Six Part-Time Angels

Years ago when I was a child, my mother wrote this story about her best ever Christmas gift. I hope you enjoy her story and the photos from Christmas of my childhood.

 

Six part-time angels gave Christmas to me wrapped in warmth and love. The uncomplicated truths of childhood changed what seemed a catastrophe into the most precious gift that I have ever received.

It was four days before Christmas and we had all been busy with our usual holiday preparations — addressing cards, baking cookies, making candy, stuffing dates, linking the wreath for the front door, decorating the house inside and out, wrapping gifts, stringing popcorn and cranberries for the birds’ tree in the front yard, arranging Great Aunt Mary’s crib in its honored place in the entrance hall, trimming the tree — doing all the happy chores that make up our pre-Christmas ritual. The children’s gifts of clothing had been purchased and wrapped, and the toys had long been ordered.

Unable to squeeze any more days into my schedule, I had ordered the toys from an out-of-town mail-order house and considered myself very lucky that they would all be delivered in one shipment to my door. I waited as patiently as possible until the preceding week and then wrote asking the company to check on my order. They replied to the effect that shipments were understandably slow and that I should not worry. Worry I did, however, as the days passed and no toys arrived. Finally, in desperation, I called the firm long-distance. After what seemed an hour of expensive delay, a pleasant female voice on the other end of the line was telling me something about a mix-up in orders. They were terribly sorry. My order had not been shipped. There was no possible way of getting the toys to me in time for Christmas. I was stunned, and I excitedly babbled something about my predicament — my husband, a mailman, was working late every night in the rush of Christmas mail. I couldn’t get to a store from our rural location. The order was all of the children’s Christmas toys. I had to have those toys! The poor girl at the other end of the line was patiently understanding and, as I remember now, sounded genuinely sorry for the mistake. There was just nothing the company could do! Finally, I had to accept the impossibility of getting the shipment to our house in time.

I sat by the phone, the thought of a toyless Christmas settled over my mind like a black fog, smothering all the joy I had known in our Christmas preparations. I was still sitting there when the children came in, flushed with cold and excitement and the joy of the season. They knew immediately that something was wrong and grouped around me to find out what it was that could cause such sadness so close to Christmas. Foolishly, I thought of the disappointment on those shining faces on Christmas morning, and the flood of tears I had been fighting to hold back could no longer be controlled. I cried. And then, hoping to temper their disappointment on Christmas morning, I told them there would be no toys. The looks of disbelief I expected were there, but not the looks of disappointment. They simply could not believe that I was so upset over that.

The parent became the child and the children became the parents. They pressed close and assured me that of all the things of Christmas, the toys were the least important. Christmas to them wasn’t presents. Christmas to them was the fun of being together, of doing things together. It was the fun of caroling our neighbors and of welcoming our friends. It was the wonderful, indescribable feeling of happiness, the experience of celebrating Christ’s birth at midnight Mass. My oldest daughter summed it up very well by saying, “Clothes wear out and toys break, but we have you and Daddy for all the time.” Needless to say, my feelings readjusted to their proper perspective immediately. I was thrilled by this insight into their true feelings and a bit chagrined that I had lost sight of the true values of Christmas.

That was the warmest, most wonderful Christmas ever. When the holiday season was over, and the Three Kings stood at their destination in the crib, the little light in the tin-star reflector over the stable was extinguished. That has always been the signal that the time has come to pack away the material evidences of Christmas. The boxes and crates were filled with gay decorations, the greens burned, and the gifts put in their proper places. But no drawer, no shelf, no closet was large enough to hold my gift. I keep it with me constantly, and each day is gilded by the knowledge that, “we have you and Daddy for all the time.”

In all fairness, I must confess the children did not reform their mother completely. When I had related the incident to my husband, we immediately combed the city for late-closing stores and replaced all the toys in the canceled order. Then we added a few extra. We are glad that we have those children, “for all the time.”

