Tag Archives: Christmas



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For the first time in several years, my husband and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house. It was small by our family’s standards, with eight people total. However, we all fit at the table and I didn’t have to rearrange … Continue reading

To Tree Or Not To Tree, That is the Question by Valerie J. Patterson

To tree or not to tree.  That is the question.  Not quite Shakespearean, but close enough.

The holidays are a lot of work.  You’ve got the baking, the shopping, the wrapping, and the decorating.  And that’s just the preparation.  All of these things tie together to make the holidays festive, memorable, and delicious, but when it’s all over, have you ever wanted to just leave the decorations up a little longer than past New Years?  What’s acceptable?  When is it too long?

The norm in our neighborhood seems to be outside decorations need to come down–or at the very least no longer lit up–after New Years’ Day.  I was a rebel this year and not only left them up but also left them lit up until January 9th.  The weather that Saturday was a pure gift, and I spent the morning out in the front yard while the bubbly hubby was at work.  Removing all the decorations and lights was a bit of a bummer, reminding me how quickly the holidays pass.  When I finished and went inside, I stared at the tree standing proud in the center of my picture window, and I didn’t have the heart to tackle that as well.

One more week, is what I thought that evening as I turned down the lights and sat on the sofa with the bubbly hubby and watched the lights.  Just one more week, then I’ll take it down.

And then I talked with my sister-in-law, Tracy who told me she didn’t want to take down her tree, either.  Instead, she removed the Christmas decorations, replacing them with Valentine’s Day decorations.  She shared a photo and I was convinced.  This past Monday, Steve and I went and bought some Valentine’s Day decorations and this Saturday, I will change my Christmas tree into a Valentine’s tree.

And then–if I am still reluctant to take it down and put it in the closet–I will make it a St. Patrick’s Day tree!

So what about you?  To tree or not to tree?  What’s your choice?

Until next time, may the simplicity and beauty of tree lights bring color to your life!

The Art of Baking by Valerie J. Patterson

Tis the season, which means shopping, decorating, and loads of baking!  I used to have time to bake.  I’m not entirely certain when that changed or even HOW that changed, but each Christmas I bake less and less.

When my nieces were younger, my sister and her daughters would come to our house on Christmas Eve and we would spend the day baking and the evening eating and chatting and laughing and opening gifts.  When it came time for them to head home, they had a wide assortment of baked goodies to take home with them, and we all had a host of new memories!

This year, I contemplated baking Christmas cookies, but had the task all to myself.  My sisters are grandmas now, and are enjoying all of the experiences having grandkids at Christmastime brings.  I didn’t feel much like dragging out all of the old recipes.  Too many cookies for two people.  Too much time as well.  One evening, I was scanning through my newsfeed on social media and stumbled across the most amazing cookie recipe.

I say amazing because it has 3 ingredients!

Yep, I said THREE!

So, on the way home from work last Friday I stopped and picked up enough ingredients to make 2 batches of cookies.  I mixed one up on Saturday morning and was amazed at the ease, the appearance of the baked product, and the flavor!

Here’s the recipe:

Cool Whip Cookies  [yes, it reads COOL WHIP]

1 box of cake mix [any flavor]

1 eight-ounce tub of Cool Whip [whipped cream]

1 egg.

Preparation:  Add powdered cake mix to mixing bowl.  Add one egg–yoke broken–and Cool Whip.  Fold gently to incorporate cake mix into cool whip, then mix thoroughly.  Drop by teaspoonfuls into confectioners sugar and coat evenly.  Place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes depending upon your oven.  For larger cookies, drop by tablespoonfuls.



I have made devils food cookies and orange cookies.  Up next are spice cake cookies.

Until next time, may your home be full of family and friends, may your greatest gift be love, and may your Christmas be blessed!

Legos Build More Than Just Houses

In this time of frenzied holiday shopping, I got a moment to reflect yesterday. Two of our granddaughters listed Legos on their Christmas wish lists.

It seems like Legos have been around for, well, forever. They certainly have the same staying power that Barbie has. Actually, I checked. Barbie was unveiled in 1959. Legos have been around longer, since 1932. Now that’s staying power.

Even though it’s been a long time since children lived in our house full time, we still have the box of Legos. Of our eight grandchildren, seven have spent numerous hours playing with them. (The eighth is only 10 months old…her time to play will come.) And I have spent a lot of those hours sitting on the floor building houses and garages and Christmas trees and zoos and cars and so many other things.


And I do this because of tradition. You see, my mother has a similar box at her house. She bought it when she started having grandchildren, I think. All of our kids played with those Legos. Everyone knew where the box was and went straight for it when they got to Gramma’s house. Well, maybe they detoured by the cookie jar. 🙂

Last month, I was there with a couple of my grandkids and they found the box. I loved that my mother’s great-grandchildren were now playing with these timeless toys.


So Legos are a welcome tradition in my family. And I’m so glad for this ability to tie generations together. We weren’t just building objects all these years, we were building memories. And I’m so grateful for each and every one of them.

