Monday, November 27, 2023

Waiting in Wonder -
Ideas for Observing and Celebrating Advent 2023 - Fourth Sunday

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Missa Rorate Coeli. Listen, here.

Introit: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.

- Philippians 4:4-5 (Roman Missal)

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete: modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestrae innotescant apud Deum.

Ps. Benedixisti, Domine, terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Iacob.(Graduale Romanum)

Micah 5:2-5
John 3:16-19

Light the Advent candle four
Think of joy forever more
Christ child in a stable born
Gift of love that Christmas morn.

Candle, candle burning bright
Shining in the cold winter night
Candle, candle burning bright
Fill our hearts with Christmas light.

O Little Town of Bethlehem
This is the version I grew up listening to.
2-3 cinnamon Sticks
1 cup dried cranberries or fresh
1 cup cried Orange Slices or you can use the rind or even fresh slices
1 tbsp clove
1 tbsp allspice
3-4 sprigs rosemary
1 tbsp cinnamon chips (optional)

Place water in a pot until about 1/2 of the way full and then add the ingredients.
Bring water to a slight boil and then turn the stove down to low heat.
Continue to simmer for an hour or two, replenishing water as needed.

2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground clove
2 tsp nutmeg
10 drops orange essential oil (optional but it adds to the amazing smell)

1. Mix the flour, salt, spices and the orange essential oil if you are using it.
2. Then, slowly add the water until you have a workable piece of dough. You don’t want it to be gooey and sticky, so I always
start with a little bit less water and add if I need more. The dough should be close to the consistency of play-dough.
3. Roll out the dough and cut out the desired shape that you want for your ornaments. If you are hanging the ornaments, you will need to use a skewer, straw or something to create the hole for your string.

1. Place the ornaments on a baking sheet and put in the oven at the lowest temperature possible. My oven was set to 170 degrees.
2. Bake the scented salt dough ornaments for 1 hour, then, flip them over and bake another hour.
3. Lastly, remove them from the oven and allow to cool. Then, be creative because you can leave them plain, paint them, create a garland, tie them on packages or simply use as ornaments.

As we entered into this holy season on Stir Up Sunday with an orange cake, we continue that theme with a slightly different variation.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil (extra-virgin olive oil, canola, vegetable, coconut, or blood orange evoo)
1 cup fresh orange juice
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 - 2 teaspoons orange zest

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 cup butter softened
1 - 8- ounce pkg. cream cheese softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, stir flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In another mixing bowl, cream oil, orange juice, eggs, sour cream, and orange zest until completely mixed.

Fold in dry ingredients, mixing only until combined.

Pour into greased (3) 8-inch or (2) 9-inch cake pans.

Bake for 19-21 minutes, depending on the size of pan used. To test if the cakes are done, insert a toothpick in the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cakes are done. Let cool for 15 minutes before removing from pans.

To make frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese for 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of the bowl halfway through mixing. Stir in powdered sugar, orange zest, and orange juice.

Once cakes are cooled, frost with orange cream cheese frosting

12 medium egg yolk
1.5 cups white granulated sugar
4 cups full fat milk
2 cups heavy cream 
one teaspoon ground nutmeg, or adjust to taste,
one teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
Equipment Needed
large bowl

Place the egg yolks and white sugar into the blender. Blend for about 2 minutes or until the mix thickens up. Pour the yolk-sugar mix into a large bowl, whisk in milk and cream. Continue mixing until the sugar has completely dissolved. Sprinkle in the nutmeg and pour in the vanilla, mix until well incorporated. Taste and adjust nutmeg if desired.
Chill until ready to serve. Sprinkle ground cinnamon over each cup before serving.

1. The recipe calls for raw eggs. Consume at your own risk.
2. Whole fat milk and heavy cream yield thicker and better tasting eggnog.
3. For alcoholic version add a cup of good quality brandy or rum after nutmeg and vanilla has been added. Whisk again until
brandy/rum is well incorporated into the eggnog.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Waiting in Wonder -
Ideas for Observing and Celebrating Advent 2023 - Third Sunday

Sunday, December 17, 2023
Missa Gaudete. Listen, here.

Introit: I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God; for he has clothed me in the garment of salvation and robed me in the cloak of justice, like a bride adorned with her jewels. 

- Isaiah 61:10 (Roman Missal)

Gaudens gaudebo in Domino et exsultabit anima mea in Deo meo: quia induit me vestimentis salutis, et indumento iustitiæ circumdedit me, quasi sponsam ornatam monilibus suis

Ps. Exaltabo te, Domine, quoniam suscepisti me: nec delecasti inimicos meos super me.(Graduale Romanum)

Matthew 2:10-11

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (NIV)the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. 

