Friday, December 24, 2010

On My 8th Day of Christmas Break...Part 2

After I got everything mostly put together, I took a few minutes to take a number of pictures of different things around the house.  First, the candy dish with the Christmas goodies.  After taking this picture, I realized that I totally forgot to put some of the banana bread Linda made for me on it!  I also realized today that it wasn't the goodies that I enjoyed making with my mom all those years - it was the fact that I was working side by side with my mom - something I desperately miss now and so greatly value from the one time a number of years ago when she and Dad came to Arizona for Christmas and she and I baked.

Next, I took some pictures of Dog.  I would have loved to have taken pictures of Little Dog too in his Christmas outfit (he was an elf this year), but he would have never just sat still to let me take the pictures.

Next, some of our decor this year...I had totally forgotten what this garland looked like.  I ordered it from QVC like three years ago and it's been sitting all packaged up this whole time.  I decided this would be the year to finally break open the boxes and see what was in them.  I was SO HAPPY when I opened them!  This garland is just beautiful!  So, I put it all on timers and put it across the piano, across the buffet, and across the top of the china hutch.,

I also took a picture of the table during the day.  It looks like a winter wonderland!  Kind of cold and frosty.  But just pretty and elegant too.  I also decided to add the card table at the end of the dining table rather than separate.  It just felt better and more cohesive that way.  I'm glad I did.  It was the right thing to do and looked like it was just a small addition to the regular table.

Our tree this year.  It had so many more ornaments on it this year than the last two years.  Not because I'd bought more ornaments (because I really hadn't other than just a couple during our trips), but because I had actually felt like fully decorating it.  I wish I could decorate my tree like Lisa.  She has an awesome ability to put a ton of decorations on and it doesn't look overloaded - it just looks awesome.

This is a simple vinyl cutout that I did and put on the wall where I usually hang our stockings.  I really like it there.  I plan on cutting another one though and putting it on the glass of a large frame so I can put it up on our big black shelf next year.  That way, we can have it permanently.  I was going to do that this year, but just ran out of time since I didn't feel well most of my vacation.

A Christmas Eve tradition...shrimp cocktail!  This cocktail isn't for the guests, oh no, it's all for me while I work on stuff to get ready for the night.  Love it. Love it.

I decided to make some pre-dinner munchies this year - just in case there was a wait of sorts for dinner.  So, I made a platter of cheese cubes, carrots, and grape tomatoes and I made a platter of these yummy green onion drumsticks.  Now, these are a holiday tradition food I LOVE!

Start with a few bunches of green onions.  You don't want the bulb portion to be too thick or too thin.  Just medium is perfect.  Wash and dry the onions, then cut the root ends off just slightly.  Next, peel off the outer layer of onion on each and set aside.  Once all of the onions are prepped, stand them up or lay them down so they are all lined up at the root end.  Then, cut off a couple of inches on the opposite end so each onion is the same length as the others.

Next, open a jar of everyone's favorite...Cheez Whiz.  Make sure it's room temperature.  It will spread much easier.

Schmear the Cheez Whiz all over the onion portion...from the tip to the portion where the onion becomes the stalk - usually about 3 inches or so.

Chop a bunch of pecans or walnuts (I use pecans because I'm allergic to walnuts).  Make sure to chop them super finely.  In fact, if you have a Pampered Chef chopper, chop them until they are ALMOST pulverized.  You still want tiny chunks, but you don't want powder.

Next, roll the whizzed onion in the nuts so every side gets coated with the nuts.

Place the drumsticks on a nice platter either alternating back and forth or side by side.  It's up to you.  Just make them look pretty on the platter.  It's what matters.

Essentially, this is what it should look like.  But...if you get so inclined...take a bite or two...

...or three...or four...

...or just eat it all.  Nobody's watching.

It was soon time to light all the candles.  Linda and I lit all of the candles on the tables, in the kitchen, and around the living room.  It was kind of magical!

Our dinner was truly lovely.  The table was exquisite.  It was so sparkly and the candlelight was just beautiful.  Why does it always seem that you work so hard to get everything ready and then it's over in the blink of an eye?  It was really nice though...I had the chowder all finished before anyone got here (that NEVER happens).  All the platters were done.  Essentially everything was done before folks arrived.  Love that!  When Linda and Desert Dweller arrived, she and I took off and delivered Melon Man's and my Matthew 25:40 gift.  That was a good feeling as we drove away after dropping it off.  I was glad she was willing to help me so we could remain anonymous.

We came back home and within just a few minutes, Lisa, Craig, Curtis, Auntie, and Uncle, along with Natalie, Robert, and John arrived.  It was a full house!  We soon sat down to eat and within just a few minutes, people were already done - wow, where did that 7.3 minutes go? 

