Friday, December 31, 2010

day 365: i made it!!!!

"The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Our children will do to and for others whatever we have done to and for them.” Donna Reish…okay, so I’m not Bonhoeffer…but I thought of this quote before I read his! LOL!

I challenged myself in 2010 to write about aspects of Christian parenting every day of the year—and I made it! Sometimes due to busy travel schedules or motels with no internet, I had to double up here and there—but the point is that I posted 365 times about something very important to me: being Christian moms and dads to the wonderful children entrusted to our care.

Thanks for joining us. I pray that you will have a blessed new year. And that you will join us in 2011 for our character training focus!

And remember: “Our children will do to and for others whatever we have done to and for them.”

Thursday, December 30, 2010

day 364: wrapping up this year—and a sneak preview of 2011 at PP 365

Tomorrow is the last day of 2010! And the 365th day of the first year of Positive Parenting 3*6*5! I want to thank our readers and subscribers who have made this year so enjoyable for me as a writer. I also want to give you a sneak preview of the coming year here at Positive Parenting.

We are going to keep the name Positive Parenting 3*6*5 (although we will only post on weekdays next year) simply because I don’t want to “start from scratch” with a new name, url, etc.

I am excited about Positive Parenting in 2011—because you are going to be our “test” audience for many of our points from “Character Training From the Heart”! Yep, we are going to have a character training focus at least for the first part of the year (and probably much longer!).

So invite your friends to join us! But beware—the first few weeks of “how to’s” of character training are going to focus on the beginning of character training—modeling and having the character of Christ ourselves first!  Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

day 363: character training seminars by ray and donna reish

"Character is how you act when only your brothers and sisters are around!" Donna Reish :)
Ray and I have a couple of our character training seminars scheduled for 2011 already! I will post the details of these below.

In the meantime, we would love to plan to come to your area with a “Character Training From the Heart” seminar! If you are a small group, church, homeschool, or parenting leader, check out our blog more fully and consider scheduling a seminar—either for Christian parents in general or for homeschool groups. We have different Friday night/partial Saturday and Friday night/all day Saturday schedules available—beginning with the earliest character qualities of contentment, submission, cheerfulness, and obedience and moving through the older ages up through high school, if desired.

We are able to travel as needed, and as long as we may display our materials for sale, we really only need travel and lodging expenses in order to be able to come! (Note: For homeschoolers, we could even combine it or attach it to a writing seminar or homeschool convention we are speaking at!)

If you are near northeast Indiana and would like to attend one of the two seminars scheduled here, contact us (260-597-7415). We would love to have you!

JANUARY— Murray Missionary Church, 1117 N. Washington Street, Murray (near Bluffton)—Friday, Jan 21st and Saturday, Jan 22nd

FEBRUARY— Oak Grove Church of God in Columbia City, Indiana (near Fort Wayne)—Friday, Feb 18th and Saturday, Feb 19th (with a snow postponement date of the 25th and 26th)

Seminar Schedule

Both of these will be general Christian parenting seminars (not specific to homeschoolers only) focusing on character training from toddlerhood through about age twelve. Sessions go in chronological order, age-wise, by character quality (with 45 min sessions and 10 min breaks between), so parents may choose the ones that pertain to them if they are unable to attend all of the seminar.

*Friday night and half day Saturday—7:00-10:00 on Friday and 9:00-12:00 on Saturday


7:00-8:00 –OVERVIEW: The Why’s and How’s of Character Training: The Importance of Character Training, Modeling, Developing Good Family Habits, and More

8:00-9:00--The Early Qualities in Toddlers and Preschoolers: Contentment, Obedience, Cheerfulness, and Submission

9:00-10:00--Laying the Foundation for All Qualities for All Ages: Focus on Obedience and Submission; Child Discipline; Three Aspects of Parenting—The 3 P’s of Parening: Proactive, Positive, and Punishing


9:00-10:00—Helping Our Children Add Virtue to Their Lives: Link Between Foundational Qualities and “Higher Level” Qualities; Helping Children Gain Their Own Moral/Character Compass; The Next Qualities

10:00-11:00—From Obedience to Initiative: Responsibility, Helpfulness, Kindness, Respect, and Honesty

11:00-12:00 Growing in Character: Initiative, Deference, Resourcefulness, Diligence, Promptness, Empathy, and More

Contact us for registration information for either seminar at 260-597-7415 or

Note: Some seminars have a small fee of $10 per person for seminar and materials, depending on facility, travel, etc.

If you cannot make one of these two seminars, but would like to host one in your area, check out the details at Character Training From the Heart! Lastly, subscribe to receive our parenting blog in 2011(Positive Parenting 365) —we will be doing months of character training teaching in the new year!

day 362: one of the most glorious days of my life

Twenty-eight years ago today I became a mother. Hard to believe it’s been that long, but I have a handsome, sweet, wise, diligent, kind, smart, talented, athletic, Christian young adult son to prove to me that it has indeed been twenty-eight years! And he’s an incredible husband, to boot!

Truly, the day I became a mother (all pain and stress aside!) was one of the most glorious days of my life. To think that I (along with my husband) had brought this baby into the world. To think that he was mine, really mine!

Then reality set in. I had helped raise my three younger siblings, often caring for them all day and all evening during summers that my mom worked two jobs. And most weekends year round while she worked. I babysat all the time growing up. And yet, the time arrived for us to take Joshua home from the hospital and panic overcame me. I remember calling the nurse’s station, telling them that I was supposed to leave the hospital that afternoon and nobody had showed me how to bathe the baby! I had no idea what I was doing, nursing-wise either. I never knew if Joshua was too hot or too cold. Had enough to eat or not. I knew so little about physically caring for this little bundle.

A couple of years later and even more reality set in—not only was I responsible for this child’s physical well-being, I was also responsible for his spiritual well being. How could I teach him right from wrong? How could I keep him from shouting, “No” and running the other way when I gave a command? How could I teach him to love God and God’s ways more than this world? How could I train him to have the character of Christ in this life—to put others before himself, to be kind to the weak, to speak words that were uplifting, to be a diligent worker, and much more?

I have made many mistakes along the way—and our first two “guinea pigs” (Joshua 28 and Kayla 24) have had to bear the results of my inadequacies. But when I look at what an amazing young man Joshua has become, when I hear how he treats his wife exactly like the Bible says a husband should, when I observe him teaching our cottage classes and note the wisdom he possesses and the detailed preparations he has made, when I watch his creativity blossom into lessons and stories, when I see how devoted he is to his younger brothers and sisters, when I see him study and learn every day of his life, when I see concern on his face if he thinks I’m having a bad day or hard time—my inadequacies melt away and are replaced with the glorious joys of the time of his birth.

No, I haven’t been a perfect mother for Joshua. There are things that I wish I could undo or words I wish I had never spoken. But the glories of motherhood far outweigh any inadequacies I feel. For I have been appointed to fulfill one of the greatest callings any person can have—I have been given the calling and glorious joy of being a mother.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

day 361: links for christmas posts

I wanted to provide a little “table of contents” of sort for those who want to bookmark ideas, stories, recipes, etc. for next Christmas. You can find the following blog titles at the links given below. Thanks for joining us this Christmas season!

Day 306-309: Organizing Kids for Christmas—

Day 310-314: Snack Mix Gifts---

Day 315-318: Preparing Kids for Holidays--Manners, Selflessness, and More---

Day 323-324: Turkey Leftover Ideas---

Day 340-: Ham Leftover Ideas---

Day 341: Side Dish Leftovers--

Day 325-326: Our Decorating Traditions (With Pics!)---

Day 329: Free Christmas Advent E Book--

Day 330-333: Christmas Musings, Parts I-IV (re-run!)---

Day 334: Christmas Activity E Book---

Day 335: Free Online Advent Calendar---

Day 337: Colors of Christmas---

Day 339: Charlie Brown Christmas ---

Day 342-343: Fudge Gifts for Christmas---

Day 344: Singing Through the Nativity Story (with links to lyrics!)---

Day 345: Mistletoe--Peace With Family at Christmas---

Day 346: Christmas Read Alouds w/ ratings and links for Ages twelve and under---

Day 347: Nativity Sets Galore!---

Day 348: Gift of the Magi by O'Henry (to read aloud!)--

Day 349 and 350: Quick Bread Gifts--

Day 351: Two Dozen Goodie Recipes From Our House to Yours---

Day 352: Older Kids’ Read Alouds w/ Links and Ratings---

Day 353: Christmas in the Car--

Day 354: “A Burglar’s Christmas” by Willa Cather---

Day 355: They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love—Lee Strobel’s story---

Day 357: Christmas Sorrow—“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”---

Day 359: Holiday Leftovers Revisited---

Day 360: Merry Christmas From the Reishes!--

Monday, December 27, 2010

day 360: merry christmas from the reishes!

Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas! I am going to be working on my conciseness techniques in this letter as last year we had sickness and I was unable to send a Christmas card/letter. Our “illness year” began in March of 2009 when I kept having various symptoms that continued to increase until May when I finally started having tests. After three doctors in Indiana and Ohio, nothing showed up on the tests, yet I continued to have problematic symptoms, such as night blindness to the point of not being able to drive in the evenings for six months and such confusion that public speaking and teaching were getting to be problems (among other challenges). Fast forward to the last six months, and it was found, through simple blood tests that I was severely Vitamin D deficient, leading to some sort of pre-diabetic, carbohydrate intolerance. I just needed to up my Vit D exponentially and eat low carb. (“Just” eat low carb—that’s an oxymoronic statement!)

Throughout that process, my dad fell extremely ill in October 2009 and found himself unable to stand, walk, or “feel internally” when a virus attacked his spinal cord, leaving him with para-paralysis. After a month in the hospital and a month in rehab, he went home to continue rehab. Several months later he has regained most of his feeling and now walks two miles most days with his walker. Halfway through my dad’s recovery, Ray’s mom had a severe stroke and all that, that entails. After time in the hospital and rehab, she too, is on the mend and is back home living with Ray’s brother and nephew and regaining her skills. Over about a six month period at the end of 09 and beginning of 2010, I found myself in hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and rehab units nearly one hundred times for me, Ray’s mom, and Dad. (Now you see why I didn’t get a Christmas letter out last Christmas!) On the other side of all of that, I am just so thankful. So thankful that we are all three well or getting well—and that both of these parents are still with us. Thankfully, Mom’s health has been excellent and my step-mom’s lupus has been under control more often than not.

Ray and I have been doing the same things we say every Christmas letter: teaching the kids, spending time with our adult kids, traveling to see our kids, playing with our kids, mentoring our kids, advising our kids, loving our kids…yeah…same thing for nearly three decades! But they have been the best twenty-eight years! Parenting has been phenomenal—and we are so grateful to be able to share our experiences through our homeschooling ministry and publishing company, Training for Triumph; our parenting blog, Positive Parenting 3*6*5; our speaking ministry; character training seminars; books and curriculum materials; and any other avenue we can find! Our “cottage classes” to homeschoolers continue to grow and bring us great joy as we help parents homeschool their kids by offering writing, language arts, science, history, apologetics, and math classes to second through twelfth graders. Ray has been enjoying teaching physics and chemistry the last two years—two new classes for him. And I enjoy it that he does the math and science in high school! Ray also coaches Jacob’s Upwards, plays basketball with his four boys at a church in Bluffton once or twice a week, dances with me every chance we get, and thinks of everybody else more than himself. (And yes, he still works full time at Buckhorn as the Materials Manager, too!)

We only have two officially in school since Jonathan does mostly college classes. It’s strange to have so few students—but still lots of fun. I continue to write and edit—we have over two thousand students now in all of our curriculum books around the world (just hit the 14th country, Papua New Guinea, the week before Kayla was to go there for a national HIV/AIDS ministry outreach!). Love writing, editing, and teaching—and LOVE helping people with parenting and homeschooling. In between all of that illness and work over the past two years, we managed to travel to OH, PA, and SC to watch Jonathan and Kara perform; OH, IN, MI, KY, and IL to speak; TX and MO to visit Kayla and move her; and FL to do a character training seminar and take a family vacation (all eleven of us!).

Joshua and Lisa still live near us in Bluffton. They took their first-ever “just them” vacation last month to Disney World. Joshua still paints for Yaste Painting and writes, teaches, speaks, and typesets with and for me with Training for Triumph. Joshua is an outstanding history, writing, literature, and apologetics teacher. He and I have been expanding our Correspondence Writing Program—and having fun working together. Lisa continues to key punch for our books too. They are an amazing couple!

Cami and Joseph live in Fort Wayne and continue to run One Heart Disability Ministry at First Assembly—and Joseph bought a bread delivery route nearly a year ago. They both have hearts for the disabled and forgotten—and it is so exciting to see God use them. They are also helping a family with four children who lost their mother in the spring with the kids’ homeschooling and more. Cami and Joseph have the three boys over all the time to stay overnight and play. They are busy, busy, busy investing in so many lives. The “little boys” are so blessed to have Joshua and Lisa and Cami and Joseph close by.

Kayla graduated from Southwestern University in TX in May with a BS in nursing (following her Associates two years before in nursing from IPFW) and a BA in biblical studies. She began her first full time missions position with the Assemblies of God World Missions as a health educator for Global Aids Partnership this fall. When she is not oversees, she lives above her office in Springfield, Missouri and writes curriculum and material for her missions trips as well as for other missionaries to use to reach those affected by HIV and AIDS (sort of a “missionary to missionaries”)—and in her first three months with GAP has gone to Botswania, South Africa, and Papua New Guinea and will be heading to Ethiopia in January. If you are looking for a place for an end-of-year contribution, Kayla is still raising funds for her mission work—and continues to be one of the most responsible, diligent, committed, resourceful, wise, and creative people I know!

Kara has been interning and earning an associates degree in Drama Ministry (plus much more!) at the Academy of Arts in Greenville, South Carolina for the past two years. When in SC, she studies drama and Bible, helps put on numerous “home” performances, does various jobs for the ministry (along with her fellow interns), and more. When on the road (twelve to fifteen weeks a school year), she teaches drama seminars to homeschool groups and Christian schools. We were thrilled to have her team come teach our drama seminar—and even more thrilled that she got to direct Jakie’s Elementary Drama. We miss her terribly—but are so excited to see her blossom in her area of ministry and giftings. She continues to be one of the sweetest young ladies in the world! 

Jonathan turned eighteen and will graduate from high school in May. He traveled from Pittsburg to New York to NC with the summer drama ministry teams with the Academy of Arts (where Kara goes to school) for the past two summers—and received his team’s “Academy Award” for highest character this summer. Yep, he’s pretty much amazing. He has become an incredible assistant teacher to me in our cottage classes and plans to pursue English teaching and Bible in college. He also takes early-entry classes at Huntington University and works hard with the One Heart Disability Ministry, often speaking at their services. His love for books is apparent by his extensive Christmas “wish list” of nothing more than books! (Hmmm…reminds me of his oldest sister through the years!)

Josiah will turn sixteen in February, and we will suffer through another student learning to drive. (He will be a great student; I will be a mess!) I truly think that is the worst part of parenting—when kids learn to drive! He is an awesome drummer and also works with the disability ministry. Last summer he served at the Joni and Friends family camp in Michigan for a week. He and Jonathan are amazing order takers and fillers—Josiah can often be found giving a mother homeschooling advice as he takes her order (only when asked, of course!). Josiah loves football, basketball, and ultimate frisbee and loves playing with Dad and his brothers (among other “young adults”) at a church’s open gym each week. Josiah continues to be “his daddy’s son,” exhibiting stellar character in all that he does. He is empathetic, loving, thoughtful, diligent, studious, and responsible…sometimes I think we do not deserve these kids!

Jacob is twelve and has the honor and the curse of being the “baby of the family.” At the top of his Christmas list was “to only have one or two people telling me what to do over the holidays”! He gets tons of attention though—so I think it all shakes out in the end! He loves basketball, legoes, football, friends, and the disability ministry. He, too, has the gift of empathy and has others’ well being at the forefront of his mind and heart most of the time. He still loves to read with Mama—for which I am so grateful!

