My Christmas Story ~ 2019

Xmas Angel

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. ~ Luke 2:10-11, King James Version [KJV]

The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. It’s a season that starts with Advent and ends on the 12th Day of Christmas, sometimes called Epiphany or Three Kings Day (January 6). These twelve days are symbolic of the period of time from the birth of Jesus until the Three Magi arrived in Bethlehem bearing giftsfor the baby Jesus.

.Xmas 19 JAX Chick-fil-A 12 Days   Xmas FL 19 JAX Chick-fil-A   JAX Chick-f0;-A Carolers   Xmas 19 JAX Chick-fil-A Cow

My personal Christmas celebration began twelve days before Christmas when the local Chick-fil-A in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville had their own “12 Days of Christmas” with a percentage of sales going to local charities. I was sooo excited I got my pix taken in the sleigh with the Chick-fil-A cow from the TV commercials…or a kids dressed up like him. He does exist!

Xmas Fl 19 Deb Williams   Xmas Fl 19 Deb Tree #2   Xmas FL Deb Tree #3   Xmas Fl 19 Deb Nativity

Christmas has always been important to me. I believe in the supernatural, and so believe in the Spirit of Christmas. This is how Jesus manifests Himself to me at this time of year through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s as if He’s wrapped me up in a warm blanket of good cheer, music, glittering lights. ~~  The next stop on my Christmas journey was my good and excellent gal-pal Deborah Williams. (see above) Now she’s a real decorating diva. She invited her good friend Becky Walsh, Valery Riley, a professor at Trinity College and kittie foster mom, and moi for a Christmas luncheon featuring one of her famous chili recipes. Yum.Xmas FL 19

Then Lynn Wood Rix (writing as Dalyn Woods) and Lou Ann Atwood, my JAX reading, writing, lunch/dinner, thrifting friends celebrated Christmas the Friday before with a steak dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse.

Xmas FL Destiny Kids

Next came the Christmas Sunday service at Destiny Church. Lou Ann Atwood and her adult son Douglas went with me. The children performed a brief skit…more like a skitlet, and then they sang a truly powerful rendition of the Christmas song, “My Gift Is Me.” There was also an amazing saxophone solo when the adult music team sang. I’d already put my phone away and couldn’t get it out and right-side-up fast enough to get a pix of the sax player. (My relationship with cell phones is another blog article.Xmas FL 19 Alaska Logs 2

Every year I do Christmas baking. I always make my mother’s recipe for Alaska Logs which is a huge hit wherever I bring them. Thanks mom!  Last Christmas I gave the recipe on this blog. Click for recipeThis year I also made Cheaters Christmas Stollen which Olivia, a sweetheart of a character in my new release ACTS OF MALICE, baked for guests. Stollen is a German Christmas sweet bread with fruit and possibly also nuts. The cheaters version is a hack that takes half-the-time. It’s the first time I’ve made it, and while it tastes good, I’ll perfect it by next year and give the recipe then. ~~ So, I finished my baking on the day of Christmas Eve. There wasn’t enough time to make a proper Eastern European Christmas Eve dinner for myself (meatless) and also get to a candlelight service. So, I threw family tradition to the wind and grabbed some dinner at Chili’s. Then I drove to the Mandarin Presbyterian Church for their candlelight service which was amazing. I didn’t take any photos of the magnificent church and choir because I was a first-time guest and as the service ended, we were instructed to light our candles and to walk out onto their piazza as a body to sing Christmas carols. At that point, I was juggling candle in one hand, handbag on my other shoulder. And then there’s that proverbial relationship (or lack of one) I have with cell phone…so, no photos.

I went to Lou Ann’s house for Christmas dinner and also didn’t take photos. Again, I was a first time guest. Besides, the good sized house was crammed with family and friends and the joint was jumpin’. And then there’s that relationship I have with cell phones. There’s no pix of it, but trust me, the prime rib was out-of-this world as were the desserts and everything in-between.