I hope your holiday, however you perceive it, is filled with building memories.

Laurie Ryan (and family)

Special Events Lead to Special Memories by Valerie J. Patterson

Steve and I enjoy going to the theater.  It’s something we’ve always done.  We just enjoy movies whether they be mysteries, comedies, or action movies–and sometimes science fiction joins the mix.  However, we’ve recently taken to seeing the special events sponsored by Fathom Events.

A short time ago we got to enjoy Driving Miss Daisy with Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones.  Phenomenal!  Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones were remarkable, and just made for a special evening!!  It was an incredible, memorable event.

One of my very favorite movies is the musical White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen.  2014 is the 60th anniversary of this musical, and Steve just happened across an advertisement for a limited engagement screening of the original White Christmas complete with commentary, interviews, and behind the scenes extras.  This event was being presented by Fathom Events and was available for two days only.  Steve took me to dinner and then to the screening.

It was incredible!  Loved every minute of it.  I’ve seen the musical countless times on TV, but to see it on the big screen just made it all the more better.  It was nearly three hours of pure enjoyment.  Loved the commentaries, the history on the cast and the film, and the anecdotes that were told about the cast during filming.  Definitely one of the highlights of the Christmas season!

We’re looking forward to seeing two of the operas being offered through this special event program.  What could be better than seeing the opera in the comfort of blue jeans and sneakers while munching popcorn?

Until next time, I hope you’re enjoying your Christmas season, have all your shopping completed and your wrapping done!  And to quote Bing Crosby, “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep.”


I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Everything is pretty much back to some sort of normality here in the UK and the sales are in full swing. From Christmas Eve most of the ads on TV are for the sales which start here on Boxing Day (traditionally the day after Christmas when servants would receive gifts from their masters which became known as a “Christmas box”). Having shopped-out prior to Christmas, I always think I’ll be happy to give the sales a miss, and yet I always seem to be ready to bag a bargain!

But mostly the period between Christmas and New Year finds me in reflective mode and, can I say, a little melancholy. Not sure why, and I wonder if most everyone feels this way. It’s not so much the let down after the frenzy of the season, but more reflecting back on what I’ve achieved the past year and whether I feel I’ve made the most of it.

Looking back, I’ve met most of the goals I set myself for 2013 – written two fiction novels and one non-fiction book, boarded what seems a plethora of puppies for Guide Dogs, had some lovely trips away, and finished some jobs around the home that seem to have been at the planning stage for ages. All in all it’s been a pretty great year. But have I fulfilled the potential of the year? It’s always hard to say. What I do know is the year has gone by at lightning speed and I spent most of it in busy mode.

So here I am reflecting on last year and planning for next. Some of my goals so far are to be more organised (that’s a big one), write two more novels, take more trips away with AJ, but mostly I plan to take time to savour and value everything. To, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “suck out all the marrow of life”.

That’s the plan anyway. How about you? What are your goals for 2014?

A Caroling We Go! by Valerie J. Patterson (sort of)

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, baking, decorating, wrapping, and visiting, I thought we could use a bit of a break to use our brains for something fun and perhaps relaxing.

Okay, every year someone inevitably sends me this Christmas carol quiz and every year it seems to grow longer and longer.  I generally do very well with it, and it’s always fun to see if I can guess them.  So–without checking google for the answers (considered cheating…and Santa IS watching you)–see how many you know!

1. Exclamation, Member of the Round Table with missing areas.

2. Vehicular homicide was committed on Dad’s Mom by a precipitous darling.

3. Wanted in December: Top forward incisors.

4.The hotel room of two psychiatrists.

5. The lad is a diminutive percussionist.

6. Sir Lancelot with laryngitis.

7. Cup-shaped instruments fashioned of a whitish metallic element.

8. Exclamation, small Israeli Urban Center.

9. Kong, Lear, & Cole–That is us!

10. Duodecimal enumeration of the Passage of the Yuletide Season.

11. Far off in a hay bin.

12. Leave the broadcast from an elevation.

13.Our fervent hope is that you thoroughly enjoy your Yuletide Season.

14. Listen, the winged heavenly messengers are proclaiming tunefully.

15. Jubilation to the entire terrestrial globe.

16. Do you perceive the same vibrations that stimulate the auditory sense organs?

17. Parent was observed osculating a red-coated unshaven teamster.

18. May the Deity bestow an absence of fatigue to mild male humans.

19. An event that arrived on a cloudless witching hour.

20. Uncouth Dolt with the flaming proboscis is aware of the nature of precipitation.

21. As the guardians of the wooly animals protected their charges in the dark hours.

22. I beheld a trio of nautical vessels moving in this direction.

23. Small, wingless, bloodsucking insect that has a father in Armada.

24. Punch out the passages.

25. Query Regarding Identity of Descendant

26. Proceed and Enlighten on the Pinnacle

27. Give Attention to the Melodious Celestial Beings

Hope you enjoyed this little bit of carol quizzing.  I’ll post all answers over the weekend.

Until next time…may the blessings of the season be yours always.