Light the Advent candle three 
Think of heavenly harmony 
Angels singing "Peace on Earth" 
At the Blessed Saviour's birth.

Candle, candle burning bright 
Shining in the cold winter night 
Candle, candle burning bright
Fill our hearts with Christmas light.

Joy To The World
Here's a pretty standard version for singing along, but I LOVE this one!
The star is one of the most recognized symbols of Christmas, and what better time to incorporate into your handcrafts and holiday baking than at Christmas.  They would be especially fitting for your Twelfth Night celebrations, as well, but are fitting any time during the Christmas season.

2 cups cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
2 cups applesauce
Mix together equal parts cinnamon and applesauce until well incorporated and dough forms.
If too sticky, add more cinnamon.
Roll out dough between two pieces of parchment paper to 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut out shapes and place them on a baking sheet.
Bake at 200 degrees F for 2 hours.
Dust with additional cinnamon while still warm.
Allow the shapes to set and dry completely by placing them on a cooling rack for 24 hour

You can use sandpaper to smooth out the edges if they are jagged once the shapes are dry.

Makes about 18 ornaments, depending on size.

And if you would like other ideas for some star shaped seasonal crafts, here are links to a few others.

2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon and leveled)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 teaspoons maple extract*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
gold sprinkles and/or edible glitter sprinkles
optional: 8 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, maple extract, and vanilla extract then beat on high until fully combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment (or a silicone baking mat, what I prefer!) to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces, with parchment paper between the two, onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 1 day. Chilling is mandatory. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper.

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut into star shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.

Before baking, top with sprinkles. Use a spoon to press the sprinkles into the cookies so they stay secure on top.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before dipping into chocolate.

If using, melt the chopped white chocolate in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring after each until completely melted. Dip the cookies into the white chocolate and allow chocolate to set completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

This is a recipe that I've been making around the holidays for a couple of years now. I usually make it in the crock pot to keep it warm. The combination of the chocolate along with the spices, especially the cayenne is just the best!

4 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
4 oz bittersweet chocolate , chopped
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Optional Toppings:
marshmallows (regular or mini)
whipped cream
pinch of cinnamon
drizzle of chocolate sauce
grated chocolate

To a large saucepan, dutch oven or stockpot, add all ingredients and heat over MED heat. Whisk as it heats, to combine all ingredients until smooth. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Pour into mugs and top with desired toppings. My usual preference is whipped cream, grated chocolate, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Waiting In Wonder -
Ideas For Observing And Celebrating Advent 2023 - Second Sunday

Sunday, December 10, 2023

 Missa Populus Sion. Listen, here.

Introit: People of Zion, the Lord will come to save all nations, and your hearts will exult to hear his majestic voice.
- Based on Isaiah 30:19,30, (Roman Missal)

Populus Sion, ecce Dominus veniet ad salvandas gentes: et auditam faciet Dominus gloriam vocis suae, in laetitia cordis vestri.

Ps. Qui regis Israel, intende: qui deducis velut ovem Ioseph.(Graduale Romanum)

Isaiah 40:3-5
“A voice of one calling:
‘In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” (NIV)

Light the Advent candle two,

think of humble shepherds who,

filled with wonder at the sight,

of the child on Christmas night.

Candle, candle burning bright,

shining in the cold winter night.

Candle, candle burning bright,

fill our hearts with Christmas light.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Listen, here, or listen to this beautiful version.  We enjoy listening to this at the end of every Advent devotional during the season.

Click on image to enlarge, right click and save to your computer.

Traditionally we put up our tree the weekend before Thanksgiving, although in recent years, I've held out for the weekend after, but always before the first Sunday of Advent.  

However, with the scripture reference to "the voice crying in the wilderness", and the poems mention of "the humble shepherds", it might hold special meaning to put up the tree on this day.  Not that there were pine trees in the fields, but most likely there were some trees, and as I though on this it just seemed an obvious fit.  I don't even know that I will hold out until the second Sunday of Advent, but it's a lovely thought, just the same.

That being said, perhaps you could even place the tree the day before and put on nothing but the lights and save the fun of decorating together as a family for today.  Or you could put the tree and the lights up and then decorate it a little more each night, adding different elements. As I've said in previous posts, there is no wrong way to observe the season, all that matters is what is right for you and for your family! So whenever you choose to decorate your tree, here are some lovely ideas for adorning it!