Thanks for reading—and for whatever part you may have played in our lives this past year—as students, fellow homeschoolers, curriculum users, blog readers, seminar attendees, friends, family, encouragers, leaders—we appreciate all of you. May the baby in the manger be found in your heart and life over the next year.

And, of course, my closing advice for this year: “Whatever you do to and for your children they will someday do to and for others.”

In His love,


day 359: holiday leftovers revisited!

Day 323-324: Turkey Leftover Ideas---

Day 340-: Ham Leftover Ideas---

Day 341: Side Dish Leftovers--

Sunday, December 26, 2010

day 357: christmas sorrow—“i heard the bells on christmas day”

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep”:

‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;"

Having a family who is close to us spend their first Christmas without their mother reminds me daily that there are many out there who are hurting, some even despairingly sorrowful, this Christmas. I long to do something, anything, to lessen their pain…and yet I feel inadequate to do so.

Then came our reading in “Stories Behind the Songs of Christmas” about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Christmas Bells” poem (today sung as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”). While it did not give me any specific insight into how to reach out to those I love who are hurting this Christmas, it did remind me once again, that God is there—always—and that some day they will hurt less than today…and then later less…though the hollowness will always be there to a certain degree. God will be there.

Christmas 1863 found Longfellow in despair. The Civil War was raging; his wife had died two years previously in a freak accident; and his son returned form the war with severe wounds.

That Christmas Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem, “Christmas Bells,” with its well-known words:

“I heard the bells on Christmas day,

Their old, familiar carols play.

And wild and sweet, the words repeat,

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

In Wadsworth’s original poem, there are two verses about the Civil War, which we do not sing as part of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The following verse we do sing—and it shows us so clearly the pain that this man faced:

“And in despair, I bowed by head;

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;

‘For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men!’”

The next verse, however, is the one that gives us hope—and the one that I wish I could place within the soul of every hurting person I love (and the one that I needed within my soul just twelve Christmases ago when I could not leave the sofa on Christmas day following the stillbirth of our final baby just two months earlier):

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep”:

‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men!’”

Somehow when you know a fellow traveler has walked the path of sorrow and grief before you—and has come out with words within his heart of the magnitude of this song—you feel the strength from his journey to carry on in your own.

That is what I love about this song—the honesty that yes, this journey felt impossible at times. But he made it to the other side with praise for God and a knowing that “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!” And those I love will too.

Listen to Casting Crowns sing this incredible song:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

day 355: “they’ll know we are Christians by our love"

 “they’ll know we are Christians by our love"—how an atheist was led to belief through sacrificial giving—a story about lee strobel for family read aloud

Lee Strobel, in his book, “A Case for Christmas,” tells the heart-warming story of the poverty-stricken family he met while “investigating” Christ (as an atheist) many years ago when he was a journalist for “The Chicago Tribune.” This family, the Delgados, ultimately awakened his previously-absent faith, proving that during this time of year, and all of the time, the words, “they will know you are Christians by your love” are completely accurate.

The Delgados, sixty-year old Perfecta and her two granddaughters Lydia and Jenny, were living in a small apartment after having been burned out of their roach-infested tenement. Strobel arrived at their home as he was working on a series about the neediest people in Chicago. Strobel could not believe what he found—a small kitchen table and a handful of rice. A short-sleeved dress each for the girls—and one sweater that the two of them took turns wearing, alternating as they walked to and home from school a half mile away.

Besides the shock of extreme poverty that Mr. Strobel observed, he also witnessed another first—the hope and peace that this arthritic, sickly grandmother exuded. She was sure of her faith, convinced that Jesus had not and never would abandon them.

The atheist-journalist wrote the article, but could not get this family out of his mind. He pondered the irony of it all—this family had nothing but faith and yet was joy-filled. He had all things material, but lacked faith—and felt hollow within.

On Christmas Eve, he decided to drop in on the Delgados. What he saw again shocked him. Where there had been lack, there now was plenty. Where there had been emptiness, there now was fullness. The readers of his newspaper had responded generously to his article, providing this family with an apartment brimming with material gifts: roomfuls of furniture and appliances; beautiful Christmas tree with gifts galore beneath it; more food than they had probably seen in one place; myriads of clothing, including warm winter garments, scarves, gloves, and hats. Additionally, they had received thousands of dollars in cash.

Strobel’s retelling of the moments after he entered the apartment this second time is so poignant, allow me to quote from the book (and the website linked at the end of this post):

“But as surprised as I was by this outpouring, I was even more astonished by what my visit was interrupting: Perfecta and her granddaughters were getting ready to give away much of their newfound wealth.”

“ When I asked Perfecta why, she replied in halting English: ‘Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do.’”

”That blew me away! If I had been in their position at that time in my life, I would have been hoarding everything. I asked Perfecta what she thought about the generosity of the people who had sent all of these goodies, and again her response amazed me: ‘This is wonderful; this is very good,’ she said, gesturing toward the largess. ‘We did nothing to deserve this --- it's a gift from God.’ ‘But,

she added, ‘it is not his greatest gift. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. That is Jesus.’”

”To her, this child in the manger was the undeserved gift that meant everything --- more than material possessions, more than comfort, more than security. And at that moment, something inside of me wanted desperately to know this Jesus --- because, in a sense, I saw him in Perfecta and her granddaughters.”

”They had peace despite poverty, while I had anxiety despite plenty; they knew the joy of generosity, while I only knew the loneliness of ambition; they looked heavenward for hope, while I only looked out for myself; they experienced the wonder of the spiritual while I was shackled to the shallowness of the material --- and something made me long for what they had. Or, more accurately, for the One they knew.”

“ The Delgados amazed me by the way they sacrificially reached out to their neighbors with a tangible expression of Christ's love. What an opportunity for all of us to follow their cue this Christmas season --- and to watch as God cracks open the hearts of even the most hard-hearted cynics.”

The quotes in this post were taken from Lee Strobel’s book, THE CASE FOR CHRISTMAS, as was the content of the story.

You may access the story in its entirety, as well as more information about Mr. Strobel’s books at

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

day 354: the burglar’s christmas by willa cather—story to read together

Last week I posted a link to a favorite Christmas story (“Gift of the Magi”) that is available online in its entirety. I hope you and your family enjoyed reading that together!

Today I am thrilled to provide a link to another favorite, though lengthier one, by Willa Cather (author of “Oh Pioneers” and “My Antonia”) entitled “The Burglar’s Christmas.” It is rather long and may even require two reading sessions, but it is an incredibly heart-warming story of reconciliation, forgiveness, and a mother’s love.

You may find it in its entirety here:

Merry Christmas, special families!

day 353: christmas in the car

Tonight as we drove home from an extended family Christmas gathering, reading aloud and singing, I was reminded of an old article I wrote for our newsletter several years ago—Christmas in the Car. I will post it in its entirety below—gotta sneak in those family times any chance we get as our kids get older!

From 2004:

If your children are growing up as fast as ours are, and if you travel distances to church, piano lessons, grandparents, etc. as we do, you might want to try some of our “Christmas in the Car” tips. Basically, every year I see the holiday time slipping away from us. The girls are taking college classes; off to Spanish or piano; teaching their own guitar, language arts, and piano students; working at their jobs; and more. Every time I think we’re going to have a sing-along/reading time tonight, someone announces that she has a Spanish test tomorrow and has to study all evening! Thus, our “Christmas in the Car” time was born.

We spend a great deal of time in the vehicle each week—driving to lessons, church, grandparents, etc.---all forty-five minutes away from us minimum. Being the efficiency expert that I am (of sorts!), I began utilizing this time in the vehicle to keep some of our holiday traditions alive. Try some of our “Christmas in the Car” ideas—and keep those traditions going strong:

*Sing carols as you drive.

*Listen to Christmas radio dramas (Focus on the Family has good ones), Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue Christmas stories, Christmas books on tape, Adventures in Oddysey Christmas stories, etc. as you are driving.

*Sing your way through the Christmas story. Start with “Mary, Did You Know?” and move on to “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” then move onto anything having to do with the shepherds (“The First Noel,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard on High”). Next move into the birth/after the birth with “Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away in a Manger,” and “We Three Kings.” Lastly, sing of the joy of his arrival: “Joy to the World” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

*Tell the Christmas story in one sentence increments as you go around the van, person-by-person. (This gets interesting with the little ones who might have them fleeing Herod’s wrath before Jesus is even born!)

