Saturday, December 12, 2015

Deck the Halls with.....

Two Things I am Grateful For:

1) Answers to prayers.  What a blessing it is to know that I can pray to my Heavenly Father and He will answer my prayers.  Even if I do not like the answers I receive and sometimes it takes a while to receive those answers.  I know my Heavenly Father hears my prayers and I know He will always be there for me and will never let me down.

2) I am grateful today is Friday!  Yes!!!  And nice naps in the afternoon and the rain!!

From the Camera:

This is a "throw back" photo of our tree a few years ago.  This was taken when Danielle still lived at home and you could still see green on the tree.  Ha Ha!  Our tree has morphed a bit with the change of a couple of things...more lights and a different kind of lights, along with a little new garland...or should I say, a roll of mesh netting or Poly Deco Mesh.
The Tree of Christmas Past....

The Tree of Christmas Now....

Big change, right???  And it helps that all the lights were on in the house when the photo was taken too.  ~wink, wink~

From the Craft Room and Other Cool Things:

Aren't these Angels adorable!  And they look super easy to make too.  Tongue depressors!!!....who knew they could look so cute?


From the Heart and Spirit:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks' Christmas address to the BYU Management Society, given December 9, 2015

Observing Christmas

At this time of year we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. His life was the greatest life ever lived.
Even in secular terms, His life has had greater impact on every part of this world and its history than any life ever lived.
No one who has ever lived has more monuments to His life and teaching than He. This, of course, includes the great cathedrals that dot the landscape in Western Europe, many of them requiring more than 100 years to construct, and, more recently, our own temples, more than 145 on every continent and in 49 nations of the world.
The greatest art and music of the Western world has been devoted to celebrating the birth and the life and the mission of Jesus Christ.
Kingdoms have been founded and overthrown to serve His purposes, as the leaders of that time supposed. Armies have marched and navies have put to sea and continents have been discovered and populated.
Philosophers and theologians have spent their lives studying His teachings. Among other impacts, those teachings have unquestionably fostered political systems that dignify and provide rights to the individual and have inspired charity, education, and culture.
Millions have given their lives, and, more importantly, millions have patterned their lives after the Lord God of Israel, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, our Savior. I believe that President Gordon B. Hinckley did not overstate the point when he wrote, “His matchless example [has] become the greatest power for goodness and peace in all the world.”
Our Savior’s mission was to save us from death, to save us from sin, and to save us from ignorance. What did He teach us? And even more importantly, what have we learned? We live in peace and prosperity when we follow His teachings. In contrast, virtually every unhappiness and sorrow in the world is traceable to failures to follow His teachings.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of the Son of God and also to remember His teachings.
What did Jesus teach the people of His day? And what did He not teach? Ponder this contrast. Perhaps it will have the impact upon you that it had on me when I first heard it about 50 years ago.
What did Jesus teach the people of His day? The people He taught were in slavery to Rome. Yet he did not teach them the military arts or activities they could use to free themselves from the yoke of Rome. He did not even teach them the principles of civil government. He said, “Render … unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
Infant mortality was high in the society in which He lived and life expectancy was low because of a multitude of diseases. Did He teach them the principles of health? There was much hunger at that time. Did He teach them ways to improve agriculture or nutrition? The whole world needed His message, but He said He was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And what He taught them was how to live their personal lives.
He taught them to be meek and humble and to hunger and thirst after righteousness (see Matthew 5:5–6; 23:12).
He taught them to love their enemies and bless them that cursed them, do good to them that hated them, and pray for them that despitefully used them and persecuted them (see Matthew 5:44).
He taught them that “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), He taught. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
He taught: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal;
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
“Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27).
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11–12).
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
Finally, He declared, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Perhaps we can understand in a small measure the importance of these things Jesus taught by comparing them with the things He did not teach. Think how important it would have been for Him to have addressed the social issues of His day, such as questions of freedom and health and government. We have no record that He addressed any of those subjects. That was not His mission. Instead, He taught people how to perfect their personal lives. “Be ye therefore perfect,” He taught, “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
In this life we must choose between Jesus’s way and the world’s way. Of course we know that we must meet the requirements of the world in many ways, including the need to earn our daily bread and pursue the education and other activities that will allow us to do so. But we must never neglect our overriding priority on the things of eternity—the bread of life—that the Savior and His Church provide us. We must not forget our worshipping and witnessing of the Savior of all mankind.
For centuries, Christmas has been a celebration of Jesus Christ and the significance of His ministry. But in recent years it has become a secular holiday with observances that overshadow or replace Him and His ministry.
As I view our recent history—say the last century—religious observances of the birth and mission of the Savior have evolved from Christ-centered observances into a tremendous holiday of gift-giving. The focus on worldly gifts has gradually and now almost decisively overshadowed the religious aspects of the Christmas holiday. If you doubt this, compare the Christmases we see around us today with the Christmases we remember from our childhood or that of our parents.
President James E. Faust made this point vividly in this recollection:
“As I look back on that special Christmas, the most memorable part was that we did not think about presents. Presents are wonderful, but they are not essential to our happiness. I could not have been happier than I was then. While we had no presents to hold and fondle and play with, there were many wonderful gifts that could not be seen but could be felt. There was the gift of boundless love. We knew God loved us, and we all loved each other. It made us feel so wonderful and secure to belong and to be part of all that went on. We wanted nothing else. We did not miss the presents at all. I never remember a happier Christmas in my childhood.
“We all enjoy giving and receiving presents, but there is a difference between presents and gifts. The true gifts may be part of ourselves giving of the riches of the heart of mind, and therefore more enduring and of far greater worth than presents brought at a store.”[2]
Consider these contrasting features of Christmas observances, past and present. Which is now dominant?
1.     Savior
vs.
Santa Claus
2.     Worshipping
vs.
Spending
3.     Attending religious services
vs.
Attending bowl games
4.     Christian Christmas music
vs.
“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”
“Frosty the Snowman”
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
“Jingle Bell Rock”
A major force in all of this has been the increasing secularism of society that has led to court rulings outlawing public religious symbolism, such as the well-loved manger scenes. Many public schools are fearful to allow their choirs to sing religious hymns at Christmas time. “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “O Holy Night,” and “Joy to the World” are certainly overtly Christian songs of worship and joy. As such, they are objectionable to those legal or administrative authorities who are sensitive to the increasing aggressiveness and litigiousness of secular forces in our society. In saying this I am not advocating an official establishment of Christianity in this nation, which is clearly forbidden. I favor respectful recognition of the increasingly diverse fundamental values of many of our citizens, but that should not prevent an open and tolerant acknowledgement of the religious traditions at the foundation of Western society.

