It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas – The Reason for the Season

Our first snowfall this year was on Halloween. My grandson was so excited he danced around the small front yard yelling at the top of his lungs in unashamed joy, “Santa Claus is coming soon.” We then explained that we needed to celebrate Thanksgiving first, before we celebrate Christmas.

I learned from a veteran Walmart employee that the holiday shopping season has been dubbed “the season of rudeness”, and it gets worse the closer it gets to Christmas. Makes you wonder what in the world is wrong with people?

Then I hear stories about a secret Santa who pays the balance on a layaway for a hard working single mom. A police officer who pulls over an unsuspecting motorist who is wondering what traffic infraction caused the red lights in the rear view mirror, only to be given a gift card, or wrapped package instead of  a ticket.

I see barrels everywhere for toy donations, and they are filled with dolls, trucks, and board games. Let us not forget those brave souls who stand out in the cold to ring a bell next to a shiny red kettle. All to make spirits bright for someone in need.

Christmas begins in the heart. Love is the reason for the season. Our greatest gift chose to come down from heaven, to be born in a barn, and raised in a humble home. Sometimes I forget that Jesus is the reason for the season, and I remind myself that all that commercial stuff makes people crazy. Sure, we all want to watch the kids open presents and see that look of surprise and joy. This is what makes gift giving so much fun!

Take away all the pretty lights, ugly sweaters and Aunt Margie’s fruitcake, and what you have left is still worth celebrating.

God gave us a wonderful gift we can celebrate everyday, all year round. I choose to focus on the real reason for Christmas. How about you? [Click to Tweet]

 

April’s a Wrap

Now that we’re finished organizing and spring-cleaning our homes, and our manuscripts…

Time to get outside and enjoy the beautiful spring weather.

Another month has come and gone. I hope you enjoyed our posts about cleaning. If I said my house is now clean and well-organized, I’d be writing fiction, or possibly fantasy. But I did just finish spiffing up a manuscript. I have another book releasing in June. There’s a lot of background work involved in any book release.

I hope you’ll join us next month as we discuss Families and Children, which makes me think of mothering and Mother’s Day. Can’t wait.

Speaking of not being able to wait–some of you may be on tenterhooks–waiting to hear who won our 3-word story prompt contest. We’ll be making a decision about that in the very near future, so watch for an announcement. Oh, and I’ll give you one more chance to enter–

3-Word Prompt:  A door opened…

Remember, finish my 3 words with 3 more words of your own, to complete a 6-word story. Have fun!

 

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A Clean Schedule

by Betty Owens

A clean house. It’s what we all want, right? How many of you have trouble achieving it? (My hand is in the air). You work full or part-time, you have children, you’re a writer on a deadline–you barely manage to keep up with the day-to-day. Your biggest fear: unexpected company. How do you cope?

I love a clean, uncluttered house. I can’t relax if there’s dust on the furniture, fingerprints on the wall, toddler nose prints on the window. But sometimes those things have to wait their turn. So I’ve found a way to get through. I have a schedule.

Laundry happens on Mondays and Thursdays. Even though there are only two of us here, it is simply amazing how many clothes we go through. Mostly the guy who takes two showers a day, of course!

I change the sheets on the same day every week, and vacuum the whole house on Fridays. We have a walk-in shower that takes about an hour to clean, so that gets done on the same day I change the sheets. Having a schedule helps me accomplish these chores. It’s not set in stone. Sometimes I miss a day and have to catch up. Every once in a while, I miss a week altogether. But sooner or later, it gets done, because I’m really not comfortable otherwise.

When I tackle window-washing, I wash a couple of windows at a time (inside and out). Most of our windows are floor-to-ceiling, so it takes a little longer. I schedule the job over three or four days. I do the same thing with the kitchen cabinets. Time is not the only reason I break these jobs into sections. Stamina definitely plays a part. While I used to be able to stay at it for an entire day, now I run out of energy! And right in the middle of a job like that–inspiration seems to hit! I have the idea I need to finish a scene or a story. I have to stop, right?

Absolutely. Right now, my bookshelves are calling me. I honestly can’t remember the last time I unloaded them and cleaned. But it has to be done, so one of these mornings, it’s going to happen. I’d better put them on the schedule.

Click to tweet: A clean house. It’s what we all want, right?

How do you get these big jobs done, if hiring help is not a possibility? Are you a stay-at-it-till-it’s-done person? Or an “it’ll be there when I get to it type?”

Three-word prompt: Through clean windows …

Remember–finish the three-word prompt with three words of your own to complete a six-word short story. It should express a complete thought. Submit in the comment section below.