*If a passenger can read without being sick, you might read your way through a favorite (pictureless) holiday book. We enjoy reading Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado and The Birth by Gene Edwards. Everyone looks forward to reading another chapter the next time we get in the van.

*Likewise, we read “devotional” type books about Christmas while we drive. This year, we are enjoying short chapters in the book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas (see review). We have also enjoyed Christmas Stories From the Heart, The Christmas Reader, and more in years past.

*Use the driving time to memorize the Christmas story from the book of Luke. (We like to assign one verse to each person and go from person to person.)

*We enjoy memorizing all the verses from a certain Christmas song each year. In years past, we have memorized “Away in a Manger,” “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and “We Three Kings.” We can still sing most of the verses today!

*Drive by Christmas lights on your evening travels.

*Go through a drive-through or walk-through nativity while driving by one.

*Deliver goodies to those in route.

*Play “20 Questions Christmas-Style” or “Name That Christmas Tune.”

*New game: A person picks three things about the Christmas story that are really true or just thought to be true (or embellished, such as the little drummer boy playing for Jesus), and the others try to guess which two things are really in the Bible and which one is not. This is eye-opening.

*Sing whatever Christmas song you are reminded of by the decorations you see—stars, snowmen, angels, etc.

*Make up your own humorous twelve days of Christmas song, with each person getting to add their own items to the list as you sing around the van.

*Play the ABC Christmas game—“What I love about Christmas is A for angel, B for baby, C for candy, etc.” Go around and each person starts with A and tries to remember what was previously said. (This is a spin-off of the “I went to Grandma’s and I took A for applesauce, B for blankets, etc.)

*My personal favorite: Have someone write your holiday cooking and shopping list and holiday menus down for you while you drive and dictate to them. (Be forewarned: No comments about the spelling or penmanship are allowed when the child is done writing for you!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

day 352: christmas read alouds for ages ten (or twelve) and up rated as fave, etc. with links

Different ones have asked for more read aloud ideas, especially my very favorites, so I thought I would list them by age (today—ten or so and up) and by category (i.e. “Bible-related”; traditions; devotional; etc.) with *** by my “very-most-favorite-if-we-only-read-a-handful-of-christmas-books-this-year-this-would-be-one-of-them”! Hope this helps you as you prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ with your sweet children.

Note: Many of the books on this list make for wonderful devotionals for anybody—not just for read alouds!


***Wouldn’t want to go a Christmas without it


*Good enough to make it on my list! 

Note: I have included “out of print” ones because you can often pick them up used or at the library.

Note: Every time I review books, I forget to include this note. It is actually not proper to place quotation marks around book titles (major works). However, when I post to the blog, my italics (the proper way to note book titles) go away. Thus, I surround book titles with quotation marks on here. Maybe I will get more savvy as I blog longer, but so many things about the internet/blogging elude me!

                   “Bible/Devotional/Nativity-Related Stories/Retellings”

*”One Incredible Moment: Celebrating the Majesty of the Manger” by Max Lucado I do various Christmas "devotional" types of books with the family each year. I love different writers' inspirational thoughts on Christmas. This year I am doing Max Lucado's "One Incredible Moment: Celebrating the Majesty of the Manger" with the two little guys in the mornings. Very cool book!

**”Come and Behold Him…An Invitation to Christmas Worship” by Jack Hayford. I am re-reading this one aloud this year—and I read it fifteen years ago to my olders too. It is so inspirational and worshipful.

*“”The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger” by Lee Strobel--Just started a new Christmas book that I highly recommend for those with older kids who want "devotional" type of Christmas reading that is on the more serious side: Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel. We have a lot of his other books; some of his dvd's; and some audios--but this one is just the perfect size for Christmas reading and toting around. Warning: Read small portions at a time; it’s fairly heady.

***”Cosmic Christmas” by Max Lucado. We have read this short (sixty pages without much text on each page?) almost every year for the last six or eight as we drive to a relatives since it only takes an hour or so to read aloud. It tells the story of Christ’s birth from heaven’s viewpoint—with Satan and angels battling. An extremely cool nativity story that our teens love.

**”The Birth” by Gene Edwards; similar to “Cosmic Christmas” but lengthier and in more detail. Gene Edwards is a master storyteller.

***”A Christmas Longing” by Joni Ereckson Tada. My favorite Christmas devotional—short entries, very poignant and moving. Love it!

                     “Traditions and More” Types of Books

**“Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas” by Ace Collins; I have read from this ever Christmas for years and years. We never read the entire book—just a dozen entries or so each year. We use it in part in place of our history during December—it is so interesting!

**”Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” by Ace Collins
Instead of our regular history unit studies during December, we have always done various Christmas tradition books. This one is one that we have used often (and are using this year). It is so interesting to learn about the history of customs, songs, and traditions. This is a good book for Christian families with older children (say, ten or eleven and up).

**”Christ in the Carols: Thirty-One Devotionals for Christmas and Advent” by Christopher and Melodie Lane; more devotional than educational, this book about Christmas carols has shorter entries than the previous one. It is a beautiful little book.

**”Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader: Christmas Collection” Portable Press; Yes, Uncle John’s! This is like all of the other Uncle John books—informative essays about everything, except this one is Christmas only. Such interesting tidbits—secular and Christian about Christmas past and present. We get a kick out of this one!

      “Other Christmas Stories or ‘Set at Christmastime Type Stories”

*”The Max Lucado Christmas Collection” by Max Lucado; just got this one in the mail today! Was recommended by a friend—and I love Max Lucado’s writing style, so I’m sure we’ll love it!

**“A Christmas Reader: A Collection of Family Favorites for the Holiday Season” compiled by Gail Harvey; has many classic stories too. I have read from this one off and on for twenty years!

*”Startling Joy: Seven Magical Stories of Christmas” by James Calvin Schaap re-titled “Finding Christmas: Stories of Startling Joy and Perfect Peace” –a little longer “short stories” than the Christmas in My Heart series, but still filled with heart-warming ones.

**”Christmas in My Heart: A Treasury of Timeless Christmas Stories” compiled and edited by Joe L. Wheeler. One of my favorite Christmas collections is any of the Joe Wheeler Christmas story books. There are so many of them, so there are many out there for sale used too. Check out the extensive list of collections at his site below. These are heart-warming short stories for Christmas read alouds, gift books, and more! (This is the same author I wrote about earlier with the many wonderful “Great Stories Remembered” books.)

***“Christmas Stories from the Heart” by Alice Gray. One of our top three "Christmas compilation" books. Heart-warming, amazing Christmas stories for family read alouds. I can't recommend this one highly enough for ALL Christian families who love to read and share stories together. (Note: Older editions have different covers. Libraries also carry this one.)

**”A Treasury of Christmas Classics” Harold Shaw Publishers (not in print anymore) –another one with classic stories. Great for literature!

Monday, December 20, 2010

day 351: two dozen christmas recipes from our kitchen to yours!

                                                Mexican Wedding Cakes

One of our favorites! So tender and rich. We make them for every occasion!

2 cups butter 1 cup powdered sugar

4 cups sifted flour 2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup finely chopped pecans

extra powdered sugar for rolling after baking

1. Whip butter with mixer; add sugar.

2. Next, add flour and vanilla.

3. Add nuts.

4. Roll in balls the size of walnuts.

5. Bake about 10-12 minutes regular oven; 7-10 minutes convection.

6. Roll in powdered sugar as soon as possible after baking.

7. Re-roll in powdered sugar before serving.

                                          Sour Cream Cookies

A favorite of several in our family, hands down! These are the most tender, soft, delicious cookies. We use various colors of sprinkles for other occasions (red and blue for July 4th, red for Valentine’s Day, pastel for Easter, etc.).

4 c flour 1 ¼ tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp soda ¾ tsp salt

1 1/4 c. butter, softened

3 eggs 2 cups sugar

1 ½ tsp vanilla 1 ¼ cup sour cream

Colored sprinkles/sugar according to occasion

1. Sift soda, flour, salt, and baking powder together; set aside.

2. Beat butter, sugar, and eggs together.

3. Beat sour cream and vanilla into the butter mixture.

4. Gradually beat dry ingredients into the wet mixture.

5. Refrigerate for one hour or longer. (We shape and freeze, freeze in one quarter containers (chunks of dough); etc. too.)

