Poitiers is about an hour and a half away from Paris. It looks like a small community in an ancient European city but we'll find out more after MacKenzie has been there for a while. If you want to follow her journey, check out her blog here to learn more about traveling, studying abroad, and living in France.
I'm sure we'll all miss her but what a life experience this will be for a young lady.
So we still have the New Year to celebrate and here's an EZ homemade recipe to help:
1 quart water 3 cups sugar 16 teaspoons instant coffee 1/5 Vodka 2 teaspoons vanilla (or one fresh vanilla bean)
Simmer two hours, allow to cool, add two teaspoons real vanilla extract
Makes approx. two fifths of Kahlua
You can see the two bottles we made in the picture. Plus you can make it taste more or less like coffee. I always tell my kids recipes are just a guideline - adjust everything to your own taste and desire. That's why I love to cook at home - things taste just the way I want them - well, unless I burn it. :)
One of our Christmas traditions is going to a movie on Christmas. So, today we went to see Avatar, which is about 3 hours long but I barely noticed because the movie was so engrossing. This is a James Cameron movie and a Fern Gully grown up feature film. It mixes drama, graphics, suspense and thriller all in one. I would definitely recommend it on many levels.
And, if you haven't seen Fern Gully - go rent it this weekend. That is a definite must-see for any family with kids.
Why are there so many names for one man? And why does he look so different? Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Old Saint Nick
And what about elves, gnomes, nisses, or companions to help Santa? Why are there so many?
Because there are so many cultures, countries, and people who celebrate Christmas. Some of the celebrations have merged together and people believe these names classify one man but is that true or is it merely a merging of beliefs over the centuries?
I'd say it's a mixture. These names all symbolize the spirit of giving through one heroic iconic individual. Saint Nicholas may not really be Santa Claus but he sure is similar--at least in my opinion.
During the holidays I hear people complain that Christmas begins earlier and earlier every year but did you know that Christmas starts earlier and lasts longer in most other countries?
The United States is a capitalistic society where everything is rush-rush, hurry-hurry but other countries savor the season. Still, I have to warn you that not all the celebrations are based on cheerful legends, in fact, some are pretty gruesome but here is a sampling of stories from around the world. And, some of the countries that celebrate Christmas do it for weeks rather than days.
The Netherlands begin their celebration on December 5th on Saint Nicholas or Santa Klaus Eve.
Saint Nicholas was a fourth-century Bishop born in Spain who brought Dutch children holiday gifts.
In Syria and Lebanon Christmas celebrating begins on the anniversary of Saint Barbara's death. It is said she became a martyr in 235 on December 4th.
Not a happy holiday story but legends tell of a beautiful girl named Barbara who was pursued by many men; however, she had nothing to do with them because they were all pagans and was devoted to her Christian faith. Her pagan father was so angry that he tried to kill her but miracles kept saving her. Finally she was locked away in a prison so no men could see her beauty when the authorities denounced her as a Christian and the pagan judge condemned her to death. Her own father carried out the execution.
Despite her suffering, she never wavered in her love for God. That's why Syrian children love Saint Barbara and are taught of her courage and devotion.
Today Saint Barbara is remembered with a Feast that uses candles, vivid colors and candies to help celebrate.
In Lorraine, France
December 6th begins the celebrating of Saint Nicholas' Day.
Saint Nicholas is said to bring candies and nuts to all the good kids but he has a not so kind companion, Pere Fouettard, who is similar to Holland's Zwarte Piet, he carries a bundle of sticks and remembers which boys and girls have been naughty or nice. Bad little boys and girls have to keep an eye open to make sure they don't get swatted with a switch on their toes as Pere Fouettard passes.
Saint Lucia's Day is December 13th in Sweden. She wears a white dress with a red sash and a wreath of lit candles on top of her head. She announces the Yuletide. This custom goes back to 304 when legends says Saint Lucia was condemned to death. Another gruesome tale. Folklore says she was born in Sicily to a noble Christian family and had her own eyes removed by a rejected suitor because he was a pagan. The suitor was so angry he denounced her as a Christian and she was imprisoned where she was tortured and killed.
