Monday, November 30, 2015

An Unsimplified Christmas

It used to be that while everyone may not have been a Christian, our country, in many ways, exemplified Judeo-Christian values.  I am not going to get into the details of why that may not so much be the case now, but many years ago, I felt a sense of urgency to create moments in the year that underscored our faith.  Christmas/Advent was the first project, followed by Lent/Easter, Passover, and several of the other Biblical holidays.  These are times that our family comes together to "remember" our roots of faith.

When we started working toward Christmas in a celebration of the amazing gift that God has given us, we looked for what was already out there.  While the Advent candle is a lovely tradition and fairly simple to do (because of the supplies needed and the frequency of the celebration), it was not enough for me. 

I am easily distracted and I am a sentimental fool
There are so many aspects of Christmas that can be focused on.
  • Lights. 
  • Presents.  
  • Holiday-Baking-a-thons. 
  • Holiday Parties.  
  • Family get togethers, Norman Rockwell style. 
  • Heartwarming Hallmark movies.
  • The Nutcracker Ballet
  • Christmas with the Rockettes
  • Polar Express Train Ride
  • Taking my children to visit Santa.
  • Silver Dollar City at Christmas
  • Maybe even DISNEYWORLD at Christmas

Fun fun fun fun!!!!

I love all this stuff.  And probably more than this if I would allow myself to think about it.

And if you have followed this blog, which is messy and needs to be overhauled (and may NEVER be, because I am not a "finisher") you know that these are not the activities  I have put forward for my family for Christmas. 

Christmas is about Jesus.  That wonderful gift that God gave the world, so that even though we do not deserve it, we can be transformed from wretched sinners, bound for an eternal existence of fearful suffering apart from the Creator of the Universe into His blessed children who can live a life guided by Him right now! We are bound for an eternal existence that is more than we can imagine, surrounded by those we love (who have also repented of a life of sin and dependence on self and accepted this wondrous gift) AND most of all, forever with Him!

When I think about all the trappings of Christmas that are available here, and the fact that SOME of these we do not ever choose to do, because by the time we would do them (December 26-January 1) they are over, it makes me a little wistful...

But when I think about what I believe and try to represent to my family as the true meaning of the day...the heart is filled to overflowing.

At this point, I must be clear:  This has nothing to do with simplifying Christmas.  My goal is the opposite.  I want to create the biggest blowout that I can, within the parameters of real life.   I want to create a mini holiday, if not every day, most days in December.  I want my family to love celebrating the coming of Jesus so much that, while we DO participate in many of the "regular " Christmas activities (after Christmas), that part is somewhat of a let down...

As we have morphed our Advent season from year to year, it has become more and more personal to each one of us.  As my children have "grown up" into all the activities of high school, heading off to college, etc, in some ways, the whole thing has become easier.  Originally, every day was a guessing game for they pretty much know how it is going to go.  They love it differently now...with anticipation for the various days...the tradition of it all. Leading to the biggest celebration of all...Christmas Day.  And it has to be fun and jam packed as we can make it!

But not simplified.  I am writing this post because I want to introduce this train of thought in light of the current trend of simplifying Christmas.  On Christmas Day, whatever day that was, the Father had been planning it for a long time. 

  • All kinds of prophecies.  
  • The stars and planets aligning in such a way that the Star of Bethlehem was created at just the right time.  
  • The lineage of Jesus. 
  • Multiple angelic visits.  
  • Even kings/wise men from far away with extravagant gifts.  
  • And all of it written down so we could read about it.  

This is not simple.  It is amazing.

And I want to give it everything I can to make it an amazing celebration. 

I want to give it my best every year...whatever that is...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Day

  • DISCLAIMER: This is still rough. The Bible verses aren't listed...some of the info may not be clear. But in case you wanted to try just Christmas Day, I wanted to have what we do. We just made it up. You could make up your own. The point is that we can fill a day with fun and focus on the Nativity story. We tweak this every year. It is not what it was 5 years ago. But it is fun.

    First, we have a little opening statement, to explain what we are planning to do.

    "The purpose of the day is to review the Christmas story in a fun and interactive way. During the day we will play games and do activities as they pertain to the story. Some of the activities are individual, and some require teams. Teams are assigned, no trading spots. Throughout, points will be awarded for participation/success in the activities. At the end prizes will be distributed based on the final point totals."
  • Then we start the story...we use The Message because it is more fluid for us to read and easy to understand for most ages...

