Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 - A New Year!

As 2011 comes to a close and 2012 begins, I hope that you all will take time to enjoy the family and friends.  This year has been full of the blessings and challenges that make life exciting.  Thank you for sharing them with me.  Have a blessed weekend and I will see you in 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sparkling Ginger Cider Mocktail

I had so much fun this year celebrating the holidays on Food Network's The Dish with so many other talented food bloggers.  At Thanksgiving, one recipe caught my eye and screamed, "I am perfect for the New Year!"  Amanda at EasyPeasyOrganic shared her recipe for a Thanksgiving Ginger Cocktail that, while already made with safe ingredients, could easily be made with the "Ginger-Honey Tea" syrup that I posted for my "Snack Match: Hot Cocoa" last January.  I used my "Ginger-Honey Tea" syrup and topped it off with sparkling apple cider for the bubbles.  Yum-my!

Sparkling Ginger Cider Mocktail
1 recipe "Ginger-Honey Tea"
1 bottle Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider
a few cranberries or raspberries, washed
  1. Pour a teaspoon of the "Ginger-Honey Tea" syrup in a champagne flute.  You may add more or less to taste. (Personally, I like about a T... but I am a ginger maniac!)
  2. Top the glass off with Sparkling Apple Cider.
  3. Float a cranberry or a couple of raspberries to add a festive look!
  4. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Advent 2011: Let's Party!

Today we make time, not only to open gifts but to remember the reason that we are celebrating.  Today, in our house, we stop in the middle of the morning’s excitement to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.  We blow up balloons.  We eat cake.  We party.

Christmas Adventus 2011:  Place a card in an envelope for today’s advent.  In the card, write, “Happy Birthday, Jesus”;  on the envelope write tell your angels to look in the refrigerator for a birthday cake.  Have your angels bring the cake (inscribed “Happy Birthday”) and make a small party.  It doesn’t have to be big but it should be a moment to celebrate the reason for today’s gift giving.  Have your angels open the birthday card and ask each one what gift they would give Christ for His birthday.

Find our Christmas wish for you at Christmas Adventus 2011.

For all our 2011 Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent 2011: Feed His Servants

You know the tradition… before going to bed Christmas Eve night, the children leave cookies and milk for Santa to eat along his journey.  But, what about the reindeer?  What will they eat?
Each year, our family makes Reindeer Food so that the reindeer won’t go hungry either.  We make the food the week before and put 1 cup portions in Christmas bags.  Just before bed on Christmas Eve, the kids sprinkle the reindeer food on the lawn so that the reindeer won’t get hungry.  The oats are delicious, the sugar makes it a treat, and the glitter helps the reindeer find your house.

Christmas Adventus 2011:  Place a cookie in advent bag #24.  Tonight, you will prepare the food for Santa, his reindeer, and your elf (he has worked hard, too!).  Take a moment, eat a cookie, and share what you have done to serve God this holiday season. 
Saint Nicholas (or Santa to us) was known for his love of God and his work with the poor and the children.  He was a devout Christian who sold all he owned so that he make work with those most in need.  I doubt that Saint Nicholas had reindeer then but I believe that the sentiment can be the same.  As you prepare food for Santa this year, remember that he, like you, is serving the Lord and trying to bring joy to boys and girls.  Feed this kind servant well and don’t forget to feed his reindeer, too!

For our Reindeer Food recipe, go to Christmas Adventus 2011.
For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Friday, December 23, 2011

Advent 2011: A-Caroling we Go

I just love Christmas carols!  We sing them all year in my house and, as soon as November comes, I begin counting the days until they turn the Christmas music on the radio full time.  Many years ago, we began the tradition of caroling to my neighbors – a Christmas tradition which seems almost lost.  Christmas day or a few days before, we bundle up, grab some luminaries and head out for some singing.  I wasn’t sure how the neighbors would feel about some amateur singers interrupting their evening but, it turns out, they were almost giddy with excitement!  I guess they like Christmas carols as much as I do.

This year, round up some candles and maybe some friends.  Print some Christmas carols and light up the night with a song!

Christmas Adventus 2011: Place a candle in tonight’s advent bag (#23).  Print out the words to some familiar Christmas carols.  Some time after dark, light your candles and start walking.  Stop at each door, ring the bell and begin singing.  Don’t be surprised if people want a few more songs and a picture.  If you’re feeling hospitable, invite some friends to go along and, when the caroling is over, go back to your house for some honey tea and cocoa.