About the Author

Mildred Clements, a.k.a. Mom, passed away nearly eleven years ago, but her spirit is ever present, especially at Christmas.  Mom believed Christmas should be all about family and traditions. We put up the tree together, placed the creche beneath the tree, sang carols, and laughed over past tree raisings.  With so many people living in one house, someone always had a funny remembrance.  Though Mom decorated most of our house during the day while we were at school, she enlisted our help with baking and food prep and many of our other Christmas traditions.  I still make many of the same cookies we baked in Mom’s kitchen.

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year To You and Your’s

I can hardly believe Christmas is upon us, especially with this unseasonably warm and rainy weather we’ve been having.  The Christmas tree, village, creche, and other decorations are up. Breads and cookies are baked. Shopping done and gifts wrapped, and food purchased ready for me to prepare on Christmas day.

My wish to you is a joyful, peaceful Christmas, and a New Year that is happy and healthy.

I will be taking a brief break, checking in occasionally, and will see you in the New Year.

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Christmas Trees Around the World

Colleen of Silver Threading is hosting Christmas Trees Around the World and I’ve decided to join in.  Be sure to click the Christmas Trees Around the World link above to go to Colleen’s blogsite and check out other entries.

What I remember most about Christmas, even more than the gorgeous Christmas trees, were the villages my family placed under the tree.

Here is a photo from 1967 of the village under our tree. My mother used some of the houses, sleigh and fence that was part of my grandmother’s village, as well as some newer houses my parents had purchased.Christmas '67

Of course, the torch was passed and I set up a village with the help of my children under our tree.  This is from 1996

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My children are grown and have villages under their own trees.  I still do a village for my grandchildren to enjoy when they visit at Christmas.  Our village for 2015.

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Our Christmas trees have evolved over the years from short with few ornaments and lots of tinsel icicles to a beautiful tree laden with ornaments from vacations, gifts from our children, ornaments that were on my Dad’s tree when he was a child, and a few from my childhood trees.

Christmas 1969

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For our first Christmas my Dad gave us a beautiful crèche that I still put out each year. Quite a few years ago I stopped putting it beneath our tree and now put it in a place of honor where it is more noticeable.IMG_1779

One can’t talk about Christmas trees without a mention of the ornaments, so I’ve included pictures of two ornaments that were passed down to my dad and eventually to me.

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I hope you enjoyed a look at our Christmas trees through the years from top to bottom.

Thank you for stopping by.

A very Merry Christmas and a healthy
and happy New Year to each of you.

Favorite Christmas Stories

Board Books for 2-4

Board books for 2-4 year old children have always been a favorite of mine. It’s not just the colorful pictures and charming stories that I love, but they bring back memories of when my children were young and would crawl up onto my lap for story time. We would read together, as their beautiful chubby fingers turned the pages.

I have chosen some delightful books to highlight. These little board books are just the right size for tucking into stockings.

Duck & Goose - It's Time for ChristmasDuck & Goose It’s Time for Christmas by Tad Hills is an amusing story, like all Duck & Goose books. Duck and Goose are taking a walk in the Snow, and Duck says, “Goose, it is not time for catching snowflakes.” Then no, it is not time for sledding, or making snow angels, or throwing snowballs, or building a snowgoose, or skating, or building snow forts. What is it time for? It is time for Christmas!

Tad Hills 10-15I met the author of the charming Duck & Goose books at the Cincinnati Books by the Banks, book festival, in October.  He is quite charismatic, and besides being a talented author, he is the fabulous illustrator of the books.

I’m Not Santa!, written and illustrated by Jonathan Alan, begins on Christmas Eve. Baby Owl was sledding inI'm Not Santa the snowing woods and thinking about how quiet the woods were in winter, when Baby Hare called, “Santa, it’s you!”  Baby Owl said, “Don’t be silly.”  Baby Hare thought Baby Owl was Santa because Baby Owl was wearing a red hat with white fur just like Santa. And so the story proceeds with Baby Hare finding more and more reasons why Baby Owl is Santa, and with each reason, Baby Owl declares he is not Santa.  Each becomes more upset with the other, until Santa himself appears.  I’m Not Santa! will surely have your little ones chuckling as these two adorable little animals argue over who is Santa. Additionally, the delightful illustrations will be loved by all.