1 cup shortening (I used butter)
1 cup light brown sugar
3 farm-fresh eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups molasses
6 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon,

1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and add the brown sugar, eggs, and molasses. Sift together all the dry ingredients and add them to the butter mixture. Mix thoroughly and chill well ­before rolling out on a floured slab. 2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a cookie sheet.

3. Place them on the greased cookie sheet and bake them in the preheated oven. Bake until dry but not crisp.

A shepherds crook is a long and sturdy stick with a hook at one end used to guide and manage sheep. In tribute to the shepherds, why not decorate your tree with candy canes.  Of course you may choose to use the real thing, which we did for a number of years and it was lovely.  But here are some other ideas you might want to consider as well.

Rustic Holiday Candy Canes - wrapped in burlap and ribbon and adorned with bells and greenery.
Prim Candy Canes wrapped in twine, or these wrapped in red gingham, so cute!
Pipe Cleaner Candy Canes - these would be super easy and fun for the littles in your life!
Beaded Candy Canes - and these would be great for the not-so-little littles, so they won't be tempted to put the beads in their mouth!
Salt Dough Candy Cane Ornaments - I just love salt dough, and these are especially cute!

So while we're on the subject of candy canes, why not make up something that features them!? There are more recipes than you can shake a candy cane at, :), but here are a few that caught my eye!

- Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies
- Peppermint Melt-Aways
- Ultra Soft Peppermint Sugar Cookies
- Peppermint Snowball Cookies
- Frosted Peppermint Brownie Cookies

I traditionally make a sweet little peppermint sugar cookie dusted with peppermint sugar and drizzled with chocolate every year, but as odd as it may sound, I can't find a single picture of them. So I'll save that post for another day!

And, since we discussed putting up your Christmas tree, if you prefer a live tree (we do, but due to allergies in the family have always used an artificial tree), you might like to make up a batch of this and have it waiting for everyone, along with some of the cookies you've made! My long-time blogging friend, Rachel Proffit, shared this recipe with me last year.

2 cups hard cider
2 cups apple juice
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice

Method: Boil and simmer to allow flavours to infuse. That's where the slow cooker came in handy!.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Story of Advent

Sunrise over the mountains.  This is the view from our front yard.

I wanted to pop in this morning and share another passage regarding the season of Advent with you, a lovely passage. I found at the Internet Archives. Originally published in 1966, but sadly now out of print. It's just a quick history of Advent that I found interesting and wanted to share.

~ Enjoy!


Advent is known, and yet not known. To some it is merely a name; to others, a beautiful custom, a lovely practice. Most of us have taken little, if indeed any, time to learn the history of the season or ponder its significance.

Advent does have a. history, however, an interesting one. To begin with, the Advent season as we now know it does not go back to the beginning of the Christmas era. It may come as a surprise, or even a shock, to learn that the date for the celebration of Christmas has not always been December twenty-fifth. There was a time, for instance, when Christmas was celebrated on the sixth of January. The church year took form gradually, and even today is not uniform everywhere.

Advent as we think of it today, is a season of preparation for Christmas. It includes four Sundays and a variable number of additional days, depending on the day of the week on which December twenty-fifth falls. There is no evidence of an established celebration of Christmas on December twenty fifth until the fourth century, and the season of preparation for that celebration is even more recent.

The season of Advent as such as is not mentioned until the seventh century. Its observance is said to have originated in Gaul. However, a synod at Saragossa, Spain in 380 prescribed a penitential preparation for Christmas. Canon IV (a church rule), states that from the seventeenth of December to Feast of Epiphany (January 6), everyone must attend church daily and that worshippers may not go to church with bare feet. This canon is thought to be the first rule ever passed regarding the observance of the season before Christmas.

There is some vague evidence that a small church council held at Tours about A. D. 567 prescribed a fast to be kept by monks every day in December. This is regarded by some as the first unquestionable reference to an Advent season. A few years later, in the south of Gaul, there is found what seems to be a less exacting rule that applied to everyone regarding the number of days on which the fast was to be observed. It appears evident that it involved a period of tasing, broken only on the third Sunday, which bore the designation, Gaudete, “Rejoice ye.”

The Council of Macon, A.D. 581, also had something to say about the season we know as Advent. Beginning with the Festival of St. Martin (November 11), the second, fourth and sixth days of the week were to be observed as days of fasting. The length of the season, however, seems to have varied a great deal, ranging from six weeks to three, and even two. At the close of the sixth century, Rome established the four Sundays before Christmas as Advent Sundays; in the next century this practice became prevalent, though not universal to the West.

In Roman Catholic churches today, practices vary greatly as to fasting. In Great Britain and Ireland, Wednesdays and Fridays are observed as fast days; but in many part of Europe the weeks in Advent are not set apart in any special way.

