Monthly Archives: December 2015

Unjealous Heart, Chap 5, Post 8

“Are we ready, baby?  Let’s start with the sugar cookies first. They take a bit of concentration, you know and you might get tired by the time we mix up all these batches of cookies.”

“Okay, Mommy, but I won’t get tired.  I promise.”

The two batches of sugar cookie dough I had made earlier in the day were thoroughly chilled, so rolling them out went quickly, at least as quickly as it could with Bran doing most of it.  We had been baking sugar cookies together for years, for Christmas and for no good reason but fun at other times.  We had our method down pat, but it was less than speedy.

I mixed the dough, chilled it, and laid out the rolling pin, flour bin, and sifter.  I sifted the countertop with a thin layer of flour.  It was also my job to knead the dough and roll it part way out.  Then, when it was a manageable size, Sharon took over, with me, of course, offering appropriate compliments on her technique.

Sharon also cut out the cookies, while the task of getting them onto the cookie sheet in one piece fell to me.  I gathered up the scraps from the first cutting, kneading the scraps into a ball and rolling them out for Sharon to cut into more cookies.  After a cookie sheet was filled, I put the cookies into the oven and took them out, but when they were partly cool, Sharon slid the spatula underneath each one and carefully put them on the table, a platter, or whatever clean surface was available so they could finish cooling.

This was the method we followed now, and we soon had the card table covered with cookies to decorate.  The decorating Sharon usually managed by herself, unless she needed an opinion from me, which was understandable as she had an overwhelming assortment of decorating supplies.

In the matter of buying those supplies, I took advantage of the opportunity to be extravagant with several small, inexpensive items.  She had a pack of green-colored sugar, red-colored sugar, chocolate sprinkles, candy crinkles, and a small tube of blue icing.  Each cookie received her special attention.  She put red sugar on the clapper of one bell, green sugar across the top of another, and a blue stripe around the middle of another.  Another bell she covered with chocolate crinkles and white sugar.

“Mommy, do you think the Christmas stars should all have green sugar or could they be other colors, too?”

“Well, let me think.  You know, in the mall they have those big blue and silver trees at the entrance.  And when I was your age, the grocery store always sold little Christmas trees painted white and blue and red.  I think a blue star would be just fine.”

“I agree,” she replied, as she applied candy crinkles as miniature ornaments to the tree she was working on.  “I’ll make the stars blue.”

christmas cookies blue

Unjealous Heart, Chap 5, Post 7

Another part of our Christmas each year was making gifts to give family and friends.  This, too, I managed to have Sharon perceive as fun.   One year, we made latch hook wall hangings for everyone.  That was the year she completed a twelve by fourteen latch hook kit herself and was still enamored with what later proved to be too easy a craft for her high degree of manual dexterity and creativity.  Another year, we wove variegated yarn into plastic squares and gave each person a set of coasters.  For several years, we made cookies.   That first year in the apartment was a cookie year.

Although I had to type during Christmas Eve day, I stopped early in the evening to fix supper so we could begin our baking project.  Although baking six batches of cookies would be quite an undertaking with our limited space, Sharon enjoyed the hubbub and commotion our baking project entailed.  It sharpened her already keen sense of excitement about Christmas in general to turn our kitchen into a bona-fide, functioning cookie factory.

... free downloadable recipe book with 50 different Christmas Cookie

“Okay, baby, supper dishes are done.  Can you help me lay things out for packaging up the cookies?”

“Oh, yes, Mommy!  I know where everything is.  The tins are under the tree and I know where the ribbon and name tags are, too.”

In less than five minutes, my eager, beaming helper had the six cookie tins, which had cost only $1.29 each, on the card table next to our list of names, the name tags, curling ribbon, and tape.  Meanwhile, I had been assembling what we needed for making the cookies and, of course, clearing that tiny countertop.  The contents of the oven (extra cookie sheet, broiler rack, and small mixing bowl) sat on the floor in the corner next to the fan.  The big mixing bowl sat in the left half of the counter surrounded by white sugar, brown sugar, measuring cup, butter, vanilla, and eggs.  The other half of the counter was cleared of everything but a fine dusting of flour, the flour bin with sifter inside, and the rolling pin.

christmas-baking-gingerbread-cookies-food-background-concept-46473895

Unjealous Heart, Chap 5, Post 6

Next, we untangled the cords for the lights and I assisted Sharon as she put them on–“All by myself, Mommy!”  Then came my favorite, the beads — chains of red, blue, gold and silver glitter purchased one strand at a time over the last four years.