That's Not My SnowmanThe boldly illustrated That’s Not My Snowman…his hat is too soft by Fiona Watt is a touchy-feely book. The snowman’s hat is too soft, his scarf is too fluffy, and his mittens too fuzzy.  The snowman’s buttons are too bumpy and his arms are two wiggly, but his nose is so squishy. Babies and toddlers will enjoy the bright colors and varied textures in this entertaining board book.

No list of board books is complete without a book by author and illustrator Eric Carle. Carle’s only Christmas book Dream Snow introduces us to aDream Snow farmer who lives on a small farm, with a few animals – five to be exact. Their names are One, Two, Three, Four, and Five. Near the barn, a small tree grows, appropriately named Tree. The farmer feeds his animals every day, and cleans their stalls.  When his work is done, he goes home and prepares the same meal he always has, as he sits in his favorite chair. The farmer falls asleep and dreams of snowflakes covering him with a white blanket. When the farmer awakens, he sees a world filled with snow, not dream snow, but real snow.  Suddenly the farmer cries out, “Oh my! Oh my! I almost forgot.”  You and your little ones will enjoy finding out what the farmer almost forgot. The pages are attractively illustrated in bright colors in the trademark style of Eric Carle.

Mouse's First SnowMouse’s First Christmas, written by Lauren Thompson and illustrated by Buket Erdogan is purely a delightful book. One snowy day Mouse and Papa go out to play in the snow. Poppa went sledding and Mouse said, “I can do that, too!” And he did. Poppa went skating, and Mouse said, “I can do that, too!” And he did.  Everything from making a snow angel to building a snow mouse, if Poppa could do it, so could Mouse. Absolutely charming, this is a book that every parent will enjoy reading to his or her little ones.  The beautiful illustrations with lots of bright colors and characters that children will delight in makes this book a must buy for the youngest readers.

Clubhouse Christmas by Susan Americaner, is a book that fans of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse will love.  This colorfully illustrated story has peek-a-boo Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Christmaspages to entertain as well as pictures of everyone’s favorite Clubhouse characters.  Everyone in the Clubhouse is busy getting ready for Christmas.  Minnie is baking cookies, Goofy popping popcorn to string.  Everyone has a job to do.  This is one of those books you will be asked to read over and over again.

All books can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and most indie bookstores.

Have you found a book you would like to gift to your favorite little one? Have you and your child read a book you both loved? Are you aware of any terrific new Christmas book for any age child?  Please share your thoughts and book suggestions below.

THE CHRISTMAS PIN SOCIETY by Marianne Coyne

 

The Christmas Pin Society

 

Who doesn’t love a good Christmas story!  THE CHRISTMAS PIN SOCIETY by Marianne Coyne is just that and more.  It is an inspirational account of a group of friends who get together each year at Christmas for lunch and a gift exchange, but the caveat is the gifts have to be Christmas pins.  Some were nice pieces of jewelry and some were just a few dollars. This tradition continued for years until life got in the way. Some of them moved, one got divorced, and, well you know, life often takes a different turn. Then one year, Emma, came up with a plan that she thought would draw her friends back together and revive their old tradition, but in reality, it was much bigger than that. I can’t tell too much without giving too much information.

This novella is about giving from the heart, about true friendship, and about sacrifice.  It is definitely a ‘feel good’ story. The characters were everyone’s next door neighbor.  They were a mix of people who got along together in spite of their differences.

Would I recommend THE CHRISTMAS PIN SOCIETY? Absolutely!

Marianne Coyne packed a lot of story into a relatively few number of pages.  She writes from the heart.  If you would like to know more about Marianne, her books, and her art, please check out the following websites:

Her blog Leisure Lane, her Amazon Author Page, or her Goodreads Author Page.

To purchase THE CHRISTMAS PIN SOCIETY and Marianne’s other books:  Amazon.