In England forty days of fasting before the celebration of the birth of the Lord were observed in the seventh and eighth centuries, as ordered for the Western church by Charlemagne’s “Homilarium.” In 1662 the English Book of Common Prayer stated that “Advent Sunday is always the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew (November 30), whether before or after.”

In the Greek church the general observance of forty days of penitential preparation for Christmas does not appear to have been established before the thirteenth century. The Greek church of today begins the forty days of preparation on November eleventh. The fast is somewhat rigorous on Wednesdays and Fridays and somewhat relaxed on other days.

Different customs have obtained and still obtain during Advent. The Armenians, for instance, observe a fast during the week preceding the Nativity, and during one week beginning fifty days before the Nativity. For this reason it has been thought that these two weeks are of a survival of a fast that had originally lasted fifty days. In Normandy farmers still employ children to run with lighted torches through the fields and orchards setting fire to bundles of straw in order to drive out vermin so that the Christ child might have a clean bed. In Italy the last days of Advent are marked by the entry into Rome of the Calabrian pifferari (itinerant musicians from Calabia) who play bagpipes before the shrines of the Holy Mother, as the shepherds are believed to have done before the infant Savior.

It was natural, perhaps, inevitable, that in those branches of the early Protestant church which reacted violently against even the celebration of Christmas there should be no interest in the Advent season as such. In the liturgical branches of the Protestant church, of course, the season has always had considerable meaning. But it is to be noted that in nearly all church there is today a tendency to a growing observance of the special days and seasons of the Church year. The renewed emphasis presently being given to Advent is in part a reaction against the growing secularization of Christmas. Advent is seen to afford the Christian an opportunity to think clearly and soberly about the mystery of the Incarnation.

- Paul M. Lindberg

Advent: The Days Before Christmas (1966)

Monday, November 6, 2023

Waiting In Wonder -Ideas For Observing and Celebrating Advent 2023
- Stir Up Sunday / First Sunday of Advent


Beginning today, and on each Monday between now and December 3, I will be posting ideas for observing and celebrating the lovely season of Advent. Derived primarily from my archives and with some updated, ideas, recipes and resources, these posts will provide you with everything you need to observe and celebrate this lovely season as await with wonder for the arrival of our Lord and Savior. So whether you are familiar with  The Liturgical Year, or if this is all new to you, I pray that these simple devotionals, recipes and crafts will deepen your understand and love for this most beautiful of seasons, of which Advent is but the beginning!

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of thine only begotten Son, 
 so that by His coming we may be enabled to serve Thee with pure minds. 


The last Sunday before Advent is Stir Up Sunday, the day when, traditionally, families gather together to prepare the Christmas pudding.

The day does not actually get its name from “stirring the pudding”; it gets its name from the Book of Common Prayer. The Collect of the Day for the last Sunday before Advent reads, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of the faithful people.” However, since Victorian times is has become associated with the rather lovely custom of preparing for Christmas together by making the Christmas pudding, which was an essential part of most British Christmas dinners.

The Christmas pudding as we know it is said to have been introduced to Britain by Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, however it is thought that a version of the pudding was actually introduced from Germany by George I, sometimes known as “the pudding king”, in 1714.

The pudding is typically prepared well in advance, 5 weeks before Christmas, and then reheated and lit on Christmas Day itself. 

Most puddings will contain dried fruit, prunes and dates (often soaked in brandy), candied peel, mixed spice, treacle, suet, eggs, breadcrumbs and dark brown sugar. Traditionally there would be 13 ingredients in all, to represent Jesus and his disciples. Most families have a favorite recipe that is often handed down over the generations. Sometimes silver coins are added to mixture, and anyone who finds one when eating the pudding is said to receive health, wealth and happiness in the coming year.

On Stir Up Sunday, families gather together to mix the pudding. Each member of the family takes a turn in stirring the mixture whilst making a wish. The pudding is stirred from east to west, in honour of the Magi (Wise Men) who came from the east to visit the baby Jesus. It’s also a good time to enjoy a cup of festive mulled wine or cider.

On Christmas Day the pudding has its own ritual. It is topped with a sprig of holly to represent Jesus’ crown of thorns. A little warm brandy is then carefully poured over it and lit. It is then carried proudly, alight and flaming to the table to be served with brandy butter and cream or hot custard. 

If the thought of a flaming pudding is bit overwhelming, you can easily opt to make a cake instead, and lighting it up with candles is a perfectly suitable alternative to flaming liquor. The only drawback to making a cake instead of pudding, is that a cake won’t last until Christmas day and taste very good. But if you want to celebrate Stir Up Sunday with your family, consider making this the day you all get together to decorate the tree, and wouldn’t it be festive to serve a nice pot of your family’s favorite soup for dinner and this lovely cake for dessert?

