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Journey to the Cross — A Lenten Devotional

StainedGlassWindow You can follow this link below to the first installment of a daily Lenten Devotional from my friend Cynthia Bezek. It’s poignant, inspirational, and timely. I definitely think giving up being served is much more impactful (to myself and others) than giving up coffee or chocolate! I am looking forward to following along with Cynthia’s devotionals this Lent. Maybe you will want to, too. Journey to the Cross–February 18. Photo courtesy of digidreamgrafix and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Snow, Snow Shoes, and Serendipity

We are buried in seven inches of snow (at least) and another inch of ice on top of that. Terrific and treacherous at the same time. Terrific if you just want to play outside in the glorious stuff or hunker down inside, be cozy, and admire the winter wonderland outside your window. Treacherous if you actually have to drive in it!

Being a prairie girl, I LOVE snow and to be out in it whenever I can. I have fond memories of winters in Winterpeg (LOL), ice skating in our back yard or the neighborhood outdoor rink, building snow forts in our yards and in the playground at school, tobogganing, snowmobiling in neighbors’ fields …

… so imagine my delight when, yesterday, I took my dog for a walk at the park near our house and encountered a neighbor on snow shoes who invited me to join her and give them a whirl!

Snow shoes – now there’s a snow activity I’ve never done and have always wanted to!

When I first saw her, I wasn’t exactly sure what were on her feet, since they looked a bit like short cross-country skis and she had ski poles.  That’s because, in my imagination, snow shoes look like this:

However, nowadays snow shoes are a lot more techno-looking. My neighbor bought hers at REI. She quickly cinched them onto my boots like this:

Then off we went, taking turns. The park near our house has wooded paths and open fields–super fun for snow-shoeing. Loved it. Think I’m going to check out REI and get some for myself. And Doug, if I can talk him into it. More fun to do such things with company, don’tcha think?

In fact, having snow shoes would be a good excuse for excursions to Mount Rainier or Hurricane Ridge to use them.  I could have used a pair of those when we were at Hurricane Ridge last winter; I was sinking in snow up to my thighs trying to walk in it!

(Hurricane Ridge, January 2011, Olympic National Park)

Life is way too short to miss the beauty of God’s Creation in in EVERY season.

Get out and enjoy it!



Perogies and the 12th Day of Christmas

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS – DAY 12: January 6th

What is the 6th of January?

a.  Ukrainian Christmas Eve

b. Epiphany

c. the 12th day of Christmas

d. the perfect opportunity to pig out on perogies and cabbage rolls

Answer: ALL OF THE ABOVE!

January 6th is the proverbial 12th day of Christmas, and it is also the FIRST day – Christmas Eve – of Ukrainian Christmas.  (If I was really orthodox about it, I could start all over with yet ANOTHER 12 days of Christmas if I wanted to. But I won’t. I think I’m finally Christmassed out.)

Why do I care? Mostly because I LOVE perogies and Ukrainian Christmas is the perfect opportunity to indulge in my favorite childhood Ukrainian food. Both of my paternal grandparents emigrated to Canada from the Ukraine. They were both culturally and linguistically German but part of the lingering Ukrainian legacy in our family was – you got it – perogies!  And cabbage rolls!

Growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, where there is a large Ukrainian population, a number of my childhood friends celebrated Ukrainian Christmas. I was always a little jealous that we didn’t, because they always got two rounds of gifts! (Either that or their parents got great deals on buying presents because they could wait and shop the AFTER Christmas sales!)

Nonetheless, we enjoyed the perogies and cabbage rolls.

So guess what we had for dinner tonight at our house? Yep. Perogies. (They taste a lot better than they look.)  But maybe that’s just because I grew up on them.  I’ve linked the recipes if you want to try to make them from scratch. They’re kind of a lot of work, though. So I just stock up in bulk at Costco every time I go to Canada. 🙂

Do you have any favorite foods that connect you to your family history? What are they?  Do share!

3 French Foods

Three French Foods

So, tonight, what is technically the “third day of Christmas” according to the traditional calendar, finds our family in the Great White North (Canada). This is my Home and Native Land and we are here for Christmas round two with the Canadian relatives.

I LOVE coming home to Canada. There are so many things that are great memories for me of growing up here, especially around the holidays.

I never did have “three French hens” (a la “The Twelve Days of Christmas”). But I DID learn to love some French (Canadian) foods, even though our family isn’t French Canadian.  (Kind of hard to get away from French in Canada, you know. It’s on everything from signs to shampoo bottles.)

But that just served to give me a love for the language, I think. That and sitting through French class every day from kindergarten through twelfth grade and two years of university!

But I digress. This is supposed to be about food, not language.

