I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

christmas starImage by brockvicky via Flickr
Merry Christmas!

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light...For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:2, 6)

May Almighty God, who sent his Son to take our nature upon him, bless you in this holy season, scatter the darkness of sin, and brighten your heart with the light of his holiness.

May God, who sent his angels to proclaim the glad news of the Savior's birth, fill you with joy, and make you heralds of the Gospel.

May God, who in the Word made flesh joined heaven to earth and earth to heaven, give you his peace and favor.

And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you for ever. Amen.

from the Book of Occasional Services
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Feliz Navidad! A Recipe for What My Family Really Eats at Christmas

Bean dip? Are you serious?

Yes. I am. Exhausted by the previous night's Christmas Eve services, we go casual at our house Christmas Day. What started as a warm nosh to fill the empty-stomach time between a breakfast in our jammies and dinner, has now become a tradition so esteemed that I fear my parents would not come to visit on Christmas if I didn't serve it.

Ok, they'd come. But only to see the kids.

We like it so much that it never actually makes it to the table. It stays in the crockpot on the counter and we gravitate toward it like moths to a lamppost.

And it's so easy. I make it up after present-opening time and it's ready for grazing in a few hours. Of course, it's perfect for any party or just because, too. But calories don't count on Christmas Day, right?


Cheesy Bean Dip

1 16-oz can refried beans
1 c. your favorite salsa
1 c. each shredded cheddar and jack cheese
1 c. sour cream
3 oz. cream cheese, cubed for easy melting
1 T. chili powder
1/4 t. ground cumin
optional: jalapeno rings, garlic...whatever you love

Combine in a crockpot, cover, and heat on high for 2 hours. (I've done it on the stove over low heat, too.) Stir occasionally. Taste occasionally but don't let your family catch you, because then they'll have to taste, too, and forget it -- game over. The stuff'll be gone. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Few Of My Favorite Things, Ornament Edition

Don't you just love Christmas trees? Each is as unique as the decorator, revealing the tastes and joys, pasts and presents of the family who hung each ornament. We have a lot of ornaments at our house -- more than we need -- but each one represents something, a memory of the moment it was made or received, whether it's a kindergarten creation or a souvenir from a vacation, and I can't bear to part with a single one of them. One of my favorite days of the year is when all of the boxes come out and we unpack the treasures for our tree.

Some of my friends have themed trees. Red White and Blue God Bless America Trees; Gingerbread Trees; Star Trek (yes! you know who you are!); Feathers and Fur. My theme, I suppose, is "anything goes." But I do have a special collection of ornaments, and I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn they are teapots and teacups. I thought I'd share just a few of them with you.

Like all of our other ornaments, each is a memory. I purchased this one myself from a tea shop one November. My friend Laura and I had a wonderful afternoon that day, enjoying scones and fragrant Buccaneer tea -- a delicious blend of coconut and rooibos and I'm not sure what else, but it's divine. I'm a sucker for red toille, so I couldn't pass this up:

The newest in my collection came from my friend Susan. She sent it to me last year for Christmas with instructions to open the package early and hang it on the tree. I love the shade of blue and the wintry feel of this teacup!

This last photo shows two more. One is a pink teapot, which reminds me a bit of a favorite (human-sized) teacup I have, an Old Country Roses pattern laid over pale pink. It also came from a tea shop. The Christmas pattern teacup came from my friend Jill, the last Christmas I lived in the same town as her before I moved away. There's a pot to match this one, too. I love the Victorian collage-look of it.

There's a peek at a few of my favorite ornaments! What about you? What are some of the treasured ornaments gracing your tree?

Monday, December 6, 2010

King of the (Christmas) Airwaves

The Magic of Christmas (Nat King Cole album)Image via Wikipedia Have you started listening to Christmas music yet? My family has; in fact, we've gone so far as to have grown sick of some of our CDs already, cycled them out, and replaced them with new ones. We're that bad. We listen to Christmas music during breakfast and dinner. Classics. Contemporary. Madrigals. Pops. We're junkies for holiday tunes.

I have favorites, of course. We all do. While I especially love some classical pieces and less-popular songs ("The Cherry Tree Carol," anyone?), the stuff that gets me instantly in a Christmassy mood tends to be favorites from my youth, songs that predate my birth but got a lot of airplay when I was a kid, like The Boston Pops' "Sleigh Ride" and The New Christy Minstrels harmonizing carols in a 60's folk partyfest that probably set me up to fall in love with the B-52's when I was older.

My favorite, however, is Nat King Cole's version of "The Christmas Song." No Mel Torme-version for me, please. Nat King Cole is, well, king.

I recently discovered that other Americans agree with my appreciation of this song. Billboard Magazine has created a list of the one hundred most popular holiday songs, based on a blend of sales and airplay from October 2009-January 2010. "The Christmas Song" ranks at a delightful number 7 on the list, beating out eighth-place holder Bing Crosby's "White Christmas."

Number 9 on the list is "Last Christmas," sung by eighties-pop duo Wham! -- I confess, I loved them back when this song came out and can still sing all of George Michael's little "Ohhh bab-ay" parts. Amazingly, "Last Christmas" shows up two more times in the top 20 of Billboard's list, with covers by Taylor Swift and the Cast of Glee showing up at numbers 15 and 20. Perhaps my kids will think of Wham! and this song when, twenty years from now, they indulge in Christmas nostalgia.

Other songs I love made the cut, too: Andy Williams' "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is number 10. But I was surprised that nothing by Manheim Steamroller found a top spot. Those albums have sold better than any Christmas albums in history, so I've heard.

Here's the top ten list. Is your favorite among its ranks? And were you as surprised by the number one top-seller as I was?

10. "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Andy Williams
9. "Last Christmas" by Wham!
8. "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby
7. "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole
6. "A Holly Jolly Christmas" by Burl Ives (for those of us with Rudolph nostalgia)
5. "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano
4. "Jingle Bell Rock" by Bobby Helms
3. "Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
2. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee
1. "All I want for Christmas" by Mariah Carey
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