Orange Cardomom Bundt Cake

For the cake;
Cooking spray
3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs

For the glaze;
1 cup powdered sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons orange juce
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Sliced Oranges
Star Anise

Preheat oven to 350.

To prepare care, coat bundt pan with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon flour. Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Add 1/4 cup of orange juice, vegetable oil, grated orange rind, grated lemon rind, vanilla and eggs to flour mixture; beat with a mixer until well combined, occasionally scraping sides of bowl.

Spoon batter into prepared cake pan, spreading evenly. Bake at 350 for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan.
To prepare glaze, combine 1 cup of powdered sugar, 4 1/2 teaspoons orange juice, and lemon juice in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over warm cake; and decorate with orange slices, cranberries and star anise. Cool cake completely on wire rack.  Insert candles and light it up!

The Season of Advent, which is the first in the The Liturgical Year, begins on the last Sunday of the month. Advent, and The Liturgical Year, or as I like to refer to it, The Year of the Lord, are precious to me and something I have observed individually and with my family for over a decade. Though I was not raised with the knowledge of The Liturgical Year, discovering it and incorporating it into my own faith has transformed my life. I'll share more about that in future posts, but for now I wanted to let you know about another series of posts I'll be writing and sharing every week of November, probably on Wednesday though this week I'm a day late.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

An expected silence, a hushed anticipation
as if the very galaxy is holding its breath.

There are some truths even the stars know,
like darkness, like loneliness,
And how the nights can be a living thing.

And how once, long ago,
the night waited in wonder
along with the darkness and the loneliness,
for the sound of a baby’s cry.

For the miraculous to come down
to the earth mundane.


Missa Ad Te Levavi
Listen here.

Introit: To you, my God, I lift my soul, I trust in you; let me never come to shame. Do not let my enemies laugh at me. No one who waits for you is ever put to shame.

- Psalm 25:1-3 (Roman Missal)

Ad te levavi animam meam: Deus meus in te confido, non erubescam: necque irrideant me inimici mei: etenim universi qui te exspectant, non confundentur.

Ps. Vias tuas, Domine, demonstra mihi: et semitas tuas edoce me.(Graduale Romanum).

First Sunday of Advent Readings:

Isaiah 9:2, 6–7
“The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.” (NIV)

Following the scripture reading, one of the children lights the first candle, The Candle of Hope, and reads the bible verse and the leads everyone in reading the poem together.

We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises he made to us. Our hope comes from God.
- Romans 15:12-13

Light the advent candle one, 

now the waiting has begun.

We have started on our way,

time to think of Christmas Day.

Candle, candle burning bright,

shining in the cold winter night.

Candle, candle burning bright,
fill our hearts with Christmas light.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Full Choir and very beautiful)
Come Thoug Long Expected Jesus (Sung by Meredith Andrews, and perhaps easier to learn by listening to this version if ou want to sing along)

Click on image to enlarge, right click and save to your computer.

Oranges, a fruit once reserved for those with a high social status, has long been a symbol of prosperity. And with its bright golden skin, has likewise been symbolic of the sun and the light. Shopkeepers in mid evil times would place them decoratively in windows in the dark winer months, a reminder that the light and warmth would soon return.

So when we read in Isaiah of "the people in darkness have seen a great light", and that "He will reign over David's throne", it is fitting then that the orange in this craft is symbolic of Christ himself, the cranberries with their deep red hue, foretelling the blood that He would shed for the forgiveness of our sins.

As we make and look upon this garland, it serves as a constant reminder of Christ our King and His great love and sacrifice for us.

4-5 oranges
1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 oz)
Bakers twine or Jute Twine
Cookie sheet
Parchment paper or silicone baking mat

Drying the Oranges:
Parchment Paper
Cookie Sheet
Start by preheating your oven to 220 degrees and slice your oranges about 1/2 inch thick.
Place the oranges onto parchment paper or a silicone mat on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 3 hours.
Check every hour to make sure they aren’t turning brown. They are done when they are dried and translucent in color.
Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

Drying the Cranberries:
Parchment Paper
Cookie Sheet

Put a large pot on the stove with enough water to cover the cranberries. Bring the water to a boil. Put the washed cranberries in a bowl. Then pour the boiling water over the cranberries. Leave the bowl in a safe place, and let the cranberries sit. You will hear the skins pops, don’t leave the berries in the water for more than 5 to 10 minutes, the berries will then be ready.