We sat around and talked for a bit, various people played with John, and then we decided to move into the living room for the program.  John got scared at something and was having a rough time so Natalie and Robert decided to head home.  We continued on with our little program and then Linda's brother, Jim, stopped in.  We finished up our program with our special little part and gift.  This is the story we shared this year.

The Colors of Christmas

Dear Family,
As we tried to determine what to do about Christmas gifts this year, we thought about the true gifts of Christmas rather than the worldly ones. As I was staring at the Christmas tree one night, I wondered about the use of colors at Christmas – how usually we only see red and green and gold with white and silver sometimes incorporated as well. Yes, some of us have chosen to use alternate colors as well, but, what of all the other colors that are available to us? What about blue and orange and purple? Or pink or brown or yellow? Why don’t we include those in our decorations? I started to do a little research and soon discovered that it certainly is appropriate for us to do so! I found the following story…

Christmas – the very word evokes a multitude of responses from different people. For some, it is disbelief that an entire year has already come and gone. Some families can’t wait to bring out the decorations; others dread the upcoming pace of busyness and expense. Far too often, Christmas is associated with traffic jams, perpetual one-day sales, checking Christmas card lists, decorating, overeating, and spending money that doesn’t need to be spent.

For many, it is a time to celebrate Santa, with no thought of the Christ of Christmas. For others, it is a time of worship and remembrance. Those away from home long to be there; those at home may long to be away. Though everyone wants a Christmas which looks like a Norman Rockwell painting of the Holy Family, far too often we feel as if we can identify more with the Clark Griswold family in Christmas Vacation.

Some remember Christmas as a time of disappointment and family feuds; for some of us – blessed beyond measure – it is a time of precious memories of the past, new traditions of the present, and wonderful hope for the future. I am one of those who is undeservedly blessed by the memories of the past and challenged to create precious memories for the future.

One of the sweetest memories to me is of the annual trips we would make to look at Christmas lights. During the weeks before Christmas, we would all climb into our big, old, tank of a car and head out to the nicer areas of town to look at the beautiful Christmas decorations, the lovely trees in the open windows of the homes, and the shimmering lights hung across lawns and bushes. We children would ooh and aah at the beauty that made the darkness of a cold Utah night come ablaze with a spiritual sense of magic.

The wonder of that Christmas more than 2000 years prior came alive to us as our Mom and Dad used every moment as a teaching moment about that baby born in a manger in order to die on the cross of Calvary for us. They made sure we realized that Christmas is, indeed, about “the gift.” For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

As we drove through the lovely areas of our small town, Mom and Dad would begin to teach us the real meaning of Christmas. They would say, “Children, when you look at the lovely red lights and crimson balls hanging on the trees, don’t ever forget that the baby in a manger grew to be the Savior on the Cross. He shed His precious blood for you so that you could be forgiven of your sins and live with Him again someday.”

They also gave us fresh eyes to see the beautiful greens of Christmas. They would say, “Every time you look at a Christmas tree or see a green ornament, remember that the tree is an evergreen, reminding us that Christ died so that we could have eternal life and never have to experience spiritual death.“

“When you see a white light, it represents purity. You should remember that Jesus Christ was perfect but He became sin for you so that you could be forgiven.”

Gold should remind you that Jesus left all the splendor of heaven and his kingship behind to be born in a dirty animal manger because He loves you so much He didn’t want to spend eternity without you.”

“Whenever you see silver icicles, lights, and balls, remember that He was sold for thirty pieces of silver to redeem you.”

Pink or rose represent the joy we feel at knowing of our brother’s love for us and that we can live in eternal happiness because of his great gift to us.”

Yellow reminds us of the star that shone that night so long ago, lighting the way for shepherds to find the newborn babe. It also helps us remember our own way home through troubled times.”

Brown or burgundy remind us of the lowly manger which our Lord slept in and of the cross he was crucified on. It is a simple, dark color which experiences so much, but is often forgotten.”

Orange or copper remind us that not many days hence the Son of God shall come in his glory; and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity, and truth, full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering, quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers.”

“Oh, and when you see purple decorations, it is a color of royalty and suffering, and you keep in mind that the sweet baby born in a manger is coming back. When He comes back, though, He is not coming back as a baby. He is coming back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and, when you see the beautiful color of blue, you look toward the eastern sky because, one of these days, that King is going to split the eastern sky as the angels came from that night so long ago to announce his arrival, and will gather all of us to Him to live with Him forever.”