For instructions on how to make a simple, handheld luminary and the words to some popular carols, go to our Christmas Adventus 2011page.

For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Advent 2011: Three Kings

“We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, more and mountain
Following yonder star.”

I found myself in the essential oil department of our local whole food grocery.  I wanted to scent some playdough for my angel to give as gifts.  Since today’s advent is about the Kings, how about some Frankincense and Myrrh scented playdough. Have you ever smelled these?  WOW!  And, I don’t mean a good “wow”, I mean… “Wow! That stuff is kinda strong and not so sweet smelling!”  I can’t imagine what someone would do with these, or even finding value in such a scent.  So, why give these gifts to the newborn king?

Although not so sweet smelling, Frankincense is a powerful, medicinal herb.  It is proving helpful in ridding people of everything from osteoarthritis and allergies to stress and wrinkles.  Probably the most fascinating use to me is in its ability to help heal wounds.  For me, this proved pretty symbolic.  The savior of the world, born as a poor baby in a manger, is given a expensive, stinky herb that helps to cure innumerable ailments.  Ironic.
And Myrrh?  Myrrh is believed to be good for the circulation, for helping blood move through the body.  I find this interesting since, in Biblical times, it would have also been used as embalming oil. What a foreshadow to the life of Jesus life!  This little baby lives so that we may live and dies so that we do not have to.  Certainly, a gift beyond words.
Although the kings in the song probably weren’t truly kings, but these men certainly were wise.  They understood the star in the sky that was a sign from God of the king and Messiah that was born.

Christmas Adventus 2011:  Place a piece of aluminum foil in the 21st Advent bag.  You will need one piece of aluminum foil per person. Each piece should be long enough to wrap around a person’s head like a hat.
Begin the night by removing the foil from the bag.  Have each person fold their foil lengthwise in thirds to form a strip approximately 5 inches wide.  Using scissors cut in a “V” formation along one side of the foil to make points along one side.  Wrap the foil around your head and pinch the ends together in the back of your head.  The pointed side of your foil should face upward to make a crown.

Talk about the choices of three kings:

King David: Although he made mistakes, King David always sought the Lord. As foretold in prophecy, Jesus would be born from this line of ancestry. (2 Samuel 5:5, 1 Chronicles 3:4)

Jesus: He was a king born in the humblest of ways. He came as king and savior of the world. Even though He was persecuted, He followed the will of God until His death.

King Herrod: Heard that wise men were traveling to see a newborn king, Jesus. Herrod was jealous of this king and sent His soldiers to kill all of the boys under the age of two in the land of Bethlehem.

Some of these kings ruled with God’s wisdom and some ruled with the world’s wisdom.  Those who ruled with God’ wisdom, had great reigns and many blessings.  Those who did not were plagued with struggle.

Watch this video, Jelly Telly's "The Jungle Song" by Focus on the Family, about making wise choices:

For a fun and smelly activity, go to our Christmas Adventus 2011page.

For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent 2011: "O come, O come Emmanuel"

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman* is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.*  Isaiah 7:14

Tonight we have a song - song which tells the story of a savior to come.  It is a song which tells of a prophecy found in Isaiah and fulfilled in Matthew 1:23. This song was once chanted by monks, one verse per day on the seven days leading up to Christmas, to represent the different views of the Messiah.
In the 1850’s, the verses to a chant probably written by a monk were published.  John Mason Neale, translated the words to English and paired them with “Veni Emmanuel”, a processional for Portugese nuns, and history evolved the song into what we know today.

 Christmas Adventus 2011:  Leave tonight’s bag empty.  Tonight, our bag is empty because we are waiting for a promise to be fulfilled.  It is God’s promise which is made throughout history.  It is the promise of a savior.  A savior who has already come, gone but will come again.  Tonight, we remember a promise fulfilled by a baby, in poor family, in a cold stable, many years ago.
Turn down the lights.  Turn on your luminaries.  Sing this song.  Can you hear the chants of the monks?  Can you move in procession as the nuns?  Can you hear Isaiah’s promise of a savior?  Do you hear Matthew’s savior delivered?