6. Drop and sprinkle with colored sugars (or sprinkle half way through baking time. (If sprinkled before baking it's not as distributed but it stays on better.)

7. Bake at 350' for 6-8 minutes for convection; 8-11 minutes regular oven.

                                  Peanut Blossom (“Kiss”) Cookies

These are better than your average peanut butter cookie. We prefer the milk chocolate taste of stars on them rather than kisses. These go quickly on holiday trays.

5 ¼ cups flour 1 ½ cups peanut butter

3 tsp soda 3 eggs

1 ½ tsp salt 6 TBSP milk

1 ½ cups sugar 3 tsp vanilla

1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed 3 pkgs Hershey’s kisses or stars

1 ½ cups shortening/butter (we use ½ Crisco and half real butter)

1. Cream butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar.

2. Whisk eggs.

3. Mix milk, eggs, and vanilla in separate bowl.

4. Pour milk mixture into creamed mixture, and mix.

5. Combine remaining ingredients (except kisses) in another mixing bowl.

6. Add to mixing ingredients until well blended.

7. Shape dough into balls, using a rounded teaspoon for each.

8. Roll balls in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets.

9. Bake for 8-11 minutes convection; 10-13 regular.

10. Top each cookie immediately with a kiss, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around the edge.


A simple candy (though the dipping process is best done by older kids or adults or you’ll have peanut butter balls floating in your melted chocolate!) that most people love. I’m always amazed how quickly we run out of these in spite of the large amount it seems we make on candy days.

1 (18 ox) jars creamy peanut butter 2 sticks (1 cup) butter

5 cups powdered sugar 2 cups chocolate chips

1. Mix peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter in mixing bowl until well blended.

2. Add more peanut butter or powdered sugar if mixture is too moist or too crumbly.

3. Chill until firm.

4. Roll into small balls and place on wax paper.

5. Melt chocolate chips in large glass measure at 70% power for three minutes, stirring every one minute or so until melted and creamy.

6. Dip each ball with toothpick or candy dipper into chocolate. Leave top part of ball undipped.

7. Makes around 100 balls.

8. Let set up on foil pieces until firm (usually a few hours if doing it at room temperature).

                                         Peanut Butter Fudge

This is the yummiest peanut butter fudge I’ve ever had---when I get the texture right. It can be tricky to get it just right, but it is so worth it.

4 cups brown sugar 4 cups mini marshmallows

4 cups white sugar 4 cups peanut butter

2 cups evaporated milk 4 TBSP vanilla

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

1. Combine sugars, evaporated milk, and butter in heavy saucepan.

2. Cook until softball stage on medium (235’), stirring often.

3. Remove from stove.

4. Stir in marshmallows, peanut butter, and vanilla.

5. Stir until all is melted and begins to thicken.

6. Pour into 2 13x9 greased baking dishes.

7. Cool, cut, and serve.

8. Makes approximately 5-6 lbs.

                                          Never Fail Chocolate Fudge

My personal favorite holiday treat—the more walnuts, the better. This is a very simple fudge recipe that truly is no-fail.

8 cups sugar ½ lb butter (2 sticks)

2 (7 oz) jars marshmallow cream 2 cups chopped nuts

2 12 oz cans evaporated milk 2 12 oz packages choc chips (4 cups)

1. Melt butter in large heavy sauce pan.

2. Stir in milk and sugar.

3. Bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching (on medium to medium high heat). (Bring to softball stage; 235’.)

4. Remove from heat, and stir in chocolate chips until melted.

5. Add marshmallow cream and nuts, stirring until well blended.

6. Pour into two 9 x 13 greased baking dishes.

7. Cool at room temp.

8. Makes approximately 6 lbs.

                                              Banana Bread

I like to have one of the kids use up brown bananas anytime of the year and put some of these loaves in the freezer. Then we have them for potlucks, company, or new baby gifts. Quick breads are even better after they’re frozen!

2 cups sugar 2 tsp soda

1 cup butter (1/2 lb or 2 sticks)

2 tsp salt

4 eggs 6 cups flour

1 cup sour milk 6 large bananas

1. Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl.

2. Add eggs and blend.

3. Add sour milk. (To “make” sour milk, put 1 TBSP vinegar in bottom of one cup measure before adding milk to measure.) Blend.

4. Mix flour, salt, and soda in another bowl with a fork.

5. Stir gradually into creamed mixture.

6. Add smashed bananas.

7. Pour into four small, well-greased bread pans.

8. Bake at convection 350’ for 30-45 minutes or until fork or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Regular oven 45-60 minutes)

                                           Scotch Crunchies

If you like butterscotch chips and cashews, you’ll love these. Don’t let their strange ingredients steer you away. They are SIMPLE and yummy.

2 (12 oz.) of butterscotch chips (4 cups) 2 cup cashews

4 cups chow mein noodles

1. Melt butterscotch chips in eight cup glass measure in micro at 70% of power for two to three minutes, stirring every thirty seconds or so, until thoroughly melted. (Do not overheat.)

2. When melted, stir in cashews and chow mein noodles.

3. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto foil.

4. Let dry.

                                              Peanut Clusters

A peanut-chocolate drop candy that is SIMPLE to make.

2 (12 oz each) packages butterscotch chips 12 cups peanuts (not redskin or dry)

2 (12 oz each) packages chocolate chips

1. Melt chips in eight cup glass measure in micro at 70% of power for two to four minutes, stirring every thirty seconds or so, until thoroughly melted. (Do not overheat.)

2. When melted, stir in peanuts.

3. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto foil.

4. Let dry.

                                     Best White Frosting for Cookies

Even years when we bought frozen shaped cookies at the restaurant supply store (instead of making them) due to time crunches, we always still used our own icing recipe. This has lots of extra flavors, but those are what make this frosting delicious. Definitely not your typical powdered sugar/butter icing!

2 cups Crisco 4 lbs. Powdered sugar

1 cup hot water 2 tsps. white vanilla

4-6 drops lemon extract 1 tsp almond flavor

2 tsp clear butter flavor ½ tsp salt

1. Mix all but powdered sugar in mixing bowl and whip until all is mixed.

2. Add powdered sugar a cup or two at a time until frosting is desired texture. (May add more hot water or more powdered sugar, as needed.)

3. Use on cookies as needed. May keep at room temperature between cookie baking as long as well covered.

4. Very delicious icing!

                                       Butterscotch Brownies

These chewy brownies are good year round. They’re easy and feed a crowd.

1 ½ cup oil 6 cups brown sugar

6 eggs, beaten 4 ½ cups all purpose flour

6 tsp. baking powder 3 tsp salt

3 tsp vanilla

1. Blend oil and brown sugar in mixing bowl until well blended.

2. Stir in beaten eggs.

3. Sift all dry ingredients together in separate bowl.

4. Add to wet mixture one cup at a time until well blended.

5. Stir in vanilla at end.

6. Pour into three 9 x 13 glass baking dishes sprayed with PAM.

7. Bake in convection at 350’ for 16-22 minutes or regular oven for 24-30 minutes. Do not overbake!

Note: This is one of the few treats that I have made healthfully with very good results. Some have even thought the healthy version was better tasting! For the healthy counterpart , substitute egg whites for eggs (two egg whites for each egg), sucanat for the brown sugar, and part white/part whole wheat flour for the all purpose (or all whole wheat pastry). Follow same instructions. Still pretty heavy on the sweetener, but very good.

                                            Butterscotch Pudding

There’s nothing like homemade butterscotch pudding. We use this for pies, occasionally, but more often than not, we use it for “banana pudding.” It is a hit everywhere we take it---layer pudding, vanilla wafers, banana slices, walnuts, and real whipped cream—then repeat. Everyone raves about it.