But, Lucia means "Light" and she is honored with the candles.
There are so many different ways to celebrate the season and so many different days that people party but, it seems to me, most countries celebrate the season in similar ways using the cozy comforts of life to make the season memorable. And what better way to celebrate than with good food shared with family and friends? And it never hurts to decorate the house and add a little warmth with the glow from flickering flames and scented candles plus it's always fun to share presents and goodies.
Does your family have any traditions that have been passed on throughout the decades?
I usually play a word game on Wednesday but I came across this very fun teach-nology word game/lesson using Christmas words.
For any of you out there with kids, I think you might enjoy this worksheet especially since Winter break is upon us and the kids are probably antsy about opening their presents. This might help give you something to do.
I took a class at work recently that showed us some tricks about how to customize Outlook. So, if you have Outlook as your email and calendar software, I hope this helps.
You can change the look of your calendar.
Change the Day/Week/Month view
1. In the Calendar, click on View, point to Arrange by, point to Current View, and then click customize current view. 2. Click Other Settings. 3. Do any of the following: To change the day display, change the Time Font, Font, and Time scale. To display appointment end times, under Week or month, select the Show end time check box. To display weekends together, select the compress weekend days check box. To display appointments times as miniature clocks, under Week or Month, select the Show time as clocks check box.
One of the most famous trees of all time is the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree:
Most of the other trees are very impressive.
The Capitol Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., is decorated with 3,000 ornaments that are the handiwork of U.S. schoolchildren. Encircling evergreens in the 'Pathway of Peace' represent the 50 U.S. states. The world's largest Christmas tree display rises up the slopes of Monte Ingino outside of Gubbio, in Italy's Umbria region. Composed of about 500 lights connected by 40,000 feet of wire, the 'tree' is a modern marvel for an ancient city A Christmas tree befitting Tokyo's nighttime neon display is projected onto the exterior of the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka. Illuminating the Gothic facades of Prague's Old Town Square, and casting its glow over the manger display of the famous Christmas market, is a grand tree cut in the Sumava mountains in the southern Czech Republic. Venice 's Murano Island renowned throughout the world for its quality glasswork is home to the tallest glass tree in the world. Sculpted by master glass blower Simone Cenedese, the artistic Christmas tree is a modern reflection of the holiday season. Moscow celebrates Christmas according to the Russian Orthodox calendar on Jan. 7. For weeks beforehand, the city is alive with festivities in anticipation of Father Frost's arrival on his magical troika with the Snow Maiden. He and his helper deliver gifts under the New Year tree, or yolka, which is traditionally a fir. The largest Christmas tree in Europe (more than 230 feet tall) can be found in the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon, Portugal. Thousands of lights adorn the tree, adding to the special enchantment of the city during the holiday season. 'Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree': Even in its humblest attire, aglow beside a tiny chapel in Germany's Karwendel mountains, a Christmas tree is a wondrous sight. Ooh la la Galeries Lafayette! In Paris, even the Christmas trees are chic. With its monumental, baroque dome, plus 10 stories of lights and high fashion, it's no surprise this show-stopping department store draws more visitors than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower
In addition to the Vatican's heavenly evergreen, St. Peter's Square in Rome hosts a larger-than-life nativity scene in front of the obelisk.
The Christmas tree that greets revelers at the Puerta del Sol is dressed for a party. Madrid's two-week celebration makes millionaires along with merrymakers. On Dec. 22, a lucky citizen will win El Gordo (the fat one), the world's biggest lottery.
A token of gratitude for Britain's aid during World War II, the Christmas tree in London's Trafalgar Square has been the annual gift of the people of Norway since 1947.
Drink a glass of gluhwein from the holiday market at the Romer Frankfurt's city hall since 1405 and enjoy a taste of Christmas past.
Against a backdrop of tall, shadowy firs, a rainbow trio of Red, White and Blue Christmas trees lights up the night (location unknown).