Drain the water and spread the cranberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Then put them in the freezer for two hours. The freezing process helps the berries dry faster.

Remove the cranberries from the freezer and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Turn on your oven to the lowest possible temperature. Put your cranberries in the oven and allow them to dry which can take 5 to 7 hours. Take the time to turn them every 30 minutes to help the drying process. There will be some that get a little darker than others and some that you will have to pull apart after they dry.

For the Garland

4-5 oranges sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 12 oz bag cranberries

Slice the oranges into 1/2 inch slices and lay on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake at 220 degrees for 3 hours. Check every hour to make sure they aren't turning brown. They oranges are done once they are dry and translucent in color.
 Let the oranges cool to room temperature.

Thread your needle with bakers twine or jute twine and thread through the top part of the orange then thread in your cranberries. You can string them in any pattern you desire. I typically string 4-6 cranberries to one orange, but feel free to use any pattern you like. You can make the length as long or short as you desire and depending on how you plan to use it. For a mantel, draped over. winter, or as a garland for a larger tree, you would obviously need longer strands.

Other variations on this theme include adding popcorn to the strand, the white kernels symbolic of purity and the washing away of our sins by the blood of Christ.  You can add them to the oranges and cranberries, or make a cranberry and popcorn garland.

There are a number of ways to use oranges and cranberries in your observance this week, you could also try one of these ideas.

- Make orange bird seed ornaments and hang from the trees outside.
- Or these lovely citrus candles, inspired by my friend, Dawn.
- This cranberry, orange and clove stovetop potpourri is sure to leave your house smelling cozy and welcoming!
- And finally, why not make a loaf of this cranberry orange pound cake or a batch of these white chocolate cranberry orange cookies and shed the light of Christ's love by presenting to a friend or relative this week.

Another idea that is symbolic of the light, is to make a jar lantern, or in this case, Advent lanterns.  By simply covering a glass jar with tissue paper, adding a few festive stickers and a handle, you can then insert an LED tea light and go for a walk around your neighborhood at dusk. Be sure to pray for each family as you pass by their house. This might even be a good time to share some of the baked goods mentioned above. You'll find something similar, here.

During Advent I often like to make special foods to share together after our evening candle lighting and devotionals. It would also be nice to have some fun refreshments to come home to after taking an Advent Lantern walk. These recipes are ones that we have enjoyed in years past. I made the Winter Lemonade for the first time last year and we will definitely be making it again!

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon orange juice 1 tablespoon orange zest
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup candied orange peel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a silicone liner or parchment paper.Set aside.

In a large bowl, use a hand-held mixer to cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the orange juice and orange zest.  Beat into the butter mixture.

Add the flour and salt.  Beat until just incorporated.

Add the chocolate and the candied orange peel.  Beat until just mixed through.

Divide the cookie dough into three equal portions.  Place two portions aside, and keep them covered they don’t dry out.

Lightly pat the cookie dough into a ball and place it between two sheets of parchment paper.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to slightly less than 1/2 inch thick.

Cut rolled dough into rounds using a cookie cutter.  (I used a 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter.)

Transfer to baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie.  Round up remaining dough and roll again until dough is used up.  Repeat with the other two portions of cookie dough.

Bake for 13 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.

Before serving, grate some orange zest right over top and add a few curls of shaved dark chocolate.

1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour 
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons Rodelle Dutch processed cocoa 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper 
3/4 teaspoon if you're feeling really spicy! (*NOTE - They get a little spicier after you make them!)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 large egg 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
4 ounces  Lindt Chili Chocolate Bar, chopped (or just any regular dark chocolate)
Cayenne Pepper - for sprinkling a bit of heat, if desired!

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (approximately 2-3 minutes). Turn the mixer speed down to medium, add the egg and vanilla, and beat again until combined. 

With the mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Add the chopped chocolate and continue mixing until evenly dispersed. Cover dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days. 

When you are ready to bake the cookies, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350ºF. 

Using a cookie scoop, roll the dough into balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are set and center is no longer shiny. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Sprinkle with a tiny bit of cayenne pepper for added heat, if desired.

1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 cups filtered water
1/2 cup honey
2 inches fresh ginger, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
5 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick

In a medium saucepan combine lemon juice, half of the water, honey, ginger, and spices.

Bring to a simmer, stir until honey is dissolved, and remove from heat.

Cover and allow to steep for 15 minutes.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher. Add the remaining water.

Refrigerate until chilled through. Serve over ice! Enjoy!