“What color beads do you think we should buy this year?”

“How about green?  We don’t have any green ones yet?”

“Should we leave a space for them?”

“No, I don’t think so.  We’ll buy them a little later, when the stores have their really good sales on Christmas decorations, and we’ll use them next year.”

After the beads came the ornaments.   Sharon loved the tiny foil presents and bells and stars while I loved the construction paper and glitter creations she had brought home since first grade, the Dutch girl in her red dress, the gold oval with her second grade picture in its center, the blue spire encircled with gold braid from third grade, and the green bell from last year.

Again, she was all seriousness as she asked my opinion about placement of the ornaments and, again, I responded in kind.

“Can we do the icicles now, Mommy?  And can we throw them, like we did last year?”

Finally, we were ready for the finishing touch.  Our little angel had cost three dollars at the Eagle Army-Navy store five years ago.  Although her cardboard and lace skirt has lost most of its shape, and her angelic head had lost patches of its hair, she topped our tree perfectly.   What her appearance might have lacked in fact, we made up for in fancy.  Likewise with the Alpine village we assembled at the foot of the tree.  The steep pointed roofs, frozen lake, plastic evergreens, and miniature ice-skaters used only half the circle of the fluffy white tree skirt, a mere eighteen inches or so.  But to appreciative eyes, it was as beautiful as the elegant, elaborate displays of Hummel figures we saw in store windows.

On the doorknob, we hung a string of jingle bells.  The walls we festooned with our Twelve Days of Christmas and Noel! Banner, and we draped a four-foot spray of plastic holly over the top of the room divider.  Then, we turned out the lights and stood side by side, arms around each other, giving new depth to the phrase “beaming with joy.”

“Oooooooo!” was all Sharon said for a few moments.

Then, “Ooooooooo!” again.  Those “Oooooos!” and those moments of silence told me she would be happy, and feel proud, every night in the five weeks to come before Christmas when we plugged in the tree each night.

Unjealous Heart, Chap 5, Post 5

 We did have a wonderful Christmas that year, and it included decking our little house, with its one little hall, and trimming our tree.  The tree trimming was a most festive occasion, of course, and little effort was required to make it seem so.  That year, decided to decorate the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  On Monday afternoon, I tidied up the front room and swept it.  Right before bedtime, we both cleared everything off the maple end table, the designated spot for our three-foot Christmas tree.

“Come on, sweetie, it’s bedtime.  We’ll start decorating tomorrow.”

I sat on the edge of the bed and pulled the blankets up over her chest, folding back the top two inches or so as we talked about how much fun it would be to trim our tree.

“Mommy, can I do the lights all by myself?”

“Of course you can, sweetie.  You have a good eye for where they need to go.  I remember that from last year.”

“And someday can we buy another Alpine village to go with the little one we have already?”

“Sure we will.”

The next night, when the tree trimming and hall decking began, I put on a Christmas tape, made two cups of hot chocolate, and climbed up in the attic to fetch the Christmas decoration boxes, handing them down to Sharon one at a time.  When all five boxes were in the front room, we each took a sip of our now-cool (like Sharon liked it) hot chocolate.  While Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole sang of white Christmases and winter wonderlands, we turned our little house into a Christmas land perfect for the two of us.

We assembled the red and green plastic tree stand, then the tree itself.  As Sharon unfolded the tree’s thinning branches, she carefully arranged them, just so, to hide the bare spots and crooked limbs caused by years of packing and unpacking.

“Mommy, does this branch look better up or down?”

I came over to stand next to her, then inspected the tree from all sides before I answered.  Her little face was intensely serious.  Although I could see only a miniscule difference, I rendered my opinion in a suitably grave tone of voice.

“I think its better slightly to the right, where you have it now.”