Here are three French-Canadian foods I love at Christmas (with links to recipes I use personally!):

1. Buche de Noel (pictured above) – Yule Log. Hillary made this one for her French class Christmas party at school. She made another one for our family on Christmas Day.  Yum!  And especially good because it’s a wheat-free cake; perfect for our gluten-free Tim.

2. Tourtiere – Meat Pie. Made with ground beef and sausage and seasonings in a traditional flaky pie crust. Ooh la la!

3. Split Pea and Ham Soup – we make it the day after Christmas using the Christmas ham bone and leftover meat. Super!

Check ’em out … try ’em out … let me know how you like ’em!

 

Joyeux Noel … et Bonne Année et Bonne Santé!

(Merry Christmas and Happy New Year/Good Health to You!)

A Candy House in Powdered Sugar Snow

     

A CANDY HOUSE IN POWDERED SUGAR SNOW

Today we finally finished the gingerbread houses … our friend Katrina is the hands-down winner; look how beautifully hers turned out.  Now we can nibble it away through the rest of the 12 days of the Christmas.

Dave and Katrina are our Australian friends from England who live in California and who spend a lot of the holidays with us. Katrina is so fun and creative; she inspires me.

We all need friends who do that, don’t we?  🙂

Merry Christmas 2011!

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 10: CHRISTMAS MORNING, CINNAMON ROLLS, AND FAMILY ALL DAY LONG
“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays, let them overtake me unexpectedly, waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why this is Christmas Day!” ~Ray Stannard Baker

Everyone has their memories and expectations of what makes Christmas special, don’t they?  And more often than not, those memories are built around home and family and food. At least, for our family. Activities, too. But first and foremost I think food is the hands-down winner!

My daughter-in-law recently got me turned on to Pinterest, which is where she found a photo of a new twist (pun intended) on cinnamon rolls and asked me to make them. Another winner! Mom’s Homemade Cinnamon rolls are a family favorite, but this idea made them even more fun for Christmas. (Photo above; thought you might like to see how they turned out.)

I loved the quote I found for today’s blog. It’s true. We do tend to have too high of expectations of Christmas Day (and other family holidays) sometimes. The reality is that family ALL DAY LONG is an exercise in patience for even the most loving of families (which ours is, but still …). It’s a great opportunity, though, to learn to wait for each other, honor each other, be forbearing toward one another, to be consistently UNoffendable … and to laugh easily and not think to highly of ourselves.

We did THREE rounds of present exchanging, TWO rounds of full-on holiday meals, and ONE round of an over-the-top spread of Christmas desserts. Not to mention multiple games, walking the dogs in the park (whew, so great to get out of the house and get some fresh air!), and now cleaning up the aftermath … so crazy. So fun. So rewarding. So grateful and happy.

I can’t believe I blogged EVERY DAY for ten days at the busiest time of the year. Wow. I don’t have an excuse now for not doing it any other time, do I? 🙂

Joy and Christmas blessings to all … and to all a GOOD NIGHT!

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” ~Ephesians 4:2

Carolers on My Doorstep

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 9 – CHRISTMAS EVE: JESUS, GINGERBREAD, AND CAROLERS ON MY DOORSTEP

“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.” ~ Eric Sevareid

Church this evening – the kids sang, there were cookies and carols, it was great to see friends, and we remembered together why we get to have such a tremendous celebration every year.  IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS. Even those who don’t really believe get to benefit! Christmas is for everyone. 

We came home to a pan of lasagna nearly the size of my dining room table, which we hardly made a dent in. (That’s okay, I think I’ve got one more good day left in me then I’m going to crash and say “Get me out of the kitchen!” So when that happens it will be nice to have leftovers.)

The checker at the grocery store today wanted to be sure to wish me a “Merry Christmas” today and not a “Happy Holidays.” In a day and age when so many communities are throwing the nativity and “Merry Christmas” out the back door as quickly as they can embrace the more neutral “Happy Holidays” and a panorama of ornaments and snowflakes as representative of the real meaning of Christmas, my community has retained the nativity in the public park downtown (see photo).  I love it! I also love that fact that a group of twenty-plus carolers in Santa hats showed up on our doorstep this evening singing everything from Joy to the World to Frosty the Snowman to We Wish You a Merry Christmas. We gave them all cookies, joined in the singing, and went with them to carol at our neighbors across the street.

Fun to celebrate with family. Fun to celebrate with friends. And fun to celebrate with community.  Christmas is a celebration of God’s gift TO us, Jesus’ life FOR us, and the Spirit’s joy IN us.

Today, I got to experience all of those. Ended the day with gingerbread in the oven filling the house with a delicious smell as it baked and then cooled.  Decorating it will give the troops something to do tomorrow afternoon after presents are done and they’re waiting for ham and turkey. But that’s another blog post … now it’s time to go to bed, and dream of sugar plums and what we all might find under our tree in the morning … 🙂

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” ~ Matthew 2:1-2