And now before I wrap this up, let me say this. There are daily readings for each day during the Advent season that spans this year from December 1 until Christmas Day. That being said, what I focus on primarily in these posts are the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day. I will be doing daily readings during my quiet time each morning, but since there are so many different and wonderful versions and resources to choose from, I'll leave that to you. I have yet to decide on one for myself this year, so I need to make that decision soon. But, just in case you need some direction, here are a few that I have read in past years both on my own and with my girls that you might enjoy.


For Families
- The 25 Days of Christmas: A Family Devotional To Help You Celebrate Jesus
- The Way To The Manger: A Family Advent Devotional
- Unwrapping The Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration Of Christmas

For Personal Reflection
- Advent With St. Francis - St. Francis is one of my favorite Saints, and this books is a lovely read during this season.
- Advent and Christmas Wisdom From G. K. Chesterton
- Advent and Christmas Wisdom From Henry J. M. Nouwen
- Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing The Peace and Promise of Christmas

And here are some other books, that while not necessarily daily readings, would be nice to read during the season.

- The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up In The Story of Jesus
- Because of Bethlehem: Love is Born Hope Is Here by Max Lucado

Over the next few days I'll be posting links to additional resources than you could use in observing Advent. Until then, I hope you've enjoyed what I've compiled so far.  Advent is such a beautiful season, a means of slowing and bringing stillness to what has otherwise become the often chaotic spirit of Christmas. Observing this holy season has redeemed and restored Christmas for me, and I hope it all for you as well!

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Small Things - The Gratitude Edition

 "Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."


With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it might be good to focus on gratitude and thankfulness in preparation for this lovely idea.  Here are some ideas to cultivate a spirit of gratitude

In no particular order, here are six small things that inspired me this week;

1. Light A Candle, from, is a beautiful online activity that encourages thoughtfulness and thankfulness. 

2. Printable Thankful Dice - roll the dice and share what you're thankful for!

3. Gratitude Stones - I love this idea! You could set them out in a pretty basket along with a few chalk pens and allow people to reflect and add to the basket of gratefulness throughout the day!

4. Gratitude ABC's Printable - This would be great for the littles in your life, and for the not so littles, too!

5. Gratitude Scavenger Hunt - This would be a fun family activity after everyone has enjoyed the big meal.

6. Free printable Gratitude Journal!

Friday, November 3, 2023

Fading Light

"Gray November is the most beautiful of seasons"

The light is changing. I've noticed it for a few weeks  now. The sun sets earlier and rises later. But every morning, and again in the afternoon, there is a certain slant of light that glimmers all through the house, casting its magic upon everything it touches. Simple beauty at no cost.

We turn the clocks back this weekend, and darkness will come even earlier. There are some who do not care for daylight savings time. They draw up petitions and rally for support to appeal to the government to end it. I guess in some way I understand, and I'm certain that I could easily live without it. But personally, I rather prefer the curtain of darkness that is drawn earlier in the evening come mid-Autumn, just as winter takes its first strong grip. I'm tempted to slow down, gain a few pounds and hibernate, but inevitably, life calls us to rise and keep going, and we must find a way to trudge through the darkness and make our own light!

The Norwegians know how to brighten the darkening season, with a whimsical concept known as koselig, which is best described in images: curling up under a wool blanket in front of a fire, drinking wine by candlelight with friends, sharing a home cooked meal with family, enjoying a good book with a mug of steaming hot chocolate, and sweaters, LOTS of sweaters! It's basically "chestnuts roasting on an open fire", all season long.

You can always make it a point to rise early to catch the sun on a brisk walk before the busyness of the day begins, or perhaps during your lunch break. But inevitably the night comes and the cold descends. The change of light in this season is here to stay, so we might as well make the most of it.  And with some help of the cozy little concept of koselig, there are a few ways you can do just that.

This season sets the stage for the slow enjoyment of food and friends. In Norway friends and family gather in each other's homes during this time of year, enjoying simple, homemade dinners in the comfort and intimacy of a private, small space. Lights are low and candles are lit, as loved ones enjoy one another's company while wine bottles are passed and a wholesome meal is consumed. Perhaps you could borrow from this idea and organize a weekly dinner night, rotating between the homes of two or three friends, or open up your home once a week and invite friends and family to join you!

With temperatures dropping, once you are home for the evening, you most likely don't want to get out again. So here's a bit of inspiration to kindle some warmth and light into your evening. Heat up some water for a cup of tea, put on your warmest sweater, light a few candles and turn up some relaxing music. Then wrap your legs in a warm wool blanket and read a few chapters from a favorite book. It doesn't take much to create this cozy scene for yourself, and makes for a truly lovely evening at home.