2 cups brown sugar 4 TBSP sugar

1 stick butter 3 eggs

6 TBSP water 4 cups milk

¼ tsp salt 2 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup cornstarch/flour mixture

1. Put brown sugar, butter, and water in pan.

2. Boil for about five minutes until syrup is light brown.

3. Add milk and heat until just about boiling.

4. Combine flour/cornstarch mixture, salt, sugar, beaten eggs, and just enough extra milk (0-4 TBSP) to pour easily.

5. Cook on medium heat until thick, stirring constantly with wire whisk. (Watch closely or it will stick or scorch.)

6. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

7. Makes 10-12 servings or enough filling for two pies.

                                          Choc-Full Oatmeal Cookies

We got this delicious cookie recipe from a friend named Suzy, so for the longest time, we called them “Suzy’s Best Cookies”---because everyone liked them so much.

4 eggs 2 cups brown sugar

2 cups regular sugar 2 cups shortening or butter (We use ½ of each.)

3 cups flour 6 cups oatmeal

2 tsp salt 1 cup coconut

1 cup nuts 2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking soda 1-2 cups butterscotch chips or M & M’s

1. Cream shortening and sugars in mixing bowl.

2. Beat in eggs.

3. Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl. (You will have nuts, butterscotch chips or candies, and vanilla remaining.)

4. Stir in vanilla.

5. Stir in nuts and chips/candies by hand.

6. Drop onto greased cookie sheets.

7. Bake at 350’ convection for 8-12 minutes or regular oven for 10-14 minutes.

8. Makes nine dozen plus.

                                       M and M Holiday Cookies

This is our regular chocolate chip cookie recipe. It is Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies without the coconut. When sugars and butter are thoroughly whipped, these are the best chocolate chip cookies ever.

4 ½ cup flour 1 ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tsp baking soda 4 eggs

2 tsp salt 4 eggs

2 cups butter and Crisco combined (half of each)

2 (12 oz) pkg holiday M & M’s or chocolate chips

1 ½ cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375’.

2. In bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In mixing bowl, cream butter, Crisco, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla thoroughly.

4. Beat in eggs.

5. Gradually add flour mixture.

6. Stir in M & M’s or chocolate chips by hand until thoroughly mixed.

7. Bake in convection at 375’ for 6-9 minutes; 9-11 minutes regular.

8. Makes 10 dozen 2 ½ inch cookies.

                                             Pecan Pie Bars

We always used to make “Pecan Pick Ups” (also known as Pecan Tassies)—which are elegant looking for a wedding, shower, etc., but these bars are quicker---and just as tasty.


6 cups all purpose flour 1 ½ cups sugar

1 tsp salt 2 cups cold butter (no subs)


8 eggs 3 cups sugar

3 cups corn syrup ½ cup butter, melted

3 tsps vanilla 5 cups chopped pecans

1. In large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.

2. Cut in butter until crumbly.

3. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of two greased 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pans (“jelly roll” pans).

4. Bake at 350’ for 14-18 minutes convection; 18-22 minutes regular (until crust edges are beginning to brown and bottom is set).

5. While crust is baking, combine the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl for the filling. Mix well.

6. Stir in pecans.

7. Bake 28-24 minutes more (convection) or 25-30 minutes regular oven or until edges are firm and center is almost set.

8. Yield: Six to eight dozen.

                                         Pumpkin Bread

I love to have moist pumpkin bread loaves in the freezer, just like banana bread. Sometimes we add nuts to this.

1 ½ tsp cinnamon 4 ½ cups sugar

3 tsp. baking soda 1 ½ tsp nutmeg

3 tsp allspice 4 ¾ cups flour

6 eggs 1 cup evaporated milk

1 ½ cups butter 1 ½ lb (24 oz) canned pumpkin

1. Mix all ingredients together in large mixing bowl until thoroughly mixed.

2. Pour into greased and floured bread pans (two).

3. Cook for 40-55 minutes convection or one hour regular at 350’.

4. Yield four large loaves.

                            Holiday Crème-Filled Sandwich Cookies

New recipe this year. We’re anxious to try them!

Basic Dough Recipe:

2 (17.5 oz each) boxes sugar cookie mix 1 cup (2 sticks) butter

2 eggs


¾ cup butter, softened 1 tsp flavoring

3 cups powdered sugar 2 to 3 TBSP half and half

20 drops or so red food coloring

1. In medium bowl, blend sugar cookie mix with butter, food coloring, and egg. Mix well. (This will make a red marbling effect.)

2. Preheat oven to 375’.

3. Roll dough into balls 1” in diameter. (Be sure each cookie is the same size.)

4. Place 2” apart on ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for 6-9 minutes convection or 8-10 minutes regular oven. (Do not let edges get brown.)

5. Let cookies cool on cookie sheet for one minute, then transfer onto cooling rack.

6. While cookies are baking, cream butter, flavoring, and powdered sugar together. Add enough half and half to make spreading consistency.

7. When cookies are cool, place approximately 1 tsp filling in center of back of one cookie.

8. Place another cookie on top (flat side over filling), and using even pressure, press down in middle of top cookie to force filling outward to cookie edges.

                                     Chocolate Topped Toffee Bars

You can’t go wrong with Heath in anything!


2 (18.25 oz each) white cake mix ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

½ cup packed brown sugar ½ cup milk

4 eggs 3 cups toffee chips or crushed Heath

1 ½ cup chopped pecans

Chocolate Glaze:

1 cup milk chocolate chips 4 tsps. butter or shortening

1. Preheat oven to 375’.

2. In large bowl, combine cake mix, butter, brown sugar, milk, and eggs.

3. Beat on low speed to blend, about two minutes.

4. Stir in toffee chips; then stir in pecans.

5. Spread batter in two floured and greased 9 x 13 baking dishes.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

7. While bars are baking, melt chocolate and butter together in small sauce pan or in glass measure in microwave on 70% power for one to three minutes, stirring every minute until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

8. When bars are cool, drizzle with chocolate glaze.

                                           Gooey Snickers Brownies

A different kind of brownie, but a yummy one!

2 (18.25 oz each) box German chocolate cake mix 1 ½ cups butter, melted

1 cup evaporated milk 8 reg. Snickers bars

1. Preheat oven to 350’.

2. Slice Snickers bars in 1/8 “ slices.

3. In large bowl, combine cake mixes, butter, and evaporated milk.

4. Beat on low speed until well blended.

5. Spread half of batter into the bottom of two greased 9 x 13” baking pans.

6. Bake for ten minutes.

7. Remove from oven, and place candy bar slices evenly over surface.

8. Drop remaining half of batter by spoonfuls over candy bars, as evenly as possible.

9. Place back in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes more convection; 20 minutes regular. (Brownies will jiggle slightly on top when you remove them.)

                                               Tiger Butter Candy

Very simple candy that is as good as it is easy!

2 pound white chocolate chips or wafers 1 cup chunky peanut butter

1 cup chocolate chips 2 TBSP half and half

1. In large glass measure, heat white chocolate and peanut butter on 70% for 2-3 minutes, stirring every minute.

2. Mix well.

3. Pour onto a foil-lined baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray; spread into a thin layer.

4. In another glass measure, heat chocolate chips and half and half at 70% for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every minute until chips are soft. Stir until smooth.

5. Pour and swirl over peanut butter layer.

6. Freeze for 5 minutes or until set.

7. Break into small pieces.

8. Yield: about three pounds candy.

                   Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread—“Monkey Bread”

When my older kids were little, I made elaborate pecan rolls for Christmas morning. This is much simpler---and almost as delicious!

Two bags (24-27 rolls each) frozen dinner rolls 3-4 cups chopped pecans

2 large pkgs non-instant butterscotch pudding 2 cups sugar

1 cup brown sugar 2 tsp cinnamon

2 sticks butter

1. Butter two angel food cake pans, bunt pans, etc.

2. Sprinkle chopped pecans in bottom of the two pans.

3. Arrange 24-27 frozen dinner rolls in bottom of each pan.

4. Combine pudding mix, sugar, cinnamon, and brown sugar, and sprinkle this mixture over the rolls.

5. Melt butter and drizzle over the rolls and powdered mixture.

6. Cover and let rise in refrigerator overnight.

7. Bake at 350’ convection for 25-35 minutes; regular oven 45 minutes.

                                                  Muddy Buddies

The yummiest cereal mix, in my opinion. Make a ton if you’re having a crowd.