    (Preparation for the game "Simon Says")

    "During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God."
    SIMON SAYS (2011 addiiton- This year we are going to try Bop-It...I'll let you know...;-))


    One person (over 10) from each team agrees to be Simon. The Simons all get one point for being Simon, and if they lose at the end of the day by one point, they may not point out that if they had been a player instead of Simon, they might have won.

    Each time someone is out, the next Simon takes a turn until only one player remains. That player (the winner) will get 2 points.

    Those ages 7-9 get 1 do-over.

    Those ages 3-6 get 2 do-overs

    Those ages 1-2 stay in the game the whole way, but will not win.

    Preparation for the game "Charades"

    We use Charades for Kids, because it has some card with a picture on it and the kids can do it completely on their own. But regular charades is fine, too. In this version, the cards say things like "rowing a boat"

    But Zachariah and Elizabeth were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old. It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment; it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering.
    Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear. But the angel reassured him, "Don't fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You're going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He'll achieve great stature with God.
    "He'll drink neither wine nor beer. He'll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother's womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God's arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he'll get the people ready for God."
    Zachariah said to the angel, "Do you expect me to believe this? I'm an old man and my wife is an old woman."
    But the angel said, "I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won't believe me, you'll be unable to say a word until the day of your son's birth. Every word I've spoken to you will come true on time—God's time."
    Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn't speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.

    Following the Charades for Kids game. Winner of this game will get one point.
    (preparation for "the hidden prize")
    When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn't long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy. "So, this is how God acts to remedy my unfortunate condition!" she said.
    Those searching for the hidden prize will be under the age of 13. They may ask 3 yes/no questions each for a clue but may only be as specific as a certain room. The person who finds the hidden prize receives 2 points.

    The hidden prize for us is always a box of Whitman's chocolates and we eat them for lunch dessert. We use Whitman's because there is a "key" to the chocolates and we like that...
    (preparation for PS2 Jungle Book Dance-a -rama)

    In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin's name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

    Good morning!
    You're beautiful with God's beauty,
    Beautiful inside and out!
    God be with you.
    She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, "Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

    He will be great,
    be called 'Son of the Highest.'
    The Lord God will give him
    the throne of his father David;
    He will rule Jacob's house forever—
    no end, ever, to his kingdom."
    Mary said to the angel, "But how? I've never slept with a man."
    The angel answered,

    The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
    the power of the Highest hover over you;
    Therefore, the child you bring to birth
    will be called Holy, Son of God.
    "And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God."
    And Mary said,

    Yes, I see it all now:
    I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve.
    Let it be with me
    just as you say.
    Then the angel left her.
    Mary didn't waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah's house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She (Elizabeth) was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,

    You're so blessed among women,
    and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
    And why am I so blessed that
    the mother of my Lord visits me?
    The moment the sound of your
    greeting entered my ears,
    The babe in my womb
    skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.

    Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
    believed every word would come true!
    And Mary said,

    I'm bursting with God-news;
    I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.
    God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
    What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.

    In the Jungle Book Dance segment, everyone gets a point who participates. Those who have never played before and inexperienced play on easy, those with minimal experience normal, those who are good at it play on hard. Those who are supportive of others and generally show good sportsmanship will get two points. The winner gets 1 point (max 4 points for the winner, but everyone could get 3 points if they tried at all)

    If you do not have PS2 Jungle Book, you can come up with some other kind of jumping activity or game. This is just what we have. Generally this is when the womenfolk get the lunch together after their turns. That is just what happens in our family...If we were going to do something else,we might do a Jewish dance, or a simple folk dance.  We would not use anything with current pop tunes. 
    At this point we generally have lunch. The easiest thing for us has been homemade vegetable soup (chicken noodle for those who don't like that) and a cheeseball and crackers. and the hidden prize. Just do something that is easily assembled.