This is supposed to be the happiest time of the year but I also think it's the busiest time of the year. Sometimes it's hard to remember how happy we are when we're soooooo busy. So I wanted to remind us all of an old childhood tool parents used to teach us the simple things: "STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN" so you can remember to appreciate these moments in your life, otherwise they slip by and you barely notice.
And if you're curious which ones of us are the happiest, yes, there's been a study to determine which state is the happiest, you can check it out here. And you might be surprised.
Recycling is up, garbage is down - at least in Portland, Oregon.
The city uses blue and green roll carts that are used to collect unsorted recyclables. Now, with this one simple change, which makes recycling easier, Portlanders are recycling and composting more. For example, since last year recycling and yard debris material increased by 14 percent which is the equivalent of 10,000 tons or 20,000 pounds. Not bad for one year.
This one change helped residential garbage decrease by almost nine percent or 9,000 tons - which is 18,000 pounds of garbage that isn't going into the landfills.
Overall, the city says that Portland's households and businesses are recycling and composting 67 percent of the waste that they generate. The goal is to stop growth in the waste stream and raise recycling to 75% by 2015. This is one way to reach that goal.
Plus, if you're looking for some green gifts, check out this site: www.ecometro.com.
"The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger," a villager tells ... "The second time, you are an honored guest. The third time you become family and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die."
I went to hear Greg Mortenson speak at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall Monday night and he is an inspiration. He's one man promoting peace with education, especially for girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Using Pennies for Peace to fund his projects of building schools in war-torn Pakistan and Afghanistan, he is proving that one person can make a difference in the world--and it can be a dramatic one.
He says "I've learned that terror doesn't happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply decide to hate us. It happens because children aren't being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death."
How is this related to the upcoming holiday season? I would say when we think of "Peace on Earth" we can think of Greg's mission to promote peace through education. The pen truly is mightier than the sword.
Plus, this lecture reminded me of my favorite show of all time, "It's a Wonderful Life"
George Bailey--just like Greg Mortenson--proves that one life can make a tremendous difference in the world.
When I was young we only had one t.v. I know, I know, deprived children that we were. And, more than that, Dad was the one who ran it. Not the kids. But every Friday night Mom would let us watch a movie - it was usually something similar to Animal Planet but back then it was called Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.
And there was always a lion or a crocodile chasing Jim across the field, through the water, or where ever he was heading.
But the big treat of the night - aside from the movie - was popcorn. We all got to have a bowl of popcorn, sometimes even two. And we'd even get to have a glass of pop. My choice back then was Coca-Cola or what we now call Coke.
Those were the simple times.
Today there are so many choices it can seem overwhelming. HBO, Showtime, Disney Channel, and that doesn't even include the other 400 channels offered nightly.
Kids are bombarded with choices today. Some times I wish we could step back in time, to the simpler days. Especially at the holidays when we're all so busy getting ready for that one big day.
What simple memories do you have of growing up and the holidays?
Sponsored by Writer's Market - just thought I'd pass on the info to all my writing friends: FREELANCE SUCCESS STORIES CONTEST
There is still time to enter the 5th annual Freelance Success Stories contest. This free contest is looking for real stories of freelance success. These should be personal stories (first person) and true. First place will receive $750 and publication in the 2011 Writer's Market.
Submission rules: Stories should be 800-1,500 words. Submit as .doc (not .docx) or .txt attachment, or in the body of the e-mail message. Subject line should read Freelance Success Stories (or there's a chance it could be deleted without being read). E-mail submissions only to email@example.com.
Make Monkey Memories and Warm Woolies for Christmas rather than buying needless things and trivial trinkets.
I made my daughter a monkey blanket. This is a useful gift-I hope-that will last for years.
We went to the fabric store and she picked out two fabrics: one side is monkeys and the other is striped - so the blanket is fun colored, cheerful and reversible.