So, though Mom and Dad have been with their King of Kings and Lord of Lords for nearly forty years now, our families continue to pass down the memories of Christmases past to children and grandchildren of the present while teaching the blessed hope of the future. We can never look at the colors of Christmas now without seeing a much deeper, significant meaning.

We decided that this year, we would make a personalized gift for each of you that would help you know of not only our love for you, but also of our Heavenly Father’s love as well. Each time you see this gift, we hope it will remind you of the gifts mentioned above and that the color chosen for your gift will have special meaning to you in your life.

We know this isn’t the typical type of gift you’d receive from us, but we hope you will accept it with the true spirit in which it is given – one of love and gratitude.

We hope that someday you’ll be able to come to Arizona to spend Christmas with us. We love and miss all of you very much.
We then gave everyone a little gift bag with a picture of the nativity scene on it.  Inside was an ornament that we made - each one a special color just for that person and with that person's name on it.

Jim then shared some shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce, mesquite chicken, and freshly made tamales with all of us.  Those were the best tamales I have ever eaten!  Spicy, but not too spicy.  Just, mmmm, good!

Soon, everyone else headed out.  Melon Man and I sat and watched some show about some triangle - not the Bermuda triangle - some other one - I don't know because I didn't really watch it.  I tried blogging, but didn't get much done with that either.  I really wanted to watch The Nativity Story movie since I didn't get to watch it yesterday because pulling things together just took longer than anticipated.  I do have to say though that I felt "better" the whole day.  I had the strength and energy I needed to accomplish everything that needed to be done.  I was so grateful for that.

Finally, we opened our gifts as we do every Christmas Eve.  Melon Man made me a personalized calendar where he wrote special things on pieces of paper that go along with each month of the the year and then stuck them inside the page pockets for each month.  It was very sweet.  I got him this old fashioned radio thing.  It plays records (records?  What are records?!?!), CDs, AM/FM (can you guess which one it will be tuned to?), MP3s, and can record from any of those to a CD!  It doesn't look very big from this picture, but it really is - I guess it would have to be to be able to play a record.  He didn't seem too excited about it - maybe because he had already guessed what it was when it arrived.  Guess I'll have to go back to having things shipped to other locations...

I then opened the box that Jennifer had sent.  I was so touched by her gift.  It was hard to make it through the whole box without crying.  She and her family had given us a gift card to "The Coral" along with some pictures of them.  We loved those things!  But, it was all the other stuff in the box that totally caught me off-guard and made me cry.  She had sent me a multitude of items from Girls Camp - some of the necklaces we made, a pillowcase, a little blanket/table centerpiece thing, a couple of plaques, a "got courage" piece of vinyl, one of the water bottles, a goodie bag, an actual pair of scrubs that will fit me, one of the T-shirts that will fit me, a picture of all the ladies when they went out to lunch after going to the temple in the days right before camp, a stack of personal commitment cards, one of the posters from the pre-camp fireside, and so many more sweet things.  I sobbed as I read each of the little notecards she put with each item.  There was one notecard that I just lost it on.  It was wrapped around a little bracelet.  The card said:
Allison gave these to each committee member at the conclusion of camp.  As we gathered in a circle in our cabin, we felt your presence.  She wanted to be sure that you knew how invaluable you were to the success of this year's camp.  She said she felt like she got a two for one deal with us.  She felt like she had three assistants.
I couldn't even make it through reading the entire card.  I had to stop at "we felt your presence."  I was sobbing - almost uncontrollably.  How I had longed to be there with my sister that week and all of those girls!  How I had felt the Lord's hand in guiding me through all the things I helped do!  How I cherished those hours that I worked with my sister!  What an incredible experience everything was for me - from 800 miles away.  But this box full of special gifts means so much to me.  Now I really feel like I was able to have been part of their camp!  This will be, along with my special calendar from Melon Man, two of the greatest gifts I've received at Christmas.

Melon Man soon went to bed and I stayed up and watched (with my eyes closed for most of it) The Nativity Story.  It was glorious, just being in a quiet home, with candles flickering all about, white lights everywhere, and peace.  I woke up from my movie slumbering just as Mary and Joseph were arriving in Bethlehem and the baby was coming, and they were searching for a place to stay.  That scene always takes my breath away - as Joseph desperately tries to find a place, how Mary is wincing in pain, how when they find a place, Joseph helps deliver the baby and is overcome with emotion at the birth of this child, and how Mary looks into heaven knowing her special calling has been fulfilled.  What a glorious night Christmas Eve is - no wonder it is my favorite night of the entire year and I cherish it so much and look forward to it each year!  What a gift from God we were given so long ago and are reminded of each year!

1 comment:

Lisa Tucker said...

It was a very lovely evening, and the food was great as well. You did a great job!