16 cups Chex cereal (or Crispix cereal)

1/2 cup margarine 1 ½ cup peanut butter

2 ½ cups chocolate chips 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Melt together the margarine, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. (May melt in large glass measure in micro at 70% for two to three minutes, stirring every minute.)

2. Pour over the cereal and stir.

3. Add powdered sugar to coat while mixture is still wet.

4. Store in air-tight container.

                                                Cherry Delight

A delicious, creamy dish that my mom made for our holidays when I was little. You can cut the filling and cherries in half and make it in one pre-made graham cracker pie crust also.


2 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs ½ cup sugar

2/3 cup butter, melted


2 bars cream cheese 16 oz. Cool Whip

3 cups powdered sugar 2 tsp vanilla

Two cans cherry pie filling

1. Mix crumbs and sugar in 9 x 13 glass baking dish or rectangular Tupperware.

2. Pour melted butter over the crumb mixture and press down into the pan evenly.

3. Cream cream cheese in mixer.

4. Add powdered sugar and continue creaming. Add vanilla.

5. Fold in cool whip until it is mixed throughout.

6. Dollup filling over crust everywhere and smooth down evenly.

7. Cover entire filling with the two cans pie filling.

8. Refrigerate and serve.

9. Serves 12+.

day 350: quick bread gifts—recipes

Banana Bread--- four "small" loaves

2 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Butter 1 stick=1/2 cup,

2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

2 Teaspoon Salt

4 Each Egg(s)

1 Cup Milk sour milk or part sour


6 Cup Flour

6 Each Banana/s large

2 Cup Walnuts, chopped or more


1. Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl.

2. Add eggs and blend.

3. Add sour milk. (To "make" sour milk, put 1 TBSP vinegar in bottom of one

cup measure before adding milk to glass measure.) Blend.

4. Mix flour, salt, and soda in another bowl with a fork.

5. Stir gradually into creamed mixture.

6. Add smashed bananas.

7. Pour into four small, well-greased bread pans.

8. Bake at convection at 350' for 30-45 mins or until fork or toothpick

inserted in center comes out clean. (Regular oven 45-60 mins.)


Banana Bread -- Double eight "small" loaves

4 Cup Sugar

2 Cup Butter 1 stick=1/2 cup,

4 Teaspoon Baking Soda

4 Teaspoon Salt

8 Each Egg(s)

2 Cup Milk sour milk or part sour


12 Cup Flour

12 Each Banana/s large

4 Cup Walnuts, chopped or more


1. Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl.

2. Add eggs and blend.

3. Add sour milk. (To "make" sour milk, put 1 TBSP vinegar in bottom of one

cup measure before adding milk to glass measure.) Blend.

4. Mix flour, salt, and soda in another bowl with a fork.

5. Stir gradually into creamed mixture.

6. Add smashed bananas.

7. Pour into four small, well-greased bread pans.

8. Bake at convection at 350' for 30-45 mins or until fork or toothpick

inserted in center comes out clean. (Regular oven 45-60 mins.)


Pumpkin Bread 4 large loaves

1 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

3 Teaspoon Baking Soda

3 Teaspoon Allspice

6 Each Egg(s)

1 1/2 Cup Butter 1 stick=1/2 cup

4 1/2 Cup Sugar

1 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg, ground

4 3/4 Cup Flour

1 Cup Evaporated Milk

1 Each Canned Pumpkin each=24 oz here


1. Mix all ingredients together in large mixing bowl until thoroughly


2. Pour into greased and floured bread pans (two).

3. Cook for 40-55 minutes convection or one hour regular at 350'.

4. Yield four large loaves.


Apple Bread makes 1 loaf

1/2 Cup Margarine

2 Each Egg(s)

1 Cup Sugar

1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Vanilla

2 Cup Flour

2 Cup Apples, sliced

1/2 Cup Nuts, chopped optional

Topping Ingredients:

2 Tablespoon Margarine very soft

3 Tablespoon Flour

3 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

1 Tablespoon Cinnamon


Blend margarine, eggs and sugar together. Add soda, salt and vanilla; beat.

Add flour, mix, and then add apples and nuts. Place in greased bread pan.

Mix topping ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of breads.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

Freezing Directions:

Wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Seal, label and freeze.

Serving Directions:

Allow the bread to thaw. Slice and enjoy.


It's really good warmed up in the microwave with a little bit of butter on



Apple Bread -- Double makes 2 loaves

1 Cup Margarine

4 Each Egg(s)

2 Cup Sugar

2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1 Teaspoon Salt

2 Teaspoon Vanilla

4 Cup Flour

4 Cup Apples, sliced

1 Cup Nuts, chopped optional

Topping Ingredients:

4 Tablespoon Margarine very soft

6 Tablespoon Flour

6 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

2 Tablespoon Cinnamon


Assembly Directions:

Blend margarine, eggs and sugar together. Add soda, salt and vanilla; beat.

Add flour, mix, and then add apples and nuts. Place in greased bread pan.

Mix topping ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of breads.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

Freezing Directions:

Wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Seal, label and freeze.

Serving Directions:

Allow the bread to thaw. Slice and enjoy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

day 349: quick bread gifts

Earlier I discussed food gifts that you can make with your kids—snack mixes and fudges.

Snack mixes start here:

Fudge gifts start here:

Lastly, I wanted to leave you with a third gift idea that we have had success with—not quite as fast as the snack mixes or fudge gifts, but tasty and inexpensive. That is the gift of quick breads.

Quick breads are cake-like, non-yeast, non-rising breads. These include pumpkin, apple, applesauce, banana, zuchini, cranberry, lemon, carrot, and more. They are generally well liked, freeze wonderfully (some are better after freezing), may be embellished with nuts and fruits, and can be made in various sizes for various purposes.

When we did strictly quick breads for gifts, we used the small (think “mini”) loaf pans, popped them out, cooled them, then bagged them in decorative bags. I have seen others bake them in mini foil bread pans and bag them, pan and all in decorative bags. For larger families or larger gifts, you may desire to use full sized loaf pans. I like using the mini loaf pans and giving two of these to larger families. (That way, they all baked evenly, etc.)

Before I give you three of our favorite quick bread recipes (in the next post), I want to share with you our funny “banana bread/courtship” story…from December 2004:

“I have to relate a funny story to our practice of making doughs and batters early and keeping them in cold places until we bake them. Last year, Joshua and Lisa had just gotten engaged the day before our banana-bread-batter-making-day. Lisa pulled into the driveway to spend the evening with us when Joshua ran out of the shower announcing that we had to do something with the banana bread batter (now in what I would most accurately describe as a vat of at least a dozen gallons in the middle of the dining room table) ------because Lisa gets sick over bananas. She can’t eat them, or even smell them, he related. Well, we were filling loaf pans on the dining room table, and you have to understand that our dining room table is about six feet from every room in our small downstairs. There’s simply no escaping it. So we filled the pans quickly and baked several loaves, then promptly put the remaining vat of batter in the back of the van (to keep the cats out of it!). Of course, the banana bread smell was all through the house by this time.

The next night, Joshua was on his way up to pick up Lisa to go to a Christmas philharmonic concert when I called him and told him he had the banana bread batter in the back of his van. He said it was okay because it must be frozen; it didn’t smell at all, so he went on up to pick her up. By the time he got to her house, the batter was nice and warm from the heat of the van, and the entire van smelled like rotten bananas! (Needless to say, Joshua drove her parents’ car to the concert.) The moral of this story: Keep your batters and doughs in cold places away from cats and anybody who doesn’t like ‘banana bread batter.’ (I think that’s the moral of this story. Maybe it’s find out any complete aversions your future daughter-in-law has before immersing her in that aversion.)”

Tomorrow—recipes for banana, pumpkin, and apple breads.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

day 348: gift of the magi by o’henry

One Christmas story that we enjoy every year in various forms—an Adventures in Oddysey radio drama “spin-off” of it; short story in our compilation books; audio of it; etc.—is the O’Henry story, “Gift of the Magi.” It is such a poignant short story of sacrificially giving, something that many of us know very little about in today’s society.

I thought I would probably find it online since it is beyond the “copyright” years and is available in so many books. And I was right! So I wanted to share it with our readers, in the hopes that you will have a short read aloud session with your family—with a lively discussion following! “God bless us, everyone!” (Oh, wrong story…) smile…

Friday, December 17, 2010

day 347: nativity sets galore!

