For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything thy goodness sends.
     -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Budget Crunch Solutions

Leave your credit card at home. That way you're not tempted to overspend when you see the perfect gift that's ten dollars too much.

Be honest. If you can't afford to exchange gifts with family and friends this year, tell them. You might find they're just as relieved to not spend money they don't have. Instead, invite them over for an evening of finger foods or dessert, and a game.

Draw names and set a dollar limit per gift. That way each person receives one package.

Buy one present for a whole family. Maybe a game they can play together or a gift card to the movie theater.

Focus on relationships rather than wrapped packages. The year my husband was unemployed and we lost our house, we started celebrating advent as a family. Our kids remember this as one of our best Christmases.

Volunteer to serve dinner at a local shelter. Your kids will realize how much they have to be thankful for even if they don't receive the latest technology trend under the tree.

Plan ahead and shop early. I have seven grandchildren, so I comb clearance racks, special sales, and take advantage of coupon savings year round.

Apple Cranberry
Pecan Crisp

5 Cups Apples, sliced with peel
3/4 Cup Whole Cranberries
1/2 Cup sliced Cranberries
Layer in a lightly buttered 8x8 glass dish.

Cream together 1/2 cup butter and 2/3 cup brown sugar. Add 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup old fashioned oats, 1 teas. nutmeg, 1 teas. cinnamon, and 3/4 cup coarse chopped pecans. Sprinkle over apples and cranberries. Firmly pat down. Dish will be full.

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold, topped with Vanilla Bean ice cream.

(gift suggestions)

To your enemy, forgiveness
To an opponent, tolerance
To a friend, your heart
To a customer, service
To all, charity
To every child, a good example
To yourself, respect
      -- Oren Arnold

Find Contentment with God's Provision Through a Thankful Heart

I'm a nostalgic idealist. As a result I often struggle to accept life as it is, rather than how I imagine or wish it to be. And I have to admit, sometimes I whine and complain.

Recently, while I watched the evening news and the suffering around the world I realized I have a lot to be thankful for. Here's some of the items on my list:

- Clean water to drink
- Indoor plumbing
- A three bedroom home where only two people live
- A soft bed to sleep on
- Warm blankets & clean sheets
- I don't live in a war zone
- Freedom of worship

How about you? What are you thankful for?

The cookie exchange was the highlight of the Christmas season in the rural area where I grew up. Mrs. Goring, who lived up the road from us served tea and coffee while neighbors visited and sampled the cookies each had baked. Some tried new recipes while others brought ones passed down through the generations. Fancy rosettes, Russian tea cakes, nutmeg logs, and pastry horns filled with Bavarian cream. Mmm... Yum!

Here's one of my favorite recipes. Though I don't know where it came from, three generations of our family have enjoyed baking and eating these delicious cookies.

Glazed Chinese Almond Cookies

1 C. Butter softened 2 Eggs, separated
1 C. Sugar 1/2 teas. Vanilla extract
2 2/3 C. flour 1/2teas. Almond extract
1/2 teas. Salt 3/4 C. blanched, chopped Almonds
48 Whole Almonds (unblanched)

Cream together the butter and sugar until light. Beat in flavorings and egg yolks. Add flour, salt, and chopped almonds. Mix well.

Roll into 1" balls. Dip tops into unbeaten egg whites. Place 2" apart on cookie sheet. Place a whole almond in the center of each ball and push down about halfway.

Bake at 350° for about 10 minutes. These cookies store well in the freezer.

To host your own cookie exchange:
Invite up to twelve friends. Ask each guest to bring copies of their recipe to share and three or four dozen cookies. Serve one dozen of each at the party. Divide the rest and send each guest home with the same amount of cookies they brought.

Sanity Keepers

Have kids help with an extra household chore. Google age appropriate chores. Annie Stuart offers great insights in her article Chores for Children on

Decide what you can afford to spend on each person and stay within the budget.

Sip a cup of tea made with fresh mint leaves and a slice of lemon. This always perks me up.

Turn off your cell phone.

Celebrate without guilt. Instead of doing every activity, choose two or three. Then thoroughly enjoy!

Drive the speed limit.

Turn out the lights, wrap up your favorite blanket, and drink hot cocoa while you watch the black & white version of A Christmas Carol.

Arrive when the store opens. That way if you have to brave the mall you'll finish before the crowds show up.

Let go of an old tradition in favor of a new less expensive one.

Read the Christmas story from the book of Luke in the Bible. A good reminder of why we celebrate.

On the Move to Bethlehem

Each December, our children took an active role in making the Christmas story come to life.

With the nativity unpacked our kids chose who they wanted to help make the journey to Bethlehem. Bethany delighted in her choice of Mary and Joseph. Joe took charge of the shepherds and their sheep, while Ben preferred the wise men with their caravan of camels.

Often the figures started out in our children's bedrooms. The stable, along with a few animals, took center stage in the living room.

Each week, we read from the Bible about the people who traveled to Bethlehem. After reading our kids raced to their rooms to move their figures closer to the stable. As the month passed, they may travel to the study, the kitchen, or even the bathroom counter.

Bethany placed Mary and Joseph in the stable on Christmas Eve. Jesus appeared the next morning. And after breakfast Joe brought in the shepherds. The wise men arrived about a week later, making the scene complete. We finished by reading how the visitors worshiped Christ.

Besides being fun, this brings Jesus' story to life and keeps kids focused on the true meaning of Christmas throughout the season. I Hope you enjoy your own family's journey to Bethlehem this Christmas!