It's easy to find plenty to do in the warmer months, when the outdoors beckon. But the darker, colder days of autumn and early winter is the perfect time for hobbies you can enjoy in the warmth and comfort of home. Why not learn to knit or crochet? Or perhaps you'd like to try out a few new recipes, or learn to bake bread from scratch? Puzzles are another fun activity to enjoy this time of year, a hobby I personally love. My husband even built me a puzzle tray so that I could keep the puzzle out as I am working on it without taking up table space. The tray can easily be moved from room to room, and shared together!

Stay warm, friends! 

Thursday, November 2, 2023

The Present Moment Is Eternity: The Liturgical Year

Beginning November 6 and on each subsequent Monday in November, I will be posting a weekly series of  on Advent, which begins on Sunday, December 3. 

Following is a post I have shared several times before, but for those who are not familiar with Advent which is the first day of the Liturgical Year, or as I refer to it, the Year of the Lord, I find it helpful. 

Many years ago I stumbled upon a book in the public library, Holidays and Holy Nights by Christopher Hill, who first introduced me, a wholly Protestant girl, to The Liturgical Year, or as I prefer to call it, The Year of the Lord. Though I was not raised Catholic, in reading this book I found a beauty and rhythm in The Liturgical Year that was appealing, even comforting. Recently, as I’ve begun working my way through the spiritual practices, I was reminded again of this lovely book and the in particular, the following passage. In my efforts to slow the pace of life, these words are a balm for my hurried soul, and what started me on my journey to a slower, sacred, and more meaningful way of living. 

"The whole point of the Year of the Lord is that there is more than one way to experience time. The understanding of time that most people live with is only one way to experience it. We could call it the worldly or profane understanding of time. It is an image of time as a straight horizontal line with a middle point, where we stand, called The Present. This line is always moving past us like a conveyor belt. On the left is the Past, where present moments constantly flow and immediately cease to exist. On the right is The Future, which is always moving toward the Present, but never actually arrives. 

This model is almost completely abstract. In other words, we never actually experience any of it. The present is gone before we are aware of it, and the past and future lie outside our grasp. Anxiety is built into it. Each human possesses only a limited quantity of this kind of time, and it is constantly passing us by, never to return. 

This view of time is not necessarily bad. It can be a useful tool. All human progress, in some sense, depends on it. But its not the whole or most important part of the picture. It is not the way we experience time in the deepest parts of ourselves, on the level of our hearts, and it is not the way God experiences time. Above and below this abstract, one-dimensional timeline, is well, reality. This is the world we actually experience, in which we “live and move and have our being”, as Paul said. The word “I Am” as God introduced himself to Moses. The present moment is eternity. 

For most of human history, people experienced time very different. The pattern was not a line, but a circle or cycle. The cycles of sun, moon and stars; of the seasons of the life, death and birth of plants, animals and human beings. Everything went away, but then in some way everything always came back. We can be sure that people living with this image of time still got anxious about things, but anxiety wasn’t built into the system itself. 

The image of the cycle contains a lot of truth. It expands the one-dimensional timeline into a two-dimensional circle and so takes in a lot more of reality. it is less abstract than the line, truer to experience and incorporates the fundamental patterns of creation. Years, seasons, months, weeks, days and hours all come from this model of time. Birth, life, death and rebirth are all in it. What it doesn’t include is the possibility for growth. In this cycle, the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

The Year of the Lord, the Christian understanding of time, is a variation on the cycle. The timeline, as we’ve said, is a one-dimensional model. The circle is two dimensional. The Year of the Lord is three-dimensional. It is modeled on the spiral, a circle that grows outward and upward. It grows in a vertical direction as well as horizontally, combining the straight line of the past, present and future with the height and depth of eternity. Like a spiraling tornado, it sucks one-dimensional time up into three dimensional reality. It uses time to break us out of time. It hallows and sacralizes time and transforms it into eternity. Year, season month, week, day and hour all concentric circles that lead deeper and deeper into the center; the present moment, where we live in the presence of God. The present is the Presence. And the present time ripples outward again, connecting us with all time and all the cosmos."

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

This Is November

Frost on the rooftops,
Dew on the grass,
Leaves drifting down,
Wherever we pass;
Wet, windy weather,
Skies often gray,
Leaves piling up
Though raked every day.

Ice on the puddles,
Trees almost bare;
Mornings are chilly,
Breath on the air.
Squirrels are still busy,
Where nuts can be found,
Hiding their treasures
In hollows around.

Darkness comes early,
It's cozy indoors
With apples and popcorn,
And books to explore.
The harvest is in
And all stored away:
Watch for the snowflakes
To come any day.