Some of My Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

The holidays always make me think of baking cookies with my mother.  Although these are not the same cookies of my early Christmas’s, they are some of the favorites I make for my family today.  I no longer remember where I originally found the recipes, but I know they are available on various websites. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

 

Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

Makes: 64 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate mini-morsels
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cherries (you could use dried cranberries, dried appricots instead)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Directions

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; add powdered sugar, beating well.

Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in chocolate mini-morsels, cherries, and vanilla.

Line an 8″ square pan with aluminum foil, allowing foil to extend over edges of pan. Lightly grease foil and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Press dough into pan.

Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until golden. Cool the shortbread 30 minutes or until slightly warm in pan. Use foil to gently lift the shortbread from pan. Cut shortbread into 1″ squares using a sharp knife. Roll shortbread squares in 1/2 cup granulated sugar if desired (I omit this step). Yield: about 5-1/2 doz

 

Double Drizzle Pecan Cookies

MAKES: 42 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped pecans
  • CARAMEL DRIZZLE:
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • CHOCOLATE DRIZZLE:
  • 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Shape dough into 1-in. balls; roll in pecans. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets; flatten slightly. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small saucepan, bring brown sugar and cream to a boil. Remove from heat; whisk in confectioners’ sugar. Immediately drizzle over cookies.

In a microwave, melt chocolate and butter; stir until smooth. Drizzle over cookies. Let stand until set. Store the cookies in an airtight container. Yield: about 3-1/2 dozen.

 

Cranberry Swirl Biscotti

MAKES: 30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup cherry preserves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • GLAZE:
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon 2% milk
  • 2 teaspoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°. Place cranberries, preserves and cinnamon in a food processor; process until smooth.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture.

Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion of dough into a 12×8-in. rectangle. Spread each with half of the cranberry mixture; roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a short side.

Place rolls 4 in. apart on a lightly greased baking sheet, seam side down. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Carefully transfer rolls to a cutting board; cool 5 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the rolls crosswise into 1/2-in. slices. Place slices upright on lightly greased baking sheets.

Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until centers are firm and dry. Remove from pans to wire racks.

In a small bowl, mix the glaze ingredients. Drizzle over warm cookies; cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container. Yield: about 2-1/2 dozen.

CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS By Susan Wiggs

Candlelight Christmas

Logan O’Donnell owned a successful insurance business that he started to be near his son Charlie in a small town in upstate New York. However, when his ex-wife’s husband was transferred Oklahoma, he only gets to see Charlie during the summer and holidays. Logan sold his insurance business and bought a ski resort in Avalon, a town on the shores of Willow Lake. Though Logan has had his share of dates since the divorce, he is not ready for a serious relationship.

Darcy Fitzgerald is still reeling in the aftershock of her divorce from her unfaithful husband, Huntley Collins.  She is not ready for involvement with another man, especially one with a child, but when her best friend India introduces her to her brother Logan, Darcy cannot deny she is attracted to him.

The Fitzgerald’s and the Collins’ families go way back and they vacation and do holidays together. Darcy’s sister is married to her ex’s brother, and Darcy cannot bring herself to celebrating the holidays with her family since Huntley will be there. When India invites her to spend the holidays with her family, she accepts.

Will their pasts drive Logan and Darcy apart, or can the romantic backdrop of the wintry ski resort and the spirit of creating a Christmas to remember for Charlie and his cousins allow them to drop their guard?

This is a delightful read. Susan Wiggs is a master storyteller, and CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS is no exception.  Her characters are very believable and the plot has enough detail to keep interest high without overwhelming the reader. It is a quick read, just right for the busy holidays.

Susan-Wiggs-photo-by-Susan-Doupe You can read more about Susan and her books on her website Susan Wiggs, her Goodreads author page, FaceBook author page, her blog The View from Here, or on Twitter.

To buy CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS or any of her other books, you can visit Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM, Powell’s, or your favorite indie bookstore.

