Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The War on Christmas (Book Review)

I received an interesting "Seasonal" book for review~ "The War on Christmas," general editor Bodie Hodge, who has been a writer, speaker and researcher for Answers in Genesis since 2003. This book is collection of questions and answers regarding Christmas traditions, symbols, and stories. Because I often feel there really is a "War on Christmas" I was intrigued simply by the title. After all, it has become politically incorrect to wish people "Merry Christmas," and to talk about the joy of celebrating birth of the Savior, juxtaposed with federal funds being used to teach the Koran in state schools for "Extra credit."

What sort of book is this?
The five main categories are:
  • What About Christmas? 
  • Confusion and Misconceptions
  • It's All Baby Jesus
  • How Christmas Came to Be
  • The War on Christmas
Bodie fashions discussions that cover many of the common controversies  centered around Christmas, and Christmas traditions, including the Date of Christmas, Christmas Trees, and Pagan Roots(?). He also tackles a number of questions including:
"Were there 3 Kings?"
"What was the Star, anyway?"
"Do angels really sing?"

I found these discussions to be quite enlightening at times. Bodie is very logical and factual in his points both for and against certain ideas and concepts, and he backs them up with scientific and/or Biblical knowledge, depending on the discussion. I found the discussion about the Star to be quite fascinating~ just the sort of thing that sparks my curiosity.

It all boils down to pointing a gracious hand towards the Creator and the Bible, and highlighting what has been revealed to mankind, and uncovering what mankind has come up with on its own.

In short, a Christmas Apologetics book, worth taking down and digesting AFTER the hustle and bustle of the season, so as to be more prepared next year! "The War on Christmas" also speaks directly of the good news of salvation, which makes portions of it interesting evangelistic tools.

While some of the more "cultural" aspects of Christmas are discussed as a "dilution" of the celebration of the magnificent birth of the Savior, Bodie is gracious in understanding that people will and do come to different conclusions in how they approach the "Trimmings"  if you will, of the season.

The War On Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression
Bodie Hodge: General Editor
Published by Master Books
List price: $17.99


Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Few End of Year Nuggets for you~

I've taken a bit of a break from my blog~ Christmas, family, headaches (not related to Christmas or family, just poor timing), but wanted to make sure that you all get in on some specials that are going on right now, as well as sharing some posts that I have found interesting and timely.

Because we celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas, we are very happy to know that there are others who join us in that tradition.

The Institute for Excellence in Writing is offering gifts to those who register to receive them~ I have taken advantage of their 12 Days of Christmas offerings in the past, so can say from experience that this is worth checking out ~ here.

Since I don't regularly purchase protein powder I was intrigued by this post from Green Thickies that shows how to make a Protein Shake *without* Protein powder~ planning to try this one soon!

Money Saving Mom has a listing of 15 resources to help you get organized in 2014 (I'm not suggesting that any of you, my readers, are unorganized, but personally *I* find these helpful!).

Once I find a source for Citric Acid, I think that these DIY Toilet Bombs might be a project to try out, as I continue to search out natural alternatives to harsh cleaning chemicals.

I will be back later this week, but in the meantime


Monday, December 16, 2013

Reader's Gift List #1 (Juvenile/Young Adult/Series)

I like to give books for Christmas~ some years I have had more success than others in finding GOOD books to give. :) I thought there might be some others out there who would like a little inspiration in their literary gift-giving for the 10-16-ish year old who appreciates a good story. These are all books that I have read and enjoyed as an adult as well, because good literature is good literature is good literature! :)

I'll start with our most recent reads

Eisley Jacobs is a great Indy Author who writes sci-fi/fantasy books
Her most recent series  Dragons Forever is currently a trilogy (Hoping there might be additional stories to be told???)
In Born to be a Dragon we are introduced to Meia (the orphan girl) and Deglan (the dragon). The worlds of human and dragon collide, and it is high adventure as Meia and Deglan begin to unravel the tangled web that has woven the two of them together...

Blink of a Dragon is my daughter's favorite in the triology as well as mine. This is the book that we both read and thought "THIS book needs to be made into a movie!" Wow~ so descriptive and action-packed. Super themes of great character and personal development as Meia and Deglan search for the only way that their world(s) can be saved, and send the rising dark dragons away.

Dragons of the Deep  brings the story to Scotland and the ever-enchanting (?) setting of Loch Ness, as Meia hopes to unlock more of the mystery of her past, and Deglan continues to fight back the forces of evil that would like to destroy both humans and dragons forever.

If you like reading books on an electronic device, 
are available as a set on Amazon...

Eisley has also written a young adult sci-fi/fantasy/thriller novel,
Pieces of Me, which delves into the life of Braidan, a seventeen year old girl who has developed amnesia, and must rely on yellow post-it notes to navigate her way through life, as EVERY day is a totally new day to her... as in, her identity and everything she is and does is totally new to her. Eldest can hardly wait for the sequel to come out! :)

The Next Fine Day is one of those stories/classics by Elizabeth Yates that hasn't received a lot of press, but is one of my favorites~ I enjoyed the gentle and lovely unfolding of this beautiful story as a young boy, struggling with his worth learns that he *is* important.