"And the Grinch stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. ...
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?" ~Dr Seuss

When our kids were very little, I always had one nativity set that was for them to play with. This one was set up on a low table and was the kids’ to interact with. We have done other nativity pieces—clay, paint your own, Fisher Price, felt, punch outs, and more. A simple search of nativities online yielded so many cute ideas—if you are crafty, they are even better! Here are some I found that you might enjoy sharing with your children.

LEGO nativity:

EDIBLE nativity:

PIPE CLEANER nativity:

PLUSH nativity:

PAINT YOUR OWN nativity:

FISHER PRICE nativity:

PLAYMOBILE nativity:



CLAY nativity:


PUNCH OUT nativity:

SALT DOUGH nativity:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

day 346: christmas read alouds for ages ten and under rated as fave, etc. with links

Different ones have asked for more read aloud ideas, especially my very favorites, so I thought I would list them by age (today—ten and under) and by category (i.e. “Bible-related”; traditions; devotional; etc.) with *** by my “very-most-favorite-if-we-only-read-a-handful-of-christmas-books-this-year-this-would-be-one-of-them”! Hope this helps you as you prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ with your sweet children.


***Wouldn’t want to go a Christmas without it


*Good enough for my list! 

Note: I have included “out of print” ones because you can often pick them up used or at the library.

“Bible/Nativity-Related Stories/Retellings”

***Adornaments –different than your typical “nativity ornaments,” which we also have had through the years, this adornaments set is a book with cardboard ornaments containing the names of Christ and a verse on each one to go with that name. I liked doing this with the kids as it connected the nativity story with Christ as our Savior (and more!) too.

***“The Indescribable Gift” by Richard Exley; Illustrated by Phil Boatwright (out of print); this is a beautiful, elegant Christmas picture book with the Christmas story told from the point of view of all the major players: Zechariah, Mary, Elizabth, Joseph, The Innkeeper, The Shepherds, Simeon, and more. A truly lovely book—for up through adults. A chapter out of this a day makes a wonderful advent devotional.

**”Jotham’s Journey” Arnold Ytreeide; “Over and over Jotham screamed for his family, but there was no one to hear him. They had vanished. He was alone. Where had they gone? How long ago had they left? Through quick, stabbing sobs Jotham told himself, "I must look for my family, I must search until I find them." And so his journey begins. In this widely popular, exciting story for the Advent season, readers follow ten-year-old Jotham across Israel as he searches for his family. Though he faces thieves, robbers, and kidnappers, Jotham also encounters the wise men, shepherds, and innkeepers until at last he finds his way to the Savior born in Bethlehem” (CBD Review).

**”Bartholomew’s Passage” by Arnold Ytreeide; same type of story as “Jotham’s Journey” but a different child and circumstances.

**”Tabitha’s Travels” by Arnold Ytreeide; same type of story as “Jotham’s Journey” but a different child and circumstances

*“King of the Stable” by Melody Carlson; Illustrated by Chris Ellison (not in print); cute picture book about a boy who worked in the stable when Jesus was born; lovely illustrations.

*“The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale” by Angela Elwell Hunt; Illustrated by Tim Jonke; neat story about how three trees grew up to be the boat Jesus was on, the manger, and the cross.

*“The Singing Shepherd” by Angela Elwell Hunt; Illustratoins by Peter Palagonia (out of print); a cute story about a little singing shepherd boy;

*“The Black Sheep” by Elisabeth Heck; Illustrated by Sita Jucker (out of print); cute picture book about a little black sheep who met Baby Jesus.

*“A King Is Born” by Patricia St. John; Illustrated by Richard Scott (out of print); nice picture book about the birth of Christ; more true to Scripture than many others (i.e. the wise men come when they are supposed to!)

**“Mary’s Treasure Box” by Carolyn Walz Kramlich; Illustrated by Walter Porter; told from Mary’s point of view when she was a grandmother, the cover says, “Beyond retelling the story of Christ’s birth, “Mary’s Treasure Box” creatively shares lessons about Christ gleaned through the objects in a simple wooden box—a bit of straw, wool, flut, and swaddling cloths.” Neat way to tell the nativity story and provide insights into that first Christmas.

*“The Crippled Lamb” by Max Lucado; Illustrated by Liz Bonham; another sweet Christmas story involving a little lamb on the first Christmas; nice illustrations

***“The Very First Christmas” by Paul L Maier; Illustrated by Francisco Ordaz; from the cover: “No more fairy tales for Christopher; he wants a real bedtime story. So his mother tells the amazing and miraculous story of Jesus’ birth. Along the way, Christopher learns the answers to some challenging questions about the Christmas story. And all the answers are right from the Bible. You have selected a wonderful gift for children, families, and friends. Written by best-selling author and historian, Paul L. Maier, and richly illustrated by Francisco Ordaz..” I agree!

*“Mary’s First Christmas” by Walter Wangerin, Jr.; Illustrated by Timothy Ladwig; the Christmas story written in journal form from the view of Mary; lots of good insights and lovely illustrations

***“One Wintry Night” by Ruth Bell Graham; Illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson; from the cover: “When a young mountain boy is caught alone in a sudden snowstorm, he takes refuge in a cabin his grandfather had helped to build many years before. The woman living there shelters the boy, attends to his badly swollen ankle, and spends the hours they are snow-bound telling him the Christmas story—beginning with creation and concluding with the resurrection.” This is a remarkable book—one that ties creation with Christmas and Easter! It is lengthy, so will likely take several reading sessions, but the amazing illustrations and deep-teaching-text are worth it!

                   “Traditions and More” Types of Books

***The ADVENTure of Christmas” by Lisa Welchel; One of my favorite easy-to-read-aloud Christmas books--filled with lots of activities, recipes, etc. about each tradition/entry. I like it more for the one-page-per tradition in easy kid language. I have a lot of books about Christmas traditions and symbols, but this is the best one I've found for younger kids.

*”The First Christmas Tree: A Legend From Long Ago” by Helen Haidle Illustrated by David and Elizabeth Haidle (out of print); a story describing the origins of decorating with the evergreen tree

**”The Legend of the Christmas Tree: An Inspirational Story of a Treasured Tradition” by Rick Osborne; Illustrated by Bill Dodge; another story describing the origins of decorating with the evergreen tree

*“The Real 12 Days of Christmas” by Helen Haidle; Illustrated by Celeste Henriquez out (of print); interesting and fun for those who know the song; nice pics

**“Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend: by Julie Stiegemeyer; Illustrated by Chris Ellison

*“The Legend of the Candy Cane: The Inspirational Story of Our Favorite Christmas Candy” by Lori Walburg; Illustrated by James Bernardin; sweet, sweet story and tradition

    “Other Christmas Stories or ‘Set at Christmastime Type Stories”

***“The Christmas Tapestry” by Patricia Polacco; this tale has been handed down for generations and is told in other settings/places/time periods (such as the “Ivory and Lace Tablecloth” in one of our Christmas collections); this is a lovely story; we read it yearly

*“The Quiet Little Woman” by Louisa May Alcott; Illustrations by C. Michael Dudash

***“A Christmas Treasury: The Children’s Classic Edition” Illustrated by Christian Birmingham; from the cover: “Celebrate the magical Christmas season with this enchanting pageant of beloved classics that have earned their place as holiday favorites. This yuletide collection features Louisa May Alcott’s vision of holiday spirit in “Little Women’s A Merry Christmas,” “The Night Before Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” and much more.” Beautifully illustrated—this is a lovely book. Hard to find Christmas “collections” for this age group with classic stories too (and not all contemporary mouse and reindeer stories); love this collection for this age group!

**“The Candle in the Window” based on a story by Leo Tolstoy by Grace Johnson; Illustrated by Mark Elliot; lovely and heartwarming (out of print)

**“The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomy” by Susan Wojciechowski; Illustrated by PJ Lynch; amazingly heart warming story and awesome illustrations;

*“A Child’s Christmas at S. Nicolas Circle” by Douglas Kaine McKelvy; Illustrated by Thomas Kinkade; illustrations are beautiful (of course!); story is well-written and heartwarming