I could make a whole talk about legal restraints on the public observance of Christmas, but prefer to turn to a subject within the personal control of each of us. I refer to private observances of Christmas and how they have been influenced by external legal forces and the associated media coverage that have tended to dominate our thinking and behavior.
Where are Christians today in their private observances of Christmas?
One prominent feature of private Christmas observances are the greetings sent by mail or electronics. The cards I remember from my youth all featured religious messages like manger scenes or wise men. They also had words honoring the babe of Bethlehem, God’s gift to the world, or the mission of the Savior whose birth we celebrate.
Today it is difficult to find a Christmas card that features a religious image or a religious message. To illustrate that point, I analyzed the Christmas cards I received at my office and home a few years ago. There were many, so this is not a small sample. Significantly, my sample was biased toward religious images and words by the fact that most of the cards were sent by fellow leaders or members of my faith.
I sorted the cards I received into three groups. In the first group I put the traditional cards—those with an overt mention of Christ and/or pictures evocative of the birth of the Savior. Only 24 percent of the cards I received were of this traditional character. In the second group were those cards whose pictures and visuals were not at all religious, but they did have the words “Merry Christmas” to identify the religious origin of the holiday. This was the largest group—47 percent. In the third group—comprising 29 percent of the cards I received—there was no mention of Christ or Christmas, and no religious visuals at all. These cards had words like “Season’s Greetings,” “Happy Holidays,” “Peace in the New Year,” or “Peace and Beauty of the Season.” A few were so daring as to refer to “Peace on Earth” or “Faith, Hope, and Love,” but none had any pictures suggestive of religion.
Similarly, the spoken greetings exchanged in public at this time of year used to be “Merry Christmas.” Today that is probably less common than “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays.”
We sometimes read about persons who have asked to have their names removed from membership in the Church. Some say that the Church is not providing for their needs—is not helping them with their daily problems or desires. This causes me to think about the teachings recorded in the 6th chapter of the book of John. There we read of Jesus expanding five loaves and two fishes to feed a multitude of about 5,000. At the end of the day, He sought to leave the multitude by taking a ship across the Sea of Galilee, but many boarded ships and followed Him. When they overtook Him, He challenged their motives. He said, “Ye seek me … because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (John 6:26). In other words, they sought Him to provide their immediate needs, not to receive the unique message only He could give them. Jesus taught:
“Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you. …
“… I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:27, 35).
Then the scriptures record, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). Those who left Jesus were not willing to partake of the spiritual bread and water He gave them. Similarly, there are those who leave the Church of Jesus Christ because this Church, like Jesus’s teachings, concentrates on what will give life everlasting instead of what will provide their needs and desires today.
The gift that Christ gives is the greatest gift ever given, and it is available to each of us. That is the gift we should celebrate at this and every Christmas. Here I recall the words of our beloved Elder Neal A. Maxwell. In a Christmas message, he said:
“God’s gifts, unlike seasonal gifts, are eternal and unperishable, constituting a continuing Christmas which is never over! These infinite gifts are made possible by the ‘infinite atonement’ (2 Nephi 9:7; Alma 34:10–12). Without the ‘infinite atonement’ there would be no universal immortality, nor could there be given the greatest gift which even God can give—eternal life! (D&C 6:13; 14:7).
“Meanwhile, if we cannot distinguish the eternal things from the things of the day, we are to be pitied. The first Christmas in the Middle East was met with massive, uncomprehending indifference. In both fact and symbol there was no room at the inn. People were busy, just as in the days of Noah, and just as they will be prior to the Second Coming.”[3]
Latter-day Saints are uniquely qualified to celebrate the mission of Jesus Christ throughout the year. We have the gift of the Holy Ghost, whose mission is to testify of the Father and the Son (see 3 Nephi 16:6). For that reason, we have a duty to testify like the shepherds, who, “when they had seen [what the angels described], they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17).
We know whom we seek and we know why. We are children of a Father in Heaven who declared, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). And our Savior—the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Lord God of Israel—is fundamental to that work.
A few years ago, President Monson spoke these words:
“As we undertake our personal search for Jesus, aided and guided by the principle of prayer, it is fundamental that we have a clear concept of him whom we seek. The shepherds of old sought Jesus the child. But we seek Jesus the Christ, our Older Brother, our Mediator with the Father, our Redeemer, the Author of our salvation; he who was in the beginning with the Father; he who took upon himself the sins of the world and so willingly died that we might forever live. This is the Jesus whom we seek.”
As President Howard W. Hunter taught us in his humble way:
“The real Christmas comes to him who has taken Christ into his life as a moving, dynamic, vitalizing force. The real spirit of Christmas lies in the life and mission of the Master.”
I pray that we will all emulate that life and celebrate that mission at this Christmas time, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
From the Kitchen:



Carrot Cake Poke Cake

Ingredients

The 9x13 Carrot Cake recipe of your choice, baked and cooled (I used a box mix)
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
8 oz Cool Whip
10.6 oz Cool Whip Vanilla Frosting (Cream Cheese flavor if your store carries it, mine doesn't)
6 oz (half a tub) of whipped cream cheese (must be whipped)
Approx. 1/2 cup caramel sundae sauce (just pour on as much or as little as you'd like)
Approx. 1 cup chopped pecans (sprinkle on as much or as little as you'd like)

Instructions

Leave the cake in the dish it was baked in-- this is not a free standing cake.
Poke approximately 20-25 holes, spread evenly, over the top of the cake with the bottom of a wooden spoon. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over top, trying to fill the holes as much as possible.
In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat together the cool whip, the cool whip frosting, and the whipped cream cheese until smooth. Spread over top of the cake.
Pour the caramel sauce over top of the cake, and sprinkle with chopped pecans.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, really overnight is best.
Cut into 12 squares to serve (you can cut more, 1/12 is a pretty large piece!).

Notes about this recipe:
Cool Whip Frosting is not the same as cool whip. But you can find it right beside the cool whip in the freezer section of your grocery store.
You will not be able to stop eating this. Just a fact.

From the Schmidt's:

Here's a super cute idea for contacting Santa....
 
While shopping the mother of two little girls purchased red and green balloons.  Here's the cutest idea I've ever heard!  The mother said that her girls keep changing their mind about what they wanted Santa to bring them.  She needed to lock them down, especially since she had already bought one of the big items.  So, that night, they wrote their lists on balloons, then took then outside to let them go into the sky and fly off to the North Pole, where Santa will receive their lists and know exactly what to bring them for Christmas!  Is that fun or what??!!!  Love it!  And, I've never heard of something like this before.  Great idea, right??!!

Blog Challenge:  Do you hang mistletoe?

No, as a general rule we do not hang mistletoe.  In fact, there were maybe two times we actually had it in the house around the holidays.  Now a days, I don't even give mistletoe a thought during the holiday season.  Why?  It just never became a thing at my house as a child and it hasn't become a thing in our home now.  Besides, we don't need a sprig of some leaves hanging around to remind Kevin and I to kiss each other from time to time.  It just happens and I prefer it that way.  I think it might be more fun to have around the house when company comes over just to watch them walk under it, so maybe we might need to get some if we do our Christmas Eve get together at our house this year.  
~giggle, giggle~

Traffic was really light coming home from work today.  It was strange not seeing as many cars on the road on a Friday.  Usually Fridays are the worst day of the week.  Everyone either rushed home early because it looked so gloomy outside today or they are out Christmas shopping.  The freeway was so light that there were no delays.  The surface streets were light with no delays either.  Usually it takes me about 25-30 minutes just to get to the freeway.  Today it took me 19 minutes.  That is unheard of!!........but I won't complain.  It was perfectly lovely!