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan's tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them victory over the grave. Refrain

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight. Refrain

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. Refrain

O come, O come, Adonai,
Who in thy glorious majesty
From Sinai’s mountain, clothes in awe,
Gavest thy folk the elder law. Refrain
Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas
by Ace Collins, 2001

For a recording of this song, go to our Christmas Adventus 2011 page.
For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent 2011: Your Christmas Story

Christmas is a great time of the year to share stories of family and friends, traditions – both new and old.  It is a time for bringing out the favorite books of seasons past and remembering.

Christmas Adventus 2011: Place a copy of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” or Dickens' “A Christmas Carol” … or both..  in Advent bag #20 or directions to find it under the tree.  Have paper, pens and other necessary book-making materials ready.
Read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" as a family.  After it is finished, ask, "Who was telling the story? What was this person's story about?" This evening, each person will make their own book... write their own Christmas story.  It can be fact or fiction; that is up to you, the author.  You may use paper, pen, markers and anything else you need to write your story and illustrate it.  When you have finished, use an old binder, some staples or tacks with a hole punch to bind the books.  You may want to cover your finished book in material or another paper to make a cover.  This your individual publication; make it unique.
When everyone has finished their story, share them with each other.

Here is a little YouTube "Twas the Night Before Christmas" told by Perry Como to inspire you:

For story-starters, Christmas mini-book ideas and printable books for young ones to color, as well as another fun version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" , go to Christmas Adventus 2011

For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent 2011: Wrap it up!

Tonight is a night Christmas fun!  It is the night that we wrap gifts and prepare packages to mail, deliver, or place under the tree.  If you are like us, we have family in other parts of the country and that means there is not much Christmas shopping left until Christmas Eve any more.  So, today is our last chance to prepare and ship gifts to those who are not near.  It is also the day that we assess what shopping or crafting is left to be done.

So, let's wrap things up with a little Christmas cheer as we make our final gift preparations for the season.

Christmas Advent 2011:  Place each person's name on a piece of paper and place it in the bag for advent.  Before opening this evening's bag,  we will begin the evening with a race.  Place a few gifts (or empty boxes) in the middle of the floor along with wrapping paper, tape, ribbon and scissors.  You are now set up for a wrapping contest.  Take turns by team for individuals to see who can wrap their gifts the fastest.  A few ground rules, the gift must be properly wrapped; no parts of the box showing.  The gift or box may not be damaged in the process.  When finished, the gift must be in a condition worthy of gifting.  And... GO!

After the race, this is a good opportunity to check your gift list as a family, make any remaining crafts for gifting this week, or address packages for mailing tomorrow.  We also like to use this time to open cards and gifts that have been sent to us.  Throughout the holiday, we receive gifts that are meant to be opened before Christmas and cards that are fun to place on the mantel.  However, it is nice to do this as a family...something which is not always possible in the daily hustle and bustle.  Today, we share the fun that has been collecting under our tree as we open all of the cards an gifts that have arrived by mail. 

We also have a long-standing tradition of drawing names in our family.  We draw names and make homemade gifts for each other.  This evening's advent bag has the names of your family members in it.  Each person should take a name from the bag... checking to be sure that no one has their own name.  Set some ground rules like how much money can be spent on time and materials or when you will exchange the gifts etc.  Then begin to your search for the perfect homemade gift.

For more information on this tradition, go to Christmas Adventus 2011.

For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent 2011: Living Nativity

This week may be my favorite time of the advent season because this is the time of the year when churches begin their living Nativities.  The idea of a nativity, or representation of Jesus birth, has been around for a long time.  But, I am not sure who or when it was decided to bring this scene to life.  But, I sure am glad that they did!  Seeing the cows, people dressed in period costume and hearing people tell the story of Jesus birth while standing before a baby in a feeding trough … well, it takes the story to whole new personal level for me.

I hope that you will all use today as a time to seek out a living nativity to visit.  Take the time to ride or walk through with family and friends.  Share what parts of the story were the most meaningful when re-told in the reality of the living animals and manger.  Let this story come into your heart in a way that it may never have done so before.  Let this story come alive inside of you!

Christmas Adventus Day 18:  Place a map or invitation to a living nativity in your town.  During advent time, pack up some warm snacks and walk or drive through this re-enactment of Jesus birth.  Enjoy this time with your family and friends and remember, THIS baby’s birth is the reason for the season.