After two similar conferences on branch placement, the little tree silhouette was deemed satisfactory

Tips to s-t-r-e-t-c-h Christmas pleasures for your children

christmas lamp and frosty

I did not plan for Chapter 5 of this blog to coincide with Christmas 2015. But. . .  since it has, I am taking the space here to share my tips for making much of little at Christmas for your children.

Making special events even more special was part of the art I had learned of making little seem much every chance I got all year long.   My method was simple.

For Christmas, I focused on finding many little things so that Sharon would have lots of gifts to open on Christmas morning.  I also got some larger items, too, but mainly I purchased small  things.  At her age, I believed quantity would trump quality.

Second,  I paid close attention to what Sharon  seemed to like or find interesting.  That meant that for months earlier I had been buying up little gifts, things she noticed but thought we could not afford.  One truly sad fact was that she hardly ever asked for anything.  She knew our finances even though I never said a word.

Third, I took pains to wrap each gift elaborately.   I splurged in the one item I could: curling ribbon.    I used yards of bright reds, greens, yellows and blues to wrap each gift, sometimes doubling the ribbon so that two colors entertwined.  Then, each gift had a large hand-made bow, which often hid most of the little gift!   And each and every bow had several looooong streamers of curled curling ribbon dangling in every direction.   I stood some gifts up under the tree and laid others out flat, spreading them out as much as possible without making it obvious.

Fourth, I made a HUGE deal out of decorating our tiny tree.  We talked about it a week ahead of time.  I reminded her when we bought the package of instant cocoa that it was for when we decorated the tree.   The special box of cookies was also for tree decorating night.   On the designated Friday night, I prolonged the process as long as possible.  I also let her be in charge of where to place the lights and garland and ornaments, carefully discussing each placement when she asked my opinion.

Fifth, I stirred up Sharon’s  excitement ahead of time by putting some of the gifts out early  and telling her she could shake them and feel them.  (Some, of  course, were disguised.  I put one gift inside another and put rocks in the loose box to make a tantalizing noise.  For another, I wrapped the gift in an old towel so she would think it was “just clothes.”)

Sixth, on Christmas morning, I prolonged the tension of waiting by saying “Let’s wait until I have some coffee.”   And I numbered each gift on the bottom with a pencil so that she began opening with the little ones and worked her way up to the big, more exciting gifts.

Seventh, I watched her every response and commented on her comments, letting her happiness direct what we did.  Then, after it was all over, we laughed about it and talked about it some more.

Finally, and most important of all, I prayed.   I simply prayed that God would give my precious little girl a happy and grateful heart.  I shakily put it into His hands, telling Him, again, that I knew He loved Sharon and me every bit as much as folks who had more money.

 “I trust You, Lord”, I prayed.  “I trust You and I appreciate with all my heart how You help me take such good care of Sharon.   Thank You for loving us, Lord.  I love You!”

Want a simple Christmas?

Today’s post is, by permission, a blog post from a great website by Tawra Kellam -which is  http://livingonadime.com

This particular post is one of many on this great site that will help you s-t-r-e-t-c-h your dollars (and energy!) during this Christmas season.  Check this and the other posts out for some extremely useful and insightful ideas.

http://www.livingonadime.com/simple-christmas-more-with-less/

And, of course, the best way to reduce stress is to remember the “reason for the season” and, simply, keep your thoughts filled with gratitude for the greatest gift our loving heavenly Father gave us – Jesus Christ, our Savior and our soon-coming King!

 

 

Unjealous Heart, Chap 5, Post 4

For fifteen minutes, I examined each mirror on sale, debating carefully.

“Can our budget stand the shock of this one for $11.95?  It has beveled edges, and the frame around it is real fake wood.”

I leaned over and inspected the one next to it.

“The frame around this one for $8.95 is only painted plastic, but the mirror itself has unbeveled edges.  Well, the image is fairly good.”

I stepped back and forth in front of the two mirrors, comparing my reflection and trying to remember what benefit beveled edges gave a mirror.   I took two more steps to the left and found myself in front of still another stack of mirrors; these were $5.95, but the reflecting surface was so thin and the image it reflected so distorted I could not bear thinking of Sharon trying to use it.

