Pre-Easter Cleaning ~ an Olde World tradition

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I’m a traditional kinda gal. Not that I follow a lot of proscribed traditions laid down by others. Although I do have some of those. Mostly, I’ve made up my own traditions. However, deep cleaning a house before Easter is an ancient, Olde World Christian tradition, going back to the 1st century Church. In fact, it goes back before that to the Old Testament and Passover cleaning rites and traditions.

Maybe it’s simply because as the days get longer and brighter, I notice the dust and cat hair in the corners. Oh, yeah…I have five cats. Used to be an animal rescuer in Brooklyn, but that’s a story for another time. Needless to say, the light of spring revealed dreaded CAT HAIR.

15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; ~ Exodus 12:15 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

When Jewish women remove the leaven from their kitchens they also scrub and clean the kitchen thoroughly that not a single drop remains. Biblically, leaven symbolizes sin. For many Christians, this type of deep cleaning symbolizes the cleansing of the heart, mind, and soul.

In medieval Christian homes made of wood or stone, pre-Easter cleaning meant the doors were thrown open, the rushes that covered the floors were swept out and the walls and floors were scrubbed with lye-soap. Very little cleaning had been done all winter due to cold weather. This winter no-deep-cleaning rule was especially true in northern climates.

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I’ve never adhered to that olden-time winter no-deep-cleaning rule, not even when I lived up north. Then again, every house I knew of had heat and access to all manner of cleaning materials. So, each year, I’d do a thorough cleaning right before Thanksgiving to get ready for that day of thanks and also as preparation for Christmas. I put my Christmas decorations up the day after Thanksgiving. There’s no Black Friday for me (I really dislike that term, anyway). So, in my mind, the house must be really clean with Christmas decorations going up.  There is no scripture for that. But, since I’m a contemporary traditionalist I do make up my own traditions. There certainly is no scripture against that.

Proverbs 31: 27 ~ She carefully watches everything in her household
    and suffers nothing from laziness. [New Living Translation, NLT]

Spring cleaning is also a good time to get rid of some useless clutter. The Lord has been after me for a while to rid my house of objects with negative soul ties…that hostess gift I’ve kept out of respect given by a relative who didn’t care for my husband, that Christmas present given by an “old friend” who didn’t understand and frowned on my Christian faith and friends…OUT with those things! I’ve been saved for twenty-four years. So that tells you how long I’ve kept some of these things (pray for me). But “soul ties” is a subject for another blog article I hope I will one day get to write.

I’m not one of those who follows the steps proscribed in a cleaning blog or podcast, and certainly not if it comes from a strange religion or tradition. I use the word “strange” biblically. I don’t make a list of things I have to clean or de-clutter. I know what I have to do, I’ve been cleaning for many years. Got it down to a science by now.

Quoting from Second Fantasions: “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go.”

Christmas Day ~ in northeast coastal Florida

IMG_2863After my daughter Vicky made a 117 course Christmas breakfast oozing with cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar, as well as homemade sweetbread and fresh blueberries, we had to walk some of it off before dinner. Yes, we had seriously over indulged, thus we we had to intentionally burn some calories off. My body is the temple of the Living God, and I have to treat it as if it is.

We headed for the public boat slip on a cove of the St. John’s River located at our local city park. Duval County is gorgeous in December. Here I’m with Sophie the Wonder Dog.

IMG_2872We sat on the dock and watched the sailboats, deep sea fishing boats, kayaks, paddle-boats, and jet skiers go by. Those jet skiers are hearty folk. Even though it’s Florida, the water is cold. I want to encourage those over 50, as well as “seasoned citizens” to get out and do. Go for it. Live life.

IMG_2869A nearby boat-slip…just beyond the dock.

Merry Christmas to all. The Savior was born over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem and He dwells with us. Emanuel, God with us.

May you all be blessed in the new year.