    Homemade Vegetable Soup
    5 qt Crock Pot
    •  2 lbs browned ground beef, drained of fat
    • 1 med bag of mixed vegetables
    • 2 potatoes
    • 1 large bottle of tomato juice
    Mix all in the crock pot the night before. Turn on low.  In the morning, if it seems to not be soup, turn up to high until about an hour before lunch.  Then off.  If you leave it on high up to serving time it will be crazy hot and people will have a hard time eating it.  Not that this has happened at my house....
Homemade Chicken and Noodles
  • 3 chicken breast halves, boiled (or 1 or 2 cans of chicken breast meat)
  • 4-6 cans of chicken broth
  • 2 bags of Rheames Frozen Noodles
  • 2-3 cans of cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups of frozen peas, cooked
Place chicken in Crock Pot, then frozen noodles.  Pour enough broth over to cover.  Cover with lid and cook low overnight.  Check in the morning (stir)and if not making progress, turn to high at breakfast time.  Check periodically.  When the noodles are soft, add cream of chicken soup until it seems creamy.  Add peas or just serve alongside if everyone does not like peas) Turn off  about 30 min before serving so that it is not too hot to eat.(preparation for the decorating of gingerbread houses)
  • preparation for the gingerbread house-making

  • Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn't know that.)

    Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined break the engagement quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.
    While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God's angel spoke in the dream: "Joseph, son of David, don't hesitate to get married. Mary's pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God's Holy Spirit has made her pregnant.
    She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—'God saves'—because he will save his people from their sins." This would bring the prophet's embryonic sermon to full term:

    Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
    They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for "God is with us"). (Isaiah 7:14)
    Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God's angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary.

    Joseph was a carpenter by trade. Teams will decorate a gingerbread house together. When the house is completed, all team members still liking one another will receive one point.

    As a side note, these can be purchased fairly cheaply after Christmas. We always do buy the kits then and keep for the next year. We don't eat them anyway. Generally we have between 9-12 people, so we have 3 teams. for any team event.
    (preparation for Yahtzee)
    About that time, Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

    Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be counted


    Everyone will participate in a rousing game of Yahtzee. It is a fairly simple game and those who are not familiar can rely on assistance from other members of the group to help them to get the maximum points.

    Persons with the highest score per group will receive one point, and the overall highest score will receive one additional point.
    (preparation for the car puzzle)

    So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.


    All teams will construct a route that can be traveled with a vehicle from a minimum of 6 pieces. The first team to complete will get two points. Other teams will get one point for completion. Anyone with a good attitude during the entire event will receive one point. Here is a site to buy the puzzles if you want, or you can just figure out something you could use for this story. We have 3 sets of pieces for our 12 people. These are pretty fun.
    (preparation for blanket making)

    While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.
    Each team will assemble a fleece-knotted blanket for charity. Completion of this project will result in one point per member. Please do not tie the knots too tightly or the results will be disappointing. For each team, you will need about 2 yards of two coordinating colors of fleece or a pattern and a solid. Here is a site that will show you how to do it. We usually try to have it where the fringe is cut and ready to be tied. I pin the two together before we start tying to keep them straight. Everyone ties a side. Do not let this overwhelm you. If you get all the steps done to the tying, it is not hard to do with a group. Use sharp scissors to cut the fleece.

    (preparation for the Christmas Quiz or game...the point is having accurate knowledge or being able to relay facts accurately)
    There were sheepherders (shepherds) camping in the neighborhood.
    They had set night watches over their sheep.

    Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified.

    The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."
    At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic host, praising God and saying:

    Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
    Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
    As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us."
    They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing! They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!

    There are several quizzes online (here's another one...might need to be tweaked) for Nativity Christmas that you could print out for your group. I have also used a silly one with Christmas Carols where you figure out which one they are talking about. The idea is to give correct information. This year I am toying with the idea of using a game that one of our pastors plays with his family, which is the pictoral equivalent of the Telephone Game.
    Tally the points....the winner can win a silly prize that you bought ahead of time. Or they can be the first in line for dinner. Or some years we have had "presents" that have to do with prophecies about Jesus. Anyway, you could let people choose from those based on their scores.

    Possible Prophecy Gifts

    Vinegar, sponge
    Psalms 69:21...Given vinegar in thirst...Matthew 27:34

    Psalms 78:1.2...He would teach in parables...Matthew 13:34-35

    The Farmer’s Almanac
    Isaiah 9:6...The Counselor, ...Matthew 13:54

    Isaiah 11:1...Out of the root of Jesse-Son of Jesse...Luke 3:23,32

    Operation Game
    Isaiah 53:4a...He would have a healing ministry... Luke 6:17-19

    Isaiah 53:9c...No deceit in his mouth... John 18:38

    Jeremiah 31:15…Triggered massacre of baby boys…Matthew 2:16-18

    Silver Dollar
    Zechariah 11:12-13a...Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver... Matthew 26:14-15