Christmas Board Books for the Very Young #3

This is the third and final installment of Christmas Board Books for the very young. I hop you found something to your child’s liking.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

HO! HO! HO!

By Charles Reasoner

 

I loved this rhyming story.  Santa eats too many cookies and gets stuck in the chimney. A little mouse saves the day by pushing Santa down the chimney.  The pictures are in Charles Reasoner’s style – very colorful and with enough activity in each picture to keep a young child’s interest high.

 

Bear Stays Up for Christmas

BEAR STAYS UP FOR CHRISTMAS

By Karma Wilson

Illustrations by Jane Chapman

 

This was a really cute book.  Bear can’t stay awake, so his friends get him up so he doesn’t miss Christmas.  When they go home, Bear stays up and works on surprises for his friends.  When they wake up it is Christmas and Bear and his friends share their surprises.  Bear gets a quilt that is “just his size” and snuggles up and falls fast asleep. This little book explores the joy of giving.

 

Duck & Goose - It's Time for Christmas

DUCK AND GOOSE IT’S TIME FOR CHRISTMAS

By Tad Hills

 

In this delightful Duck and Goose tale, Goose wants do nothing more than catch snowflakes, go sledding, and just have fun playing in the snow.  Goose constantly reminds Duck there is no time for that. “It is time for Christmas.”  With cute little characters, aka Duck and Goose, and pictures that leave plenty of room for a child’s imagination, DUCK AND GOOSE IT’S TIME FOR CHRISTMAS will please the youngest reader through preschool age.

 

The Mitten

THE MITTEN

By Jan Brett

 

THE MITTEN is a Ukrainian folktale adapted and illustrated by Jan Brett. A boy named Nicki wanted white mittens, but his Baba said they would be hard to find in the snow. Nicki lost his mitten and the animals helped him find it in an unconventional way. If you ever read a Jan Brett book, you already know what a fantastic job she does illustrating her books, and this is no exception.

 

Just a Snowy Day

JUST A SNOWY DAY

By Mercer Mayer

 

Mercer Mayer’s JUST A SNOWY DAY is one of my favorites.  Though this isn’t a board book, it is a wonderful storybook and one of the Golden Touch and Feel books.  I remember sitting with my sons reading this and watching them complete the activity found on each page.  Because the activities on each page involve precise dexterity, I would recommend this to children aged 2-4.

 

Happy Reading!

Christmas Board Books for the Very Young #2

Reading Christmas stories to my children when they were young was part of our Christmas tradition.  Who can resist a cute Christmas board book for their little one?

Bright Baby Merry Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS

A Bright Baby Touch and Feel book

 

This little Christmas picture book identifies various winter pictures for the youngest reader.  There is a snowman, Santa, reindeer, sleigh, and many more to delight a child two and under.

 

God Bless Our Christmas

GOD BLESS OUR CHRISTMAS

By Hannah C. Hall

Illustrated by Steve Whitlow

 

GOD BLESS OUR CHRISTMAS is a beautiful book about Christmas time activities and ends by reminding children that Christmas is the day Jesus was born.

“The baby Jesus has been born!

A star shines big and bright.

Through Jesus’ birth, God came earth/

God bless our Christmas night.”

I recommend this book for all preschool and toddler aged children.

 

Peek-a-Boo Reindeer

PEEK-A-BOO REINDEER

By Charles Reasoner

 

This is a cut-out board book, with shaped pages and cut-outs or peek-a-boo holes.  I didn’t find the story to be very engaging, but the illustrations are colorful and the cut-outs are fun. It is definitely a book for the very young to page through and explore the shapes and peek-a-boos.  With Santa, snowmen, reindeer and other forest creatures, the book is well suited to Mom or Dad to embellish the story.

 

PeekaBoo Elves

PEEK-A-BOO ELVES

By Charles Reasoner

 

This is another cut-out board book, by Charles Reasoner.  Once again the pictures and the cut-outs will engage young ones is a cute story.  I preferred this story to the PEEK-A-BOO REINDEER.  The elves are making toys and packing up Santa’s sleigh for the big night.