abbey, the monks sell 10,000 fruitcakes each year. Somebody must be eating them, right?

So, that’s the skinny on why fruitcake is so absolutely holiday fabulicious. If you’re one of those who is skeptical of this much denounced treat, I encourage you to give it a try this year. You don’t know what you’re missing!

Get your Trappist Abbey Monastery Fruitcake 3lb in a Gift Box from Amazon.com today!

Get your Trappist Abbey Monastery Fruitcake 3lb in a Gift Box from Amazon.com today!

Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit

Toyland Tuesday

Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit

My kids have this kit and it is wonderful on so many levels. It encourages creativity. It teaches the basics of electronics. It’s safe and fun.

The kit comes with a variety of snap on pieces that form the circuit necessary to create each project. A colorful instructional manual spells out exactly which pieces to use in order to create a number of different devices with flashing lights, a siren and a rotor. This toy is safe for kids as young as 7 and creates a fun space where young children can build their STEM skills.

This kit requires two AA batteries that are not provided, but if your household is like mine you’ve already got a cookie jar full of batteries on the shelf somewhere.

I can’t recommend this product strongly enough. My children enjoy playing with this electronics set and I’m sure yours would too.

How Christmas Parties Can Help You Win The Game Of Thrones

game-of-thrones-doll

How Christmas Parties Can Help You Win The Game Of Thrones

Christmas parties are festive occasions for family, friends and co-workers. Who you invite and who you don’t can be a matter of practicality or it can be a calculated snub. Some people play power politics on the job and at home. Such people might invite the folks they want to impress. Some can be as calculating as a Lannister.

Truth is, big Christmas parties used to be the domain of royalty. Aristocrats put on lavish affairs to demonstrate their status and show up their peers. They were as boisterous and outlandish as anything George R. R. Martin envisioned in the lands of Westeros. In 1213, King John of England ordered 10,000 salt eels from the Sheriff of Canterbury! Another of the king’s orders listed 1,000 hens, 200 head of pork, 100 lbs of almonds, 50 lbs of pepper, 24 hogshead of wine, 2 lbs of saffron and other supplies.

In the time of the Tudors, the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany were a time of wild revelry, jousting, card playing and visiting relatives. All work ceased and even women’s spinning was set aside. The idle spinning wheels were decorated with flowers. The Tudors also beat us to the punch on the Turducken. A Tudor Christmas Pie consisted of a pigeon stuffed in a partridge stuffed in a chicken stuffed in a goose stuffed in a turkey surrounded by a stew of rabbit and game birds baked in a crust that was aptly called a coffin.

christmas-partyChristmas was driven underground during the Puritan rule of England, but it began to grow in popularity again once the monarchy was restored. As Christmas was popularized for the middle class, holiday parties became a chance to jockey for influence. In olden times, it was a formal arrangement to declare the Lord of Misrule to serve as king for a day. Of late, it seems to be the wag who drinks too much and thinks too little of the damage to be done to his or her career. However, with the changing centuries, what was old is new again. The decadent romps of the Middle Ages are echoed in the halls of power today. Whether that is financial or political power, you’re likely to find the Machiavellian ladder climbers schmoozing their patrons and the less forward thinking participants photocopying their posteriors.

So be wary, gentle reader. If you are invited to a Christmas party, it might just be egg nog and cookies. But then again, it might be a doorway to your next step on the ladder to power. Play your cards right and you might just survive the Game of Thrones!

Epiphany and Shortbread Day

Epiphany and Shortbread Day

Like the wise men of old, we have finally arrived at our destination. Here we are at the official end of the holiday season. I hope you enjoyed the ride!

Epiphany

Epiphany It’s generally held that the magi didn’t arrive until Jesus was about two, but that would make for a really long holiday season (fine by me). We’d also have to wait another thirty years or so for Easter to come around, so it’s nice to be able to condense it down to meaningful liturgical seasons.

Another thing that I’m pretty adamant about (given that I created a site on the topic) is keeping the season in the season. I’ve seen a number of things over the years that try to drag the symbolism of Easter into the season of Christmas.

STOP IT!

There’s a reason why the seasons are separate. If you want foreshadowing, you only need to look at the lyrics of We Three Kings.

I guess I’m one of those guys who likes to keep his carrots from touching his mashed potatoes on the plate, but fair’s fair. Let Christmas be Christmas and let Easter be Easter.

National Shortbread Day

Is there anything more tasty than a rich Scottish shortbread? You can get so many variations of this classic treat online and from the stores, but you can go old school and make it yourself:

  1. 1 part white sugar
  2. 2 parts butter
  3. 3 parts flour

That’s the simple formula for a tremendous holiday treat that you can enjoy anytime.

Shortbread Day

National Bird Day and Whipped Cream Day

Bird Day and Whipped Cream Day

Today we celebrate our winged neighbors and a light sweet treat. It’s our last day of Christmas, so let’s enjoy!

National Bird Day

birdholly We don’t see too much of our feathered friends in Wintertime. Quite a few migrate to warmer climes. However, not all of them do and it’s good to have a special day to remember and care for them.