When I got home the house was quiet and only Lexi and Kevin were up.  Kyle has been having trouble sleeping at night so his sleep pattern is all messed up right now.  Hopefully he will be able to get that straightened out soon.  

For dinner tonight I made an old family favorite...Chicken and Rice.  It's a super simple recipe.  I usually bake the chicken or throw it in a crockpot with some seasonings.  Once the chicken is done I make up some rice and instead of using just plain water to cook the rice in, I use a can of Cream of Chicken soup. Sometimes we will add some veggies to the rice.  I also buy those crunchy chow mien noodles to go with this.  When I serve the meal I layer everything on the plate.  First the noodles, then the rice mixture followed by the chicken.  Like I said before, this is a long time family favorite.  The recipe has morphed from an old casserole I use to make, but have had to adapt over the years.  Sometimes I will cook the chicken in a skillet so we can cut up the chicken.  When the chicken is done I will pull it out of the skillet to cut it up into cubes.  Once the chicken is cut up I put it back into the skillet and will add the rice, cream of chicken soup, seasonings, rice, veggies, and more water and allow it to simmer until the rice is done.  Then we serve it up as it or on top of the chow mien noodles.  The recipe was something I found years ago and is actually a casserole you would put in the over.  I had to change the cooking method over the years on those days I came home from work and didn't have time to pre-cook rice and chicken.  Now, the skillet method seems to be our favorite and recently I stopped cooking the chicken in the skillet and started to bake the chicken just because that is a healthier option.  Needless to say, Lexi was thrilled that we had Chicken and Rice tonight.  Kevin seems to enjoy it too.  

After dinner was done, I sat down and watched an episode of a show Kyle got me hooked on.  It's called Lie to Me.  It's not something you can watch on TV currently.  You have to catch it on Netflix since the show aired a few years ago and only ran for 3 seasons.  It's actually pretty good.  It's about this firm that specializes in reading facial expressions.  The owner of the company was a scientist that studied people and did extensive research and could read people's faces to tell if someone was lying.  He worked for the government and law enforcement on several of the cases.  I enjoyed watching the series and I'm sad that there were only 3 seasons.  I think Netflix and Hulu have been my saving grace lately.  Kevin spends a lot of time in bed these days and these things help to entertain him, but it also helps to entertain me as well.  It's also cheaper than cable TV and less expensive than going to the movies, buying DVD's, or even renting for that matter.  We rent movies through Redbox once in a while, but not that often.  No one seems to remember to take the movies back and it can be very expensive to buy a movie through Redbox and I am speaking from experience on that.  I do not suggest it at all!  Luckily, that hasn't happened in quite a while and  thank goodness for things like Netflix and Hulu!

The weather has taken a turn to the gloomy side around here.  It's been dark all day!  It even rained tonight.  Nothing too crazy, but if it were just a tiny bit colder and we were up in a higher elevation it could snow.  Thank goodness we aren't!  I shutter to think what driving to and from work in the snow would be like.  EEK!  When I was a little girl my Mom use to tell me stories about when she was a little girl and playing in the snow at her parent's house in Michigan, or her experience with driving in the snow, or walking out to her car in the snow.  I bet the snow is absolutely beautiful to see, but I don't think I would want to deal with snow every single year.  Just like I don't like dealing with the heat every single year around here.  LOL!  

Well, it's getting late and I need to get to bed.  Take care my friends and enjoy your weekend!  Only 13 more days until Christmas!  Oh, I have a lot to do!!!  Talk to you soon!!   

From the Missionary:

Curtis sent us this:

Curtis:  "I'm in enemy territory!  Ha Ha."

Danielle:  "How do?"

Then he sent this photo....

Me:  "Too Funny!"
Danielle:  "Ha Ha Ha time to send you a bunch of ASU decor!"

Me: "That's true!!! Maybe we should."

Danielle: Also burn everything he touches you don't want that infecting you. LOL!"

Me:  Danielle, he's a Missionary"

Danielle: "He also likes U of A, what does that say about him?  Lol and I am also kidding."

Me:  I know you are. 😀 Hang in there Curtis."

Curtis: Ha Ha Ha, no he is actually a cool guy. I just tease him."

Quote of the Day:



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