    Sewing Kit
    Zechariah 12:10a...The Messiah's body would be pierced... John 19:34-37

    Isaiah 53:3c...Great sorrow and grief... Luke 19:41-42

    Toss Up Dice Game
    Psalm 22:18 They cast lots for His clothing. Matthew 27:35

    Psalm 34:20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. John 19:33; 36a

    Then we eat dinner. And watch Charlie Brown Christmas. Or the Nativity Movie. By the end of all that, everyone is usually exhausted.
    Food for Christmas

    Whatever you think is delicious for Christmas is great of course. I don't have anything symbolic or spiritual for this part. We do make this cake, and it is very festive. This year I will try to take a picture of it so you can see it.

    The Christmas Cake
    We use the cake, the frosting and the shortbread angels on our cake. This recipe was in Southern Living.
    Chocolate Truffle Angel Cake

    You can freeze the cake layers and cookies weeks ahead, then assemble the cake (except adding the angel cookies) a day or two before your party. Add the cookies and ribbon up to 6 hours before serving.

    1 recipe Chocolate Cake
    1 recipe Chocolate-Praline Truffles
    1 recipe White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
    1 recipe Angel Shortbread Cookies
    24 inches (1 1/2-inch-wide) wired fabric ribbon
    1 (4-ounce) white chocolate bar, shaved

    Prepare Chocolate Cake batter, and pour into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cakepans.
    Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

    Reserve 1 1/2 cups White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Spread remaining frosting on top and sides of cake.

    Spoon reserved frosting into a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal bag, and snip a 1/4-inch hole in 1 corner of bag. Pipe frosting around base of cake, creating a ruffle. Pipe about 1 teaspoon frosting on back of each Angel Shortbread Cookie. Press cookies against sides of cake, spacing evenly. (Wingtips should be about1/2 inch apart.)

    Cut ribbon into 6 (4-inch) lengths; crumple slightly. Place each piece loosely against side of cake between each pair of angel cookies, inserting ends under angel waists. Sprinkle shaved white chocolate on top of cake. Store in refrigerator up to 2 days without cookies, up to 6 hours with cookies (which will soften if chilled longer). Remove up to 2 hours before serving; serve at room temperature.

    Yield: 1 (3-layer) cake

    Chocolate Cake

    This recipe goes with Chocolate Truffle Angel Cake, Miniature Chocolate Truffle Tree Cakes

    1 cup butter, softened
    1 1/4 cups sugar
    3 large eggs
    2 cups sifted cake flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup cocoa
    1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
    Combine cake flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Follow baking directions for Chocolate Truffle Angel Cake or Miniature Chocolate Truffle Tree Cakes.

    Yield: enough batter for 3 (8-inch) layers or 1 (15- x 10-inch) layer

    Southern Living, DECEMBER 1997

    White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

    This recipe goes with Chocolate Truffle Angel Cake, Miniature Chocolate Truffle Tree Cakes

    1 (4-ounce) white chocolate bar, broken into pieces
    1/2 cup whipping cream, divided
    1 cup butter, softened
    6 cups sifted powdered sugar
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Microwave chocolate pieces and 1/4 cup whipping cream in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 minute and 10 seconds. Whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. (Do not overheat mixture.)
    Beat butter and 1 cup powdered sugar at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add remaining 5 cups powdered sugar alternately with remaining 1/4 cup whipping cream, beating at low speed until blended after each addition. Add white chocolate mixture and vanilla; beat at medium speed until spreading consistency.

    Yield: about 4 1/2 cups

    Southern Living, DECEMBER 1997

    Angel Shortbread Cookies

    These angels get their iridescent glow from sparkling sugar, sold at some gourmet grocers and at cake decorating and kitchen shops. You can order 8 ounces for $6 or 3.3 ounces for $4 from La Cuisine - The Cook's Resource in Alexandria, Virginia, at 1-800-521-1176.
    This recipe goes with Chocolate Truffle Angel Cake

    1 cup butter, softened
    2/3 cup sugar
    1 egg yolk
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1 large egg
    2 tablespoons whipping cream
    2 (3.3-ounce) jars white sparkling sugar
    1 to 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional)
    4 (2-ounce) vanilla candy coating squares

    Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar, beating well. Add egg yolk and vanilla; beat 1 minute or until yellow disappears.

    Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until dry ingredients are moistened. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Divide dough into 3 portions; shape each into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.

    Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle parchment with flour, and unwrap each dough portion on a lightly floured surface. Roll each into a 9- x 6-inch rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick). Cut dough using a angel-shaped cookie cutter. Reserve trimmings. Freeze angels on baking sheets 15 minutes; slide angels at least 3 inches apart.

    Whisk together egg and whipping cream. Brush angel cookies lightly with mixture, and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

    Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden brown; cool on pan 10 minutes. Transfer cookies with parchment paper to a wire rack to cool.

    Press together reserved dough trimmings; roll out on a lightly floured parchment paper-lined baking sheet to 1/4-inch thickness; cut with a 1-inch star-shaped cutter. Remove and discard trimmings. Brush stars lightly with egg mixture, and sprinkle with sparkling sugar, reserving remaining sugar.

    Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until stars are golden brown. Remove with parchment paper to a wire rack to cool.

    Brush upper one-third of back of each angel lightly with corn syrup, and sprinkle with reserved sparkling sugar, if desired. Let dry.

    Microwave candy coating in a 4-cup glass measuring cup at HIGH 1 1/2 minutes or until melted, stirring twice. Pour into a small heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Snip a tiny hole in 1 corner of bag, and drizzle a small amount onto backs of 6 stars (reserve extra stars for other uses). Attach 1 star to center of each angel.

    Drizzle in desired design over wings. Make small dots with coating along upper edge of halos. Let stand until hard. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week, or freeze up to 6 months.

    Yield: 6 angel cookies and about 1 dozen star cookies 

We also eat these ribs...CAUTION  They have to be started 3 days in advance--2 to marinate and almost a day to cook.

Quincy Jones Thriller Ribs

The ribs are marinated in a dry rub of spices and garlic and jalapeno peppers for 2 days (hence the 2 day Prep time) and slow roasted in a low oven for 8 hours."


    • 2 teaspoons spike seasoning ( see note)
    • 1 teaspoon Accent seasoning
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
    • 5 racks of baby-back pork ribs ( about 5 pounds)
    • 6 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 large jalapeno peppers, minced
    • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
    • 2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced
    • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
    • 2 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced


  1. In a cup, combine Spike and Ac'cent seasonings, and black pepper.
  2. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon seasoning mixture on each side of the rib racks.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, jalapeno peppers and remaining seasoning mixture.
  4. Rub the garlic mixture on the top and bottom of the ribs.
  5. Line a large roasting pan (17 x 11 1/2 inches) with enough foil to wrap all the ribs.
  6. Spread a layer of onions and bell peppers on top of the foil.
  7. Place 2 rib racks, side by side, on the vegetables.
  8. Continue to layer the onions and peppers and the ribs.
  9. Tightly wrap the marinated ribs in the foil and refrigerate for 2 days.
  10. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  11. Preheat the oven to 400.
  12. Before placing the ribs in the oven, reduce the temperature to 300.
  13. Bake the foil-wrapped ribs for 6 to 8 hours.
  14. Remove the ribs.
  1. Spoon off the fat from the liquid in the pan and discard, reserving the pan juices.
  2. Cut each rack into three sections and serve with the vegetables and pan juices.
*NoteSpike seasoning is a special blend of 38 herbs, vegetables and exotic spices, combined with a bit of salt.It can be found in most major grocery stores with spices or salt.

# 20 Christmas Eve and Mary

There is not alot of planning to this day, really.

We get up and eat breakfast.

Then around 9:30, we go to Chuck E Cheese...because it's Jesus's birthday and He might have liked going there.

We play games for about an hour and a half and then eat pizza. Then we go to a store that carries Fontanini resin figurines. They are not cheap, but they are durable and beautiful. Children can play with them and they, for the most part, do not break or come apart. Here is a website that carries them if you are interested. Some gift stores also carry a limited supply.

(2011 addition-In a few years I think we will have all the Fontanini figures that we might want. And this year we actually ordered them online...they are here in the box waiting to be opened today. I was thinking, though, that if you didn't want to do this activity and were looking for something else, maybe making one of the Jesse Tree Ornaments every year would be good. Then when children grow up and move out, they would have their own set.)

This might be a good day to do some kind of service project. We haven't ever done that, but as the kids get older, everything does not take 3 hours to accomplish and there might be time for that. Maybe clean out a closet and donate some things?  Food bank?  Apparently, you can call Salvation Army and ring the bell for a period of time...