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Christmas Around the World-MEXICO

By Robin E. Mason

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CHRISTMAS AROUND the WORLD – MEXICO

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I don’t know about you but I tend to associate the piñata with birthdays. Although, it is rather the epitome of Mexican celebration, to this non-Mexican anyway. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that the piñata is very much a part of traditional Christmas in Mexico. “From December 16 to 24 there are a series of processions and parties called  Las Posadas  (from the word for inn) , for many children the most anticipated part of the Christmas season. The tradition was begun by Spanish evangelists to teach the Christmas story to the indigenous people.” [source: Wikipedia]

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Of course, Nativity scenes are universal displays of, well, the birth of Christ. In Mexico, they are “generally set up by December 12 and left on display at least until February 2 and found in homes, businesses and churches. They were introduced in the early colonial period with the first Mexican monks teaching the indigenous people to carve the figures. The basic set up is similar to those in other parts of the world, with a focus on the Holy Family.” [source: Wikipedia]

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In Oaxaca, Joseph and Mary are dressed in traditional Oaxacan costume.

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I am fascinated by this image of Niño Dios, the Child Jesus, dressed in Tzotzil costume, but can’t find information about the tradition—except in Spanish. (and my Spanish isn’t strong enough, nor is my brain on point enough, to glean the meaning.)

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The Nativity aside, what could be more iconic to Christmas than the Christmas tree. (forgive, I am not making the case pro or con, just sharing what is standard, and part of traditional Mexican celebration.)

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This treat the Universum Museum en Mexico City is decorated with polyhedrons.

Not only is the poinsettia another Christmas icon, but it is native to Mexico. One “modern Mexican legend says that the pointsettia was once a weed that miraculously turned into a beautiful flower so that a child could present it to the infant Jesus.” [source: Wikipedia]

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A significant part of the extended Christmas holiday, is “Epiphany, called Día de lost Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Day). This day celebrates whtn the Three Wise Men arrived to visit the Child Jesus (Niño Dios) bearing gifts. On the night of January 5, children traditionally leave a shoe by the doorway where the Wise Men will enter, although this is not done in all parts of Mexico. … In the morning after opening the presents, a round sweet bread called a rosca is served.

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Like in any part of the world, there is so much more, different traditions in various regions, and like pretty much any post I write it could very easily turn into a much longer article. I leave you with one final pretty decoration.

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And one final thought…

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This is a bittersweet post for me to write; it is my last post as a regular contributor here at Writing Prompts Crew. I have valued the time spent here, and cherish the friendships I have made. As my own blog and writing career have grown, I must, sadly, pare back other commitments.

Fear not, though, I’ll hover around, and make my usual snarky commentary, and the occasional post as a guest. I thank all the crew and every follower for coming into my life. You have enriched me in ways words cannot express.

And so, in my beloved Irish, I bid you…

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… a fond farewell, not good-bye, but see you soon.  And because my new series  is a family entrenched in French ancestry,

joyeux Noel

et

bonne année!

 WRITING PROMPT—Tío Miguel and Tía Maria are visiting from Mexico for the holidays. We haven’t seen them since we were little. We are teaching them American traditions, and they are sharing their Mexican ones. All is going beautifully, til Tío Miguel discovers the eggnog—and somebody has spiked it. As he hangs the luminaries in place of the piñatas, somebody outside starts hollering.

 

Writing Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas, Christmas Around the World, Christmas in Mexico, Luminaries, Piñatas, Nacimiento, Poinsettia, FELIZ NAVIDAD, and Slán

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The Art of Baking Bread

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THE ART of BAKING BREAD

slide2I wasn’t aware of it as a child, but my paternal grandmother’s sister was a consummate bread baker. I did know, however, that my dad was. (And now I know where he got it from!)

 

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And now, I am the bread baker in the family. I like to experiment with different ingredients and techniques. But nothing beats a slice of plain ol’ fresh baked bread, warm from the oven and slathered with butter!

slide4Over the years, I have adapted and morphed recipes from cookbooks, into my own standard, all purpose recipe. Several years ago, my dad created a clever little bread cook booklet. It has the basic white bread recipe up top, on a flip up page. Then the pages below open to several varieties with ingredient variations, and baking tips.

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My personal specialty is cinnamon bread, I make into rolls or coffee rings or loaves, or some other creative twist. When I say cinnamon bread, I do not mean I sprinkle a little cinnamon on the bread. No, I wrap a little bit of bread around the cinnamon. (Did I mention I love cinnamon and will put it on or in just about anything!)

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I’m going to recreate the little booklet, and will send a copy to one commenter on today’s post. (Bear with me, I haven’t even started this project!) Among the variations are rye bread, corn bread (only different), rice bread, dill bread, whole wheat bread—sixteen in all—and I’ll add my cinnamon bread variation.

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WRITING PROMPT: The macaroni was baked, the jello salad was set, the green beans had simmered all day. I looked at the bountiful table, with a perfect golden turkey in the center, and sighed. Something was missing. The rolls! But when I went to pull them from the oven…

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