 

 

Christmas Eve 2018 ~ a merry time after loss

Vicky is doing a “sleeping beauty” this Christmas morning and I’ve been watching the Nashville Christmas Parade, followed by Kathy Lee and Hoda. It’s been a gentle and quiet Christmas morning which will end when Vic wakes up…the quiet part.IMG_2851

We had a sweet and fun Christmas Eve dinner last night at Miller’s Ale House on San Jose Boulevard, JAX. I was surprised at the number of families having their Christmas Eve meal in the restaurant. Many parents came from work, so it makes sense.  They were short staffed and the hostess was rushed but she insisted on taking this photo of us. A transplant from NYC, I’ve come to love and appreciate southern hospitality and warmth. It makes life so much easier.

Last night, the atmosphere hit the right note for us. We laughed and recalled Christmases past, but this time without pain and loss. We lost Joseph Dennis Chillemi, my husband and Vicky’s dad, in December three years ago. The last two Christmases have been bitter sweet for us.

This year, we’re having a merry little Christmas. I think this is the first Christmas since Joseph passed that Vic and I have felt real happiness and delight at Christmas. I’ve had joy in the Lord and peace at Christmas since my husband passed on December 8th three years ago. This year is the first one that I’ve experienced merriment. Yes, it’s turning out to be a truly merry Christmas for me.

For those who have lost a loved one, I know it will be a different Christmas, but I pray that even in that loss, those who mourn can allow the peace of Christmas to comfort.  There is a “spirit of Christmas.” For Christians, this is a deep and profound thing. NonChristians also feel what Christmas cards and media personalities often call ‘the Christmas spirit’. We don’t understand it, but this spirit seems to bring light and cut through the gloom, depression, and darkness globally.

So, even in your loss, I pray you let the true gentle spirit of Christmas wrap you in warmth.  God is with us, even in the deepest darkest valleys. “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” [Psalm 23:4]

In our loss, especially at Christmas, the ‘shadow of death’ seems to envelop those who mourn. I had to tell myself for nearly three years, “It’s a shadow.” It’s not as powerful as it seems. It’s not forever. And this is a valley. It’s also not forever.” When I look at that Bible verse in times of sorrow, I think of God’s rod as His power…His power over death. Jesus conquered death. And His staff is like the staff of a shepherd. The Shepherd leads us onward in our sorrow on a journey out of the valley. It is a valley and it is a journey.

I often think, to honor the importance of the life of the loved one we lost, it should take time. It should be a journey. But God wants us to see that the valley has an end. We do come out and away from the shadow of death. And that also honors the life of the one/s we mourn. It also honors God, who wants us to reenter life fully.

And so, I wish you all a very merry Christmas filled with joy and blessings and a healthy and happy new year.

Nativity

 

A Hiding Place ~ for Christmas presents

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Beauty, what are you doing in my secret hiding place???

I don’t have to hide Christmas gifts from kids anymore, as mine are adults. However, I have to hide any present in a decorative gift bag from my cats. They love to climb inside bags and hide there, or tear them apart. So, I had a brilliant idea. They’d never find the bags inside the armoire. Would they?

 

 

 

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, ~ John 1:112 [New American Standard Bible – NASB]

Merry Christmas Everyone

 

Alaska Logs ~ my Mom’s Christmas cookies

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Alaska Logs, Helen N. Navor’s recipe

My mom made these cookies every Christmas Eve while my dad whipped up homemade eggnog. We also decorated a freshly cut Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. The entire family would go out a few days before to get the tree from a Christmas tree stand. The interesting thing was, my mom was diabetic and could not eat these cookies. She made them for us to eat. Such a nice thing to do.

I also make Alaska Logs every year. I bring them to parties, serve them to my guests and they are always, always the first to go…not an exaggeration. So, I don’t want the recipe to vanish. I don’t know where my mom got the recipe, but they hail to the late 1950s or early 1960s

ALASKA LOGS

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C flour
  • 1C sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C chopped pitted dates*
  • 1 C chopped walnuts*
  • 3 well beaten large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil

1. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

2. Stir in chopped pitted dates, chopped walnuts, well beaten eggs, oil.

3. Pour into a well-sprayed square pan spayed with canola oil pan spray. Gently spread mixture so that it slides into the corners. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

3. While it’s still hot cut into small bars. Quickly scoop out without breaking, squeeze into logs and roll in a more sugar. The bars resemble small logs, the sugar resembles snow on the logs. Cool before eating.