Also, there is some preparation involved for Christmas Day that could be done.

That evening, we spotlight Mary. She was a teen, so the food we eat that night is kind of teen food. I usually do

  • hamburgers

  • french fries...or nachos, maybe.

  • pickles

  • Some teen dessert.... or angel food cake, because God highly favored her..

  •      Divinity is also a good choice. 

    (2011 addition...the hamburger thing didn't work my teens suggested Subway. They love Subway. So we went there...and that may very well become the new Mary dinner. )

    The ornament is a white lily artificial flower.

    Here is the story of Mary or listen to it'll need to listen through some earlier reading.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    #19 Joseph

    ALERT! The ribs for Christmas Day need to be put together this morning so that they can marinate for Christmas Day cooking.  They need 2 days to sit.  This will take about an hour to put together.

    Quincy Jones Thriller Ribs

    The ribs are marinated in a dry rub of spices and garlic and jalapeno peppers for 2 days (hence the 2 day Prep time) and slow roasted in a low oven for 8 hours."


      • 2 teaspoons Spike seasoning (usually I just use seasoning salt)
      • 1 teaspoon Accent seasoning (optional)
      • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper(optional)
      • 5 racks of baby-back pork ribs ( about 5 pounds)
      • 6 cloves garlic, minced
      • 2 large jalapeno peppers, minced (if we use these it is minimal.  MINIMAL)
      • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
      • 2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced (we use all green)
      • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
      • 2 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced


    1. In a cup, combine Spike and Ac'cent seasonings, and black pepper. (I just sprinkle seasoning salt on both sides)
    2. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon seasoning mixture on each side of the rib racks.
    3. In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, jalapeno peppers and remaining seasoning mixture.
    4. Rub the garlic mixture on the top and bottom of the ribs.
    5. Line a large roasting pan (17 x 11 1/2 inches) with enough foil to wrap all the ribs.
    6. Spread a layer of onions and bell peppers on top of the foil.
    7. Place 2 rib racks, side by side, on the vegetables.
    8. Continue to layer the onions and peppers and the ribs.
    9. Tightly wrap the marinated ribs in the foil and refrigerate for 2 days.

    Since we both have some German ancestry, I like to use this as an opportunity to have some German foods. Last year, we had this meal, and everyone liked it, so I think we will use it again.

    • Schnitzel

    • German Potato Salad (I am using this recipe this year and adding the bacon)

    • Saurkraut

    • Pumpernickel Bread

    • Applesauce

    • Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce (I double this whole thing and bake in a 13x9 pan)
    1/2 c butter or shortening
    1 c sugar
    1 egg (beaten)
    1 1/2 c flour
    1/2 t salt
    1 1/2 t baking powder
    1 c milk
    1 1/2 c raw cranberries

    Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs.  Sift flour, salt and baking powder.  Mix alternately with milk.  Fold in washed cranberries.  Bake in a greased 8x8 or 9x9 pan 350 for about 40 minutes

    Serve with butter sauce (recipe below)

    1/2 c butter
    1/2 c cream
    1 c sugar

    Heat all ingredients in a saucepan until melted and well blended.  Cut a piece of cake, put in a bowl and spoon some butter sauce over.  

    The ornament we use for Joseph is a ruler, since he was a carpenter.
    Here is the story of Joseph. Or listen to it here.

    #18 Elizabeth

    ALERT!  If you elect to start meal on this day, the meat has to be put in the marinade at least 8 hours before you grill/broil it.  So FIRST thing this morning.  

    For Elizabeth, we eat things that take a long time or have a surprise in the middle, or have association with pregnancy.

    So, we have

    • Teriyakki Steak (I never can figure out how to spell this, so it is different every time;))

    2 lbs sirloin (you can use round steak but it is not as tender) steak strips marinated at least 8 hours ina ziploc bag...maybe double bagged to prevent leakage

    1 cup sugar,

    1 cup soy sauce

    1/2 cup water

    1 tsp ginger

    1/2 tsp garlic powder
    skewers (that have been soaked in water for maybe an hour before skewering)

    Thread on skewers and grill (better)  or broil (still good)

    • baked potato with whatever you like in there

    • peas in a pod...or just peas...or sugar snap peas

    • rolls (bun in the oven)

    • tootsie pop (surprise inside) or
    • Fried Dough Balls (2011 mother in law, Dorothy, makes a fun fondue type dessert from time to time. She takes canned biscuits and cuts them, maybe in quarters...then puts a treat inside of each one...chocolate chip. banana piece, raisin, peanut, apple...anything...then she sets all these doughballs on a plate. She heats oil in a fondue pot and gives everyone a fondue fork. We spear a doughball with a fondue fork and put it into the hot oil (on the not remove). This is kind of fun and tastes good...just watch out for the oil...Anyway, we are going to have that for dessert this year.)