For alternative activity to the living nativity, visit Christmas Adventus 2011.
For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent 2011: Hold the Gingerbread

When you enter a town and people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick, and say, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'
Luke 10:8-9
Food makes up a large part of our daily existence.  We use it for energy, satisfaction, sharing, giving, loving, pacifying and celebrating.  And, this is true around the world.  But, during a holiday season when so much of the focus is on food - whether cookies or punch - an allergic child can feel left out and miss out on experiences that unit groups.

This holiday, help your angel safely experience a tradition that is associated specifically with the Christmas season.... decorating gingerbread cookies.  In the US, it is a very commong tradition to bake cookies for gifts, parties, and swaps.  However, a cookie to my very allergic angel doesn't look much like other people's and no matter how delicious they are, not many are lining up to eat them!  My cookies just aren't those familiar peanut butter kiss cookies or frosted sugar reindeer... and they probably never will be.

So, help your angel get in on the action by making gifts to give your local senior citizens, neighbors, homeless or firemen.  By decorating paper gingerbread people or a professionally baked cookie, you can help your angel have the Christmas gingerbread cookie experience....safely!

Christmas Adventus Day 17:  Place a decorated paper gingerbrean man in advent bag #17.   Tonight we will be making paper gingerbread people to give to neighbors, friends and the elderly for Christmas.

Materials: brown construction paper, pencil, gingerbread shaped cookie cutter, scissors, small hole punch, 5 inches of 1/8" wide ribbon per gingerbread man, ricrac, buttons, sequins, small poms, glue

  1. Place the cookie cutter on the brown construction paper and trace.
  2. Cut out the gingerbread tracing and punch a hole in the top of the gingerbread man' head .
  3. Thread a piece of ribbon through the hole and tie in a knot to make a loop for hanging the ornament.
  4. Write "Merry Christmas!" on the back of each.  We printer labels with 1 Peter 1:8 on them and stuck one to the back of each ornament.
    “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now,
    you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” 1Peter 1:8
  5. Decorate the front of the gingerbread man with the ricrac, buttons, sequins, and poms.
  6. Have fun!
  7. Give these to friends, neighbors, or the elderly to wish them a merry Christmas.

For more Gingerbread fun, visit our Christmas Adventus 2011 page.

For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent 2011: Las Posadas

Throughout Latin America and much of the Spanish speaking world, today begins a celebration called Las Posadas.  Las Posadas is a time to remember Mary and Joseph’s long journey in search of a place to stay.  During this celebration, children roam the streets going door to door in search of someone to let them in.  The children are dressed as the angel, Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, and shepherds.  They are followed by the adults who carry candles.  At each door, the children stop and they sing a song Pidiendo Posadas or “begging for shelter”.  The children sing and the people in the homes answer that they have no space… until, one home finally lets the singers enter. 

Once inside the home, the festivities begin.  Everyone says a prayer then enjoys tamales and warm punch, or “Ponche Navideno”, and the breaking of a star shaped pinata.  This tradition begins nine days before Christmas on December 16th and continues through Christmas Day.

Christmas Adventus Day 16:  Hang a piñata filled with small toys somewhere safe or fill a paper bag with small toys and tie it at the top then hang it from a high location.  If you made Ponche Navideno earlier in the day, give everyone a warm cup to sip while you read the introduction to today’s advent.

Watch this fun YouTube video of a Disney explanation of Las Posadas:

What traditions do you celebrate each Christmas?  Which traditions are special to your family culture?  Although your family may not recognize their family’s cultural heritage, our family traditions have evolved over the years to include old and new traditions that make a culture special to only your family.

Who makes the preparations for your celebrations and traditions?  Can you remember what preparations we made for Jesus arrival a few weeks ago?  (we built a manger)  We learned a few weeks ago that God made many preparations for baby Jesus arrival. However, many people were not ready for Him to come.  The Bible tells us that Jesus will come a second time.  Hebrews9: 27,28 says, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Jesus will come again to save us.  How can we be ready?  John 3:16 tells says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  And, Luke 12:35-48 tells us that we do not know when the Lord will come and so we must be always be ready.  We must do the work that the Lord has given us.  Be ready!