Dried Cranberries and Candied Pecans

 

**Instead of dates, I often substitute 2 packages of Walmart brand Dried Cranberries and Candied Pecans (A salad topper, usually found near produce. There are many similar brands.)

 

 

Alaska Logs container
Storing Alaska Logs. I make big batches because they go fast.

Deck the Chairs 2018 ~ Jacksonville Beach

Deck Chairs 18 Jelly Fish
Jelly Fish Par

Jacksonville Beach out did itself with this year’s DECK THE CHAIRS holiday lights display in Latham Plaza. The exhibit showcases the 40 lifeguard chairs used in the summer by The American Red Cross Life Saving Corps. In December they glitter in colorful lights. It is free and open to the public.

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 beach rubish

 

In my opinion, “Jelly Fish Park” stole the show. The largest display, this one has ak moral to it’s story. The tentacles of the jelly fish are filled with non-biodegradable refuse that washed up on the beach.

 

Deck Chairs 18 the gang

 

Here we are, the three Musketeers. In front of “Jelly Fish Park” taking a selfie, left to right: my daughter Victoria, my friend Lynn Wood Rix who writes as Dalyn Woods, and Moi. We’re bundled because Floridians think water freezes at 50 degrees.

 

Deck Chairs 18 Santa Wkshp

 

 

Santa’s Workshop, as the name implies, was whimsical and fun.

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 Service Dogs

 

 

Then we have Santa’s sleigh pulled by service dogs.

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 Fur Sisters

 

 

In keeping with the animal theme, we have a pet adoption display. The displays are sponsored by local businesses and not for profits. This one is sponsored by Fur Sisters…Fur Ever Urs Rescue.

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 Seahorse

 

 

This is Jacksonville Beach for crying out loud, so there has to be a seahorse.

 

 

Deck Chairs 18

 

 

And an anchor…

 

 

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 Lighthouse

 

 

And a lighthouse. We teased Lynn that the beautiful lady standing next to the lighthouse eerily resembled her…

 

Deck Chairs 18 Palm Trees

 

 

Let’s not forget the palm trees.

 

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 Tree

 

 

No Christmas light display would be complete without a thirty-foot high Christmas tree.

 

 

Lynn, Victoria, and I wish you all a blessed holiday season and a very merry and bright Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

 

Christmas is Coming ~ and I feel like a little child

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My bins are Christmas green.

Thanksgiving Day is gone, though thanksgiving continues as a way of life for me. So, now I’m thankful that Christmas is coming. For me the day after Thanksgiving is the “official start of the Christmas season” which doesn’t end on December 26th. No, I also celebrate the 12-Days of Christmas and end the season on December 6th with Epiphany.

In my house, the day after Thanksgiving is the day for taking out my large plastic “Christmas bins.”

This year I did some research and I found out surveys show that people who celebrate Christmas early tend to be happy people. All I know on a personal level is that I feel great when I jump into the Christmas season with both feet.

Isaiah 9:6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. ~ New American Standard Bible [NASB]

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My baker’s rack in happy disarray as I put away “year round” object ‘d art and start putting up the Christmas stuff.

My feeling is that “Christmasy people” enjoy the “Light” the season brings. Even the non religious feel the light piercing the darkness and they like it. I don’t decry the  overabundance of lights on houses as commercialism. Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph don’t upset me. I know Santa Claus isn’t the baby Jesus. I also know the real St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who gave gifts to the poor. I don’t mistake my Santa figurines as “the reason for the season.” Not for one second. But Santa does make me smile. Still, I know if there had never been a Jesus, there would not have been a Santa Claus.

I love to see smiles breaking out on the faces of children when they sit on Santa’s lap. Too often our children are fretful, feeling the anxiety and weight of the world in this angry time. Laughing when they see Frosty or Rudolph is a welcome break. It’s the Light breaking through the darkness. It’s children being allowed to be children, even for a short time. It’s the joy of the season breaking out. It can’t be contained. Darkness can’t hold it back.

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Turkey chili sustains me as I decorate.

I’m a firm believer that you can’t decorate on an empty stomach.

It is up to the church to tell the story of the baby Jesus. If we tell the age-old glorious story, they will listen. We must tell them.

The Birth of Jesus ~ ~ Luke 2 ~ New Living Translation [NLT]

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.