    The story is here, here and here (partly a repeat of yesterday, but after all, they were married) Or hear the audio here.

    If I get short on time because of Christmas programs, etc, I will combine days on Zacharias/ Elizabeth and Joseph/Mary...if that helps you. Just pick the foods from the days and combine to suit your needs.

    The ornament is a grandma Polly Pocket-type with a baby Polly Pocket-type rubberbanded to her tummy. I know...some are better than others...:-)

    #17 Zacharias

    ALERT!   Tomorrow's meat needs time to marinade.  You can prepare this meat today, marinade tonight and cook tomorrow or you can prepare first FIRST thing in the morning, marinade all day and cook tomorrow night.  I don't know that the meat can sit in the marinade too long, but you will want it to be in the marinade at least 8 hours

    Here is the recipe for the Terriyaki for tomorrow.

    2 lbs sirloin (you can use round steak but it is not as tender) steak strips marinated at least 8 hours ina ziploc bag...maybe double bagged to prevent leakage

    1 cup sugar,

    1 cup soy sauce

    1/2 cup water

    1 tsp ginger

    1/2 tsp garlic powder

    TOMORROW this will be threaded onto skewers (that have been soaked in water for maybe an hour before skewering) and grilled or broiled

    This is the first day of New Testament readings and characters that we do. This was, of course, following the 400 Years of Darkness, in which people had not been spoken to by God directly. Here is the meal that we eat to celebrate Zacharias and his part in the coming of the Messiah.

    • Pigs in a blanket (to signify a baby) Little smokies wrapped in crescent roll dough and baked.

    • Cheez Its in the scrabble version (to signify written letters since he was unable to speak).

    • Some long thin pasta if you wanted, since they tied a rope around the priest's leg before he went into the Holy of Holies, in case he wasn't properly prepared to make the sacrifices and was killed. Optional...I have never done that, but just thought of it.

    • Blue, Purple and Red Jello...or Jigglers (to signify the ephod, which was a fancy breastplace the priest wore).

    • Laffy Taffy (to signify difficulty talking...also several colors) Or Now and Laters...or taffy

    Here is the story...some of it will overlap with Elizabeth. Or listen to it here

    #16 400 Years of Darkness & Hanukkah

    This is the site where I got most of the information that we use to talk about the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments.

    I am not a historical scholar or a Bible scholar or a scholar:-), but it is interesting.

    We do Hannukah (a really simplified version, since it is just one night...more of a "These are the reasons that people celebrate Hanukkah" rather than "We are reinacting the celebration of Hanukkah".

    So we eat

    Zippy Cheeseball (from Food Editors Favorites Cookbook)

    • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

    • 1 (8 oz) brick of neufatel cheese (easier to mix than cream cheese)

    • 2 tablespoons mayonaise

    • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

    • 1 teaspoon onion powder...or 1 tablespoon recontstituted dehydrated onion

    • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

    Mix everything but the pecans and make a ball. Roll in the nuts. Wrap in plastic wrap until ready to serve. Serve with crackers or crudites.

    • potato chips (because we have some who do not like potatoes in our family but are OK with chips...go figure)

    • applesauce (usually eaten with latkes)

    • donuts (donuts and latkes are to refer to the oil in the Hannukah story).

    The ornament for us is a large piece of black tuille (am I spelling that right? That net stuff that is sold in the fabric stores) that can nearly cover the tree. And no lights from now until Christmas. This is for the 400 years of darkness.

    This year I may put out eight of those flameless candles so that there is some light, but it won't be the ones actually on the tree. Just a thought.

    Because there is gift giving during this time, I usually get everyone a pair of slippers. Maybe a little more fun than socks and underwear. :-) (2011 everyone fleece pajama pants this year...we'll see how that goes...) (2013 addition-This year I got us matching shirts for the Thunder.  We love matching shirts as a family, but sometimes they are hard to find when trying to get children's and adult sizes.  These were not the fanciest Thunder shirts but they do match:))