Something we like to do for the holidays is to decorate the trees outside with items that are edible to birds such as dried berries, cheerios, peanut butter, bird seed. Here are some ideas you can try to make a bird-friendly garland for your non-migratory birds.

Whipped Cream Day

Whipped Cream, also known as Snow Cream, was first mentioned in 1673. Early versions were sweetened and flavored with such things as vanilla, chocolate, orange, rose and coffee. They also used the term Chantilly Creme for these dessert treats.

The reason today is Whipped Cream Day is to celebrate the birthday of Reddi-wip creator, Aaron “Bunny” Lapin. He came up with the canned cream treat in 1948. Some people prefer the canned treat to the scoop-able stuff. Some people prefer whipping heavy cream by hand. Some people just eat it straight from the tub or nibble it off of a loved one (say no more, let’s keep this PG here). No matter how you take it, whipped cream is a tasty addition to any sundae, pie or whatever you’re hungry for.

whipped-cream

For the Twelfth Day of Christmas, it’s twelve drummers drumming. Not the Little Drummer Boy. Not gonna happen.
 

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Trivia Day and Spaghetti Day

Trivia Day and Spaghetti Day

Christmastime is quickly slipping away and we’ve only got a little bit of the magic left to share. So, why not sit the family down around a bowl of spaghetti and play some trivia games?

Spaghetti Day

Spaghetti Day Spaghetti is a wonderful comfort food for the chillier times of the year. You can enjoy the usual tomato sauce, alfredo sauce or garlic butter depending on your mood. You can also add proteins such as meatballs, shrimp, sausage or langostinos to fortify the dish. If you’re into vegetables, you can use a light broth and make a wonderful pasta primavera.

There are unresolved issues about the origin of spaghetti. Some say that it was created in Ancient Greece and others hold that Marco Polo brought it back from the East after dining on it at the court of Kublai Khan. Whatever the truth is, we’re glad we have this versatile dish to keep us warm and nourished.

Trivia Day

Is there anything more enjoyable for a family to enjoy than an evening playing a trivia game? From the classic Trivial Pursuit and all of its specialty variations (we really enjoy Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit) to the latest craze in trivia games, trivia games test your memory and teach you things you might not have known before.

If you want to tackle the latest trivia games, I’ve located 119 amazing facts that could help you in your next trivia challenge.

Click on this game to get your copy

Click on this game to get your copy

Click on this game to get your copy

It’s the Eleventh Day of Christmas and not a moment too soon. Who doesn’t love a band of pipers?
 

Eleven Pipers Piping

JRR Tolkien Day and Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day

JRR Tolkien Day and Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day

Today is the birthday of a world renowned linguist, college professor and beloved author. Not only do I love Tolkien’s collected works, but also cordial cherries. Boy, what a great day to be alive!

JRR Tolkien Day

Tolkien If John Ronald Reuel Tolkien were still alive today, he’d be 123 (twelvety-three?) years old. He’s got a few years more before he catches up with Bilbo Baggins, who was 131 when he left with Frodo, Gandalf and the Elves at the Grey Havens.

Yes, it is the birthday of the author who created the fantastical realm of Middle Earth and the books which took place there. The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings were all the product of his prodigious imagination. Even in the trenches of WWI, he was busily creating the language of the elves of Middle Earth.

While we doubt that Santa’s elves speak Quenya, it seems fitting to celebrate the birthday of an author who spent so much time on elves and gold rings.

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day

Chocolate covered cherries were first produced by the confectioners at Cella’s in 1929 and were understandably an instant hit. They are an irresistible treat and my wife and kids usually get me at least one box as a gift for Christmas. By this time, they’re likely gone already.

If you’d like to know how to make your own, I’ve located a video for you. I don’t know if I have the patience. I’d rather just buy another box and gobble them down.

chocolate-covered-cherry

It’s the Tenth Day of Christmas and you can’t imagine how hard it was to find ten lords a’leaping!
 

Ten Lords A'Leaping

Fruitcake Toss Day and Buffet Day

Fruitcake Toss Day and Buffet Day

We’re tripping happily along through the Christmas season and today we’ve got a very silly holiday to celebrate. Tossing fruitcakes is a hungry business, so it’s best to follow it up with a trip to your favorite buffet establishment.

The Great Fruitcake Toss

Fruitcake Toss Some people just don’t appreciate a tasty treat. For those who are on the hater trail, they’ve made a holiday out of throwing your fruitcake away. Far away. As far as you can physically throw the thing.

Some people suffice to just toss it in the trash after the guests have gone home, but the people of Manitou Springs, Colorado, decided to make a full fledged sporting event of it. In years past, they had catapults and pneumatic cannons, but recently they’ve gone back to the basics. The Manitou Springs event inspired others nationwide. If there’s not a fruitcake toss event near you and you’re not inclined to eat it, you can always start one in your town.

Buffet Day

At this point, you’ve been cooking for weeks. You might want to consider treating yourself to a night off. Let someone else do the dishes.

But where to go? Someplace where everybody has their choice of what to eat. Let the salad eaters have their greens and the beef and potatoes types can get get rough and rustic.

Buffet

It’s the Ninth Day of Christmas and we’ve actually got nine ladies dancing today!
 

Nine Ladies Dancing