The final series that I'll mention in this post is the Viking Quest Seriesby Lynda Archer Buckley. These books tell the story of Bree and her brother Devin, Irish siblings who are captured by Vikings. The stories are filled with adventure, and even a bit of history, as we get a glimpse into life during the time of Leif Erikson. This series has been enjoyed by my kids from 8-14 years old and beyond, up to and including mom! :) (BTW, I linked to the Kindle version of these books, but personally, I prefer to have the real book in hand)


Please note that I used Amazon Associate links, and if you purchase through them I will receive a few cents. Those cents do add up eventually, so I thank you for using them. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

McCormick Spices up Christmas! (Peppermint Bars)

I don't know about you, but when I think of winter, and Christmas, and cooking, one of the things I associate with this time of year is the combination of peppermint and chocolate~ Thanks to McCormick Spices, I was invited to try out their peppermint oil in a recipe from their website, and share the results with you. I'm only sorry that I can't *really* share the results with all my readers, as that technology has yet to be invented.
(Please note, due to FTC regulations I must tell you that this is a sponsored post, but it was also a delicious post to prepare for!)

The recipe that my daughter and I chose to make served a dual purpose, as a treat for her youth group Christmas party, and a dessert for our Church Christmas dinner the next day. We made Peppermint Bars. (Click through the link to see nutritional information, etc)

The recipe is really quite simple, using a box of brownie mix, butter, baking chocolate, eggs, powdered sugar, candy canes, and of course, McCormick Pure Peppermint oil
First step is to make the brownies~ The recipe on the box called for a 13x10 pan, but all I have is a 15X11 pan, so my brownie base turned out a little thinner than yours might~ but I personally think that this thinner brownie was perfect! 
While that was baking it was time to make the minty buttercream filling to spread over the top of the brownie layer. 
The next time I make it I might tweak this a bit, as it wasn't terribly spreadable...
I ended up patting the minty buttercream lightly to smooth it over most of the browny base. 
The final step was to spread a melted butter/chocolate combo over the top, and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies. 

The finished product was quite the hit at both the party and the dinner~ 
Many people wondered if it was fudge or a brownie... it resembled both, but was just enough different to make it extra special. McCormick Pure peppermint oil has been a staple in my baking pantry since I was a kid, and I'm happy to declare that as far as I can tell, the quality is still the same. 

There are a number of other tasty Christmas recipes on the McCormick website~ things like Spiced Holiday Sugar Cookies, Mulling Spice Sachets, Spiced Nuts, Egg Nog Truffles, and a favorite, Cinnamon Ornaments (There are also some yummy looking main dish and side dish ideas). 

If you are looking for a delicious dessert this Christmas and New Year's Season be sure to consider these peppermint bars~ they are extremely yummy, fairly quick and easy to make, and a HUGE hit with everyone who likes chocolate and/or peppermint, from young to old, boy or girl. 

Recipe from the McCormick Website: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare brownie mix as directed on package. Spread in greased foil-lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan.
  2. Bake 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.
  3. Meanwhile, beat confectioners’ sugar, 7 tablespoons of the butter, melted, cream and peppermint extract in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Spread evenly over cooled brownie. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  4. Microwave chocolate and remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter in large microwave bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Spread over top of chilled brownie. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies, if desired. Cut into bars.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Inspiration ~ Gingerbread Houses ~ (And a present idea)

After reading Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby last night with Youngest, I was inspired to finally get a post up with pictures from The Boston Christmas Festival. The Festival takes place in early November, and I have attended the last 2 years with my friend MG. :)

One of our favorite features (Beyond some yummy food items and a wide variety of crafts and body care items~ handmade soaps and lip balms and such...) is the Gingerbread House exhibit.

Chefs from all over the Metro Boston region show off their creativity, and vie for 1st place. The houses are then auctioned off to benefit a charity devoted to ending homelessness.

Here are my favorites from this year:

Mary Engelbreit-ish birdhouses

A lovely little church~ the pictures don't do the stained glass windows justice~ they were lit from inside... sweet!

The windows showed up much better in this house~ doesn't it look yummy??? 

A fanciful nautical theme... 

And finally, a couple of Fairytale-themed cottages
Little Red Riding Hood

And the quintessetial Gingerbread House offering
Hansel and Gretel

Pretty amazing creations, aren't they?
Now I need to find a good EDIBLE Gingerbread house recipe to make~ because Youngest wants to EAT his if we make one. :)

Gift Idea: (Note~ there is an Amazon Promotion running today that you might not want to miss out on~Amazon Wishlist $5 off $35 promo code in case you're interested!)

Purchase the book Gingerbread Baby
Visit Jan Brett's website (Which is a fantastic resource, BTW)
    Print and Laminate the Gingerbread Baby Board Game
    Print and Bind the coloring pages from the Gingerbread Baby Mural for a coloring book
Purchase a new set of crayons or colored pencils
*I like these...Melissa & Doug Triangular Crayon Set, 24-Piece or
Crayola 8ct Write Start Colored Pencils (currently on sale at Amazon as an "add-on" for $2.97)

Use some brown craft paper stamped with gingerbread men to wrap them all up (Or stamp a brown paper gift bag with gingerbread men) and tie on  3-Inch Gingerbread Boy Cookie Cutter  (Or 3-Inch Gingerbread Girl Cookie Cutter ).

For an extra special gift you could even add in a set of Gingerbread House Cookie cutters~ Here are three I found~ read the reviews and see which suits you
Wilton 3 Piece Gingerbread House Metal Cookie Cutters
Fox Run Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter Set or for a different option, you could try a cookie mold like this
Paula Deen Signature Cast Iron Ginger Bread House Mold

I hope that you enjoyed this post with the fun pictures and the gift idea!




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