Now, take turns hitting your piñata (or filled paper bag) with a stick while wearing a blindfold.  Hit the bag until it breaks and the toys fall out.  Be sure to do this somewhere with plenty of space for swinging the stick!

If you are not yet ready to meet Jesus when he comes again, please find a pastor in a local church that can pray with you and help you to prepare for His coming.

For our allergy-free version of “Ponche Navideno” and other information about Las Posadas, go to Christmas Adventus 2011 .  I have placed links to the song “Pidiendo Posadas” with English translation and other fun videos on that page.

For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advent 2011: The Trip

We’ve all taken trips.  But none were as momentous as that of Mary and Joseph.  A woman at the end of her pregnancy making her way to a town 80 miles away would probably have been travelling by foot or donkey for about a week.  How tired she must have felt!  Can you imagine what it would have been like for her?  Let’s try!

Christmas Adventus Day 15: Today, place a picture from a family trip in the 15th advent bag.
With your family, make a “manger” that is large enough for your whole family to sit under.  Use sheets for the roof and blankets for hay. Everyone sit in your manger with your luminaries for light.  Open today’s advent bag and ask if anyone remembers that trip.  What was their favorite part?

Tell about the best trip that you have ever taken.  By plane, in a car, on foot….did you ever feel? Excited? tired? Scared? Bored?  Ask them to share their favorite trips.  Could they imagine riding a donkey to get there?  Or walking?

Mary and Jesus probably sat in the manger and talked about their trip to Bethlehem just like we are talking about our trips.  But their manger was very different than ours.  What do you think that their manger looked like?  Was it warm or cold?  How did it smell?

Mary and Joseph had a long, hard journey - walking much of the trip.  Once they arrived in Bethlehem, they looked for a place to stay but what did they discover? (no one had any room)  So, they stayed in the only place available…. The stable.

Go to Christmas Adventus 2011 for today’s activity and to learn more about the manger where Jesus was born,.  We have a video link with follow-up questions to help your family get the most out of today’s advent topic.

For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent 2011: The Gift of Family

Christmas time is a great time for reading.  With so many cold, dreary days, it is the perfect time to grab your favorite story, sit by a fire and help your angel develop a love of books.

In our family, we began a book tradition a few years ago that I hope lasts generations.  It began when my parents bought one of the Hallmark Record-a-books.  These books are designed so that a person can read the book aloud and record themselves. Once the recording is complete, your angel can sit and listen to grandma or grandpa from Kalamazoo read them a bedtime story… any time that they want. What a great way to preserve the voice of a loved one?!  My angel loved this book so much that, even in July, I heard my father’s voice reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” over and over again.  Family is a blessing from God; and, to capture a moment like this forever is like putting time in a bottle.
This Christmas, bring back the tradition of reading.  Whether you all sit together while someone reads a picture book aloud or you record-a-book, take the time to read together.  Someday, you will be glad that you did!

Christmas Adventus Day 14:  Today, place a new book, an iPod recording of a book, or a Record-a-Book in advent bag #14 or under the tree.  During advent time, gather together and read Christmas books to one another.  Take advantage of this opportunity to include relatives who might live far away.  Use the phone, internet etc. and have them read to your angel.  Make a memory to last forever!

To see a list of our favorite Christmas books, visit our Christmas Adventus 2011 page.
For our other Advent activities, see "Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-Free".

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Peppermint Tea

This time of the year, most of us cherish the quiet moments when we can curl up with a warm mug of cocoa... and maybe a book.  But, for our angel, one sip of the milk-based, cocoa bean laced drink would end up in a medical disaster only rivaled by a bite of peanut butter!

So... this time of the year, in our house, we curl up with a warm cup of peppermint tea.  It is simple, soothing... and a great Christmas alternative to cocoa!

Peppermint Tea

1-2 sticks  Bob's "Sweet Stripes" Peppermint Sticks
6 oz warm water
1 festive mug
  1. Place the peppermint stick in the mug.
  2. Pour 6 oz warm water into the mug and stir the stick around until melted.
* Makes one cup of tea

NOTE:  For those who can safely drink tea, place 1/2 teaspoon oolong tea leaves into a diffuser.  Soak the diffuser in the cup with the peppermint for about 5 minutes or until  fully steaped.

Allergy note:  Bob's soft peppermint sticks and soft mint candies are made in a facility which only produces that product.  The ingredients are: sugar, peppermint oil