“This one for $8.95 will be perfect.”  I nodded to myself and looked through the five mirrors in that row until I found one with no bent edges on the cardboard triangles around each corner.          I carefully balanced the mirror in the buggy, leaning it against the side with the edge protruding from the front.

Then I  began walking slowly toward the front of the store, passing by a row of straw baskets and wicker ware. We had used a brown paper bag, its top edge neatly folded, as a bedroom wastebasket for years.

“This medium sized brown one with three dark stripes will do just fine for her second big gift.”

Feeling pleased with myself, I loaded my purchases into the car, unloaded them, carried them into the house, and opened the attic door.  (Our tiny laundry room had a pull-down ladder leading up to a small attic that greatly expanded the limited storage space.)

As I carried the mirror up the pull-down stairs,  I noticed that the frame had pulled away from the glass for greater than one half the length of one side. With my mother’s well worn phrase, “You get what you pay for” ringing in my ears, I closed the attic stairs, lugged the mirror back to the car, drove back to the store, and exchanged it for an $11.95 one.  I had to rush to pick up Sharon from school, and I gladly stayed up late for two nights of typing to make up for the shopping trip time.  No matter.  Self concern, on this day as other days, was decreasing.    

Unjealous Heart, Chap 5, Post 3

I took as much care in wrapping the gifts as I had in purchasing them, perfectly aligning the edges of the paper with the edges of the boxes, making the ends fit as neatly as a hospital corner on a sheet.  I carefully constructed elaborate bows with long corkscrew streamers dangling from each gift.  I could be lavish because I had a huge assortment of curling ribbon purchased, of course, on sale.

Still not satisfied that she would have enough excitement on Christmas morning, I numbered the presents in pencil on the back in the order in which she could open them, beginning with the smallest, most inconsequential things, which this year would be the paper mache icicles and shower cap.  Last to be opened would be the big presents.  Of course, I found these (“miraculously”) on sale, too.

One cool and windy December Monday, I stopped typing at one o’clock and put on my one nice errand-running/shopping outfit, which consisted of red pants, a red and white striped top and good shoes.  I would have to stay up late typing to make up the two hours, but I had seen mirrors on sale at Zayre’s.  Sharon had no mirror in her bedroom, there was none in the front room, and she could only see down to her neck in the bathroom mirror.

A mirror in which she could see her whole self seemed the perfect big gift for her that Christmas.  It would help nurture her growing femininity.

Unjealous Heart, Chap 5, Post 2

When I judged my little nest egg, gleaned again from grocery money, had grown sufficiently, I stopped typing early one rainy November afternoon and spent two hours looking at every item on every shelf in that little store.  One corner shelf held tiny dog, bunny, and kitten ceramics on sale for $1.50 each.  These would be treasured additions to Sharon’s modest collection of miniature ceramics.  So would the commemorative birthday year numbers standing next to the menagerie of tiny animals.

The birthday year numbers were four two-inch tall bone china figures, with blue and pink roses, like wedding cake decorations, sprinkled all over, and a different baby animal at the base of each number.  A yellow puppy with droopy ears, wide eyes, and a pert little nose peeked out from behind the number nine.  A wise-looking baby owl used the zero in the number ten as an oval doorway, and a mother and baby chipmunk paused to rest beneath the towering numerals of age eleven.   With a deep cinnamon body, pale yellow face and tummy, the baby robin flapping its wings at the foot of the age twelve numerals would have to wait 18 months in my desk drawer for Sharon’s twelfth birthday, but keeping him hidden would be no problem.  And it would give me pleasure every time I opened that drawer.

Once I had purchased the little ceramics, the birthday numbers, two felt ornaments, and two six-inch paper mache icicles, I considered Sharon would have enough little presents to open, and all for less than ten dollars!  These gifts, along with the ones already in the desk drawer, meant that she would be busy opening presents for a good long while on Christmas morning.

The only gifts she would have to open, before we visited relatives later in the day, would be these that I gave her.  No brothers or sisters would scurry around opening up their own presents, teasing each other and laughing together over the huge mess they were making of discarded wrapping paper and ribbons.  That had been my experience at Christmas with two brothers and two parents.  Hers would be a dull Christmas morning if I didn’t provide some excitement.  How grateful I was that I understood this and that God had always helped me find many little items that she would truly treasure!