But you could make a blanket out of old jeans, favorite shirts and skirts or any fabric you have around the house. If you don't feel ready to take on a blanket - and to be honest, it's kind of a two-person project because it's so big and heavy, it helps to have another set of hands to help feed the material through the presser foot. But you could always start with pillowcases. That's one project we used to do for Christmas when the kids were young. I'd take them to the fabric store and let them pick out fun fabrics and then we'd sew pillowcases that they still use today.
Gifts can be fun and useful without being wasteful and frivolous.
I'm trying to make a lot of my gifts this year to help keep down costs and not contribute to the over-consumption and consumerism that has become the holidays.
I had an idea for my boys, since Jacob and Luke both like to sketch, I bought them inexpensive sketch pads and then used some art adhesive (we had sitting around the house) to glue on some of their own art to the sketchbooks. I think it adds a personal touch and is fun. But you could do the same thing for other people. It wouldn't even have to be homemade art, it could be a photograph or a favorite saying. Just glue photos of favorite holiday meals to a notebook and give it to a cook in your life, add a couple recipes to the inside and you've got a fun, thoughtful present that didn't cost much more than some time.
You could do the same thing for the gardener is your life. Glue some favorite flower photos to a notebook, add some paper for notes and tuck away a couple seed catalogs you can pick up for free (usually) at your local garden store, and you've got another fun gift.
I'm wishing you a Happy, healthy--almost--Homemade Holiday!
It's easy to come up with ideas if you think for a minute or two.
So, if you have an idea, please share it in the comments so others can enjoy the season without breaking the bank.
One thing we can give at the holidays that won't cost a penny is time. Last weekend my husband helped my son make a home-made frame for a piece of art he'd bought at a festival.
Jake wanted something special but custom frames are expensive and he wanted real brass or copper accents, which made the prospect more expensive. So the art sat and waited for Jake to get a little extra money. But it waited...and waited... until my husband offered to help him make the frame from scratch. Together they cut the glass out of a recycled window, wood left over from another project and brass. Then they bent the brass and screwed it all together. It took some time but only cost $4.00.
So, maybe you can't cut wood, bronze or glass, but what talents can you share with those you love? All it takes is time and maybe some creativity to create beautiful things together. It not only creates wonderful gifts, it creates memories that will last a lifetime.
Instead of buying gifts, think about making them or giving the gift of time.
One of the control functions I use all the time is Ctrl + F
That is a shortcut for "find" a word. So if I'm looking for a name in my manuscript, I just hit Ctrl + F and type in the word I'm looking for. The cursor will pop to the place I'm looking for.
Another quick shortcut is Ctrl + G
That is a shortcut where I can type in the page number I want to pop to. So say I'm on page 1 and I want to go to page 146, I type Ctrl + G and then 146, WAHLAH, like magic I've been beamed to the coordinates I wanted to find.
Hope this helps you in your writing, revising, and reading.
Time to change the decor around the house. Taking down the pumpkins and putting up the lights.
Luckily we have tall guys around the house. My two sons, husband and brother all got into the act. Unfortunately, when three or four guys get together, there's always a little goofing off going on.
Someone tall had to climb the ladder to get the lights up into the peek - guess who did it? Was it the 20'something boys, was it the experienced big brother?
Nope DAD did it.
Funny how Dads do so much work and get so little credit for the completed job. Who do you think says they "put up" the lights? Yep, the boys. Of course they did help hook all the large ornaments on the arbor and doesn't it look pretty? And, after watching the guys putting up the lights, I figured I'd better do something to burn off those few hundred thousand calories we ate this weekend. . . ?
Maybe a walk with the dogs . . . ? So two trips to the dog park - hopefully that helped. It's another great thing about long weekends, having time to take leisure walks, read a book, or bake . . . or wait then I'll need more trips to the dog park than I have time for.
It's time to get back on the die....t. Butt, I mean but I hate those things.
Anyway, hope you like seeing a few photos of the transformation of our house from fall to winter. Of course there is still more to come.
Thanks for visiting my site. "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today Is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." DC Talk