Beth, moi JAX Bch 12.18

I want to take a moment to remember and celebrate the life of my dear friend Beth Glash, Beth Ellen on Facebook, writing amazing Christian romance novels as Jenna Victoria. She waged a full assault on advanced triple negative breast cancer for eight years. This awful disease finally took her on December 5th of this year. We were friends while I lived in Brooklyn (NYC) and she lived on Long Island lunching, mall-crawling, going to movies. She visited me in Florida right before Christmas in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, it was so warm in mid-December that we hung out on Jacksonville Beach in short sleeves. She was an accomplished person in her career. As a Long Island RAW member, she organized and directed their annual luncheon at the Fox Hollow Country Club. What a gal! What a friend! I miss her.

Alaska Logs ~ my Mom’s Christmas cookies

Alaska Logs plate
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.

Spending Christmas with Cranky Uncle Fred ~ a lesson in patience and poise

Horse Drawn Sleigh

 

You know how it goes in families at Christmas. Last year everyone came to your house….all the aunts and uncles with their kids, and someone brought grandma. Well, this year it’s going to be at Cranky Uncle Fred’s house.

You can just hear your kids singing in the back seat as you drive through poorly plowed snow covered streets and across ribbons of icy roads: “Over the river and through the woods to Cranky Uncle Fred’s house we go. The horse know the way…”

The thought of how it will go once you get there is driving  you nuts. Sending up a prayer helps, but then your mind runs right over a cliff again. It’s not only Cranky Uncle Frank who has you worried. He’s actually the least of it. Your sister’s new husband drinks too much and you really don’t want your kids to see him drunk on Jesus’ birthday. And cousin Marcy has a real bad habit of talking in detail about her love life, which as far as you can tell has very little to do with love. Another thing you’re not thrilled about exposing your kids to. This brigs your unbridled mind to another musical reference, almost against your will…the infamous country western Christmas song by Robert Earl Keene, “Merry Christmas from the Family.”

After giving yourself yet another good talking to, you admit the only one you should have high expectations of is yourself. And it goes without saying, you should be all prayed up. If your family isn’t a Norman Rockwell portrait, don’t have your Christmas happiness depend upon them acting as if they are. Accept them with all their faults, and some of your kin might have many.

Focus on the people there you love to be with, and don’t put yourself down if you don’t love to be with all of them. Make sure you get lots of time with the people there who thrill you. If you know Aunt Edna’s  social, political, and theological views are going to drive you insane, try to direct conversation to something neutral. Have a mental list of topics all prepared. Praising how good the food is will make everyone who prepared a dish feel all warm and fuzzy inside and good feelings often can spread to others. Above all, avoid strife. Pull out the old stand-by, “Let’s agree to disagree.”

If someone at the table is trying to stick to their diet, encourage them to do so and praise them for their effort. Don’t pass the coconut cake, followed by the pecan pie past Cousin Latrice, who is diabetic.

Okay, so let’s talk about alcohol. Someone who drinks too much can not only wreck the entire family Christmas celebration, but can kill themselves and others if they drive. It does absolutely no good too confront the individual, calling him/her an alcoholic. This is Christmas with the family, not a therapeutic intervention. Even if it seems impolite or not your place, it is perfectly acceptable to remove the alcohol, even pour it down the drain if necessary. Do it as inconspicuously as possible, but it’s far better to get rid of the booze than to face a tragedy later. If this is a serous recurring problem with one family member, the other members of the family might decide to have an alcohol-free Christmas. It might be the best Christmas you’ve had in years.

Try to do your part in the family celebration. If tradition is important in your family, go with the flow. Relax, then relax some more. Look for the joy in the celebration. Find something to smile about, laugh about. Delight in the Children. Christmas is magical to them. Catch the feeling from them. And above all, remember the reason for the season, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Luke 2:9-11 King James Version (KJV)

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Nativity