Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thank You For Keeping the Nursery

Here is a poem I found some time ago online for nursery volunteers. You might attach to a little gift or just print it out on a pretty piece of paper. Take the time to tell them how much you truly appreciate them! Again...(I do this alot!) I am sorry that I cannot give credit to the original author.

Update: This poem was written by Lois Turley. You can find the poem here at the author's website.

Mama left me in the church nursery.

She said, "You can stay here and play."

I was so very afraid, but you comforted me.

And Mama was saved that day.

At least once a month in the nursery,

You served God by caring for me

So Mama could attend church and learn to make

Our home everything it should be.

There were those who said, "I'm too busy,"

Or, "I don't want to miss church today.

I'm too young. I'm too old. I've done my part.

The nursery? Please, don't ask me to stay."

But you said, "No, I'm not too busy.

I'm just the right age I know.

I could never do enough for the King that I serve.

When you need me in the nursery I'll go."

My life might have been so different

If you had not answered God's plea

For workers to serve where the need is so great,

To care for little people like me.

Thank you for keeping the nursery.

Mama taught me to follow Christ, too.

Many people had a part, but the most special one

To me will always be you

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Children Go Where I Send Thee

I wrote this 3 years ago...somethings just don't change!

When I was a little girl some of my most favorite memories were of my parents talking about their work as Missionaries in Nicaragua when I was born. It sounded all so romantic. The beautiful people, the tropical countryside. Even the work itself sounded rewarding. I could just imagine teaching little children to read in my thatched hut complete with tikki torches and pineapples. I have done more than my share of fretting throughout the years. Am I truly doing what I was put on the earth to do? Am I missing my calling by clinging to the conveniences our great country has to offer?

Last fall I went on a 3 day Retreat just for women. I had been excited if not apprehensive for weeks. It had been awhile since I had participated in communal living. It was also to be one of the few times I was going to spend the night away from my little boy. At the same time I relished the idea of a few days in such beautiful surroundings. Imagine if you will with me the first time I walked into the dorm and realized that I would be sharing my space for the next few days with 40 women. Not only that, but the beds themselves were bunkbeads with plywood bases and 2 inch mattresses. Immediately I could feel all of the pins and screws in my legs and hips groan. To make matters worse I couldn't sit upright on these beds. I did my fair share of initial fussing. My first fear was that I would fall out of bed and break my other hip. My other concern was that my legs would mold to the plywood and it would take an electric drill and some WD-40 to set me free. Thankfully, my whining was heard by my two nurse friends and one of them pushed two beds together and gave me a double. I felt only momentarily guilty.
Around church time another concern was raised. Did I really want to see the bare hinnies of all these women in the dorm? I will be the first to admit that my own figure is far from a happy state of public viewing. I could bring down several small aircraft with just the shine of my bare bum alone. Let me be somewhat more specific. What I witnessed was not a hopeful sight for young women everywhere. I have trouble enough worrying that when I am old my breasts will clear my knees. Right now my body is shaped more like a fluffy, marshmallow puff. When I am old I will be cottage cheese. All that said, most of us kept our disrobing to a bathroom stall. I get enough comments from my 3 year old son.

After a service of refreshing and spiritual renewal we all headed back to our prospective rooms and proceeded to settle down for the night. I noticed right away that the room was stifling hot. One of the ladies got a tool and jimmied down the air conditioner. Herein rose another problem. Most of the women in that room were experiencing menopause, or like me, they are warm all the time and would sleep happily naked in the ice box. Other women in the room had taken to bundling up with four and five blankets. As I blocked out cries of, "turn it off" and "just put on another blanket," I thought of another convenience I had neglected to bring along with me. For most of my life I have depended on the noise and air circulation of a fan to help me sleep. A crutch you say? Absolutely. But it is my crutch and I can't sleep without the lull of a swishing fan blade...winter or summer. For the rest of the night I dozed 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there. Moved from side to side on my plywood mattress and tried to pretend that the concert of snores I was hearing was in fact, a sleek Windmere fan...singing me to sleep.
It was at some point in that long night that I decided that next year my group would spend the extra money and stay in the posh new campground hotel on the hill. The one with real beds, a television and an elevator that goes both ways. By the time morning arrived, many more ladies in the room were also making plans to book rooms at the hotel next year.

Despite my lack of comfort and my tendency for whining, I had a wonderful time at this retreat. It was wonderful seeing women from all walks of life come together with a common purpose. To be refreshed. The weekend did confirm something I had been suspecting about myself for quite a number of years. I am High Maintenance! To be truthful, my idea of a “roughing it” is a Motel 6. Camping is my least favorite activity. Air Conditioning one of my most favorite things. Hey, I admit it! God had other things in store for me. One of theme was not sleeping in a thatched hut in darkest Africa. My whining alone would create global tension.


Christmas Wassail

I love the holidays! There is nothing like sipping something hot by the Christmas Tree watching the lights.
2 qts. of apple juice
2 cups of orange juice
1 cup of lemon juice
1 and one-half teaspoon of whole cloves
5 cups of pineapple juice
Sugar or honey to taste
1 cinnamon stick

Heat all the ingredients in a large pan or crock-pot. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove cloves and cinnamon stick. Serve in a crock-pot to keep warm. Light a candle, put on a Christmas CD and enjoy!

They do make packaged cider mix that is really tasty and easy, but this recipe is something extra special (and not quite as sugary).

Spinach Dip

1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed (do not use fresh)
1 1/2 c. sour cream
1 c. mayo
1 (4 oz.) pkg. dried vegetable soup mix
1 (8 oz.) can water chestnuts, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped (I’ve used chives, also)
Loaf of round bread ( I used sourdough, but you can use pumpernickle,etc.)
Squeeze spinach until dry. In medium bowl, stir together spinach, sour cream and soup mix. Add finely chopped water chestnuts and green onions. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Cut slice from top of round loaf of bread, hollow out loaf to leave shell to contain dip. Use bread removed from shell and top slice to cut into bite size pieces. Butter inside of bread shell, fill loaf with dip and place on platter and surround with bread pieces and/or variety of raw vegetables.

Chocolate Fondue

Now this is a Pampered Chef recipe and I hope I am not infringing on any copyright codes by sharing it with you, but this is one of the most popular party dishes I have ever taken anywhere. Just serve with fresh fruit, marshmallows, cookies or whatever tickles you fancy. I love Pampered Chef and own many of their cookbooks as well as cooking gadgets, serving pieces and other odds and ends I have a rectangle baking stone that I absolutely love!
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping (thawed)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 rum or vanilla extract (optional)
Place chocolate morsels and half of the whipped topping in a small bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 1 minute or until chocolate is melted and smooth, stirring after each 20-second interval. Fold in remaining whipped topping, cinnamon, and rum extract, if desired; mix until smooth. Cover; refrigerate at least 30 minutes. To serve, spoon fondue into small bowl.
Yield: 2 cups

The Best Ever Cheese Dip

This is a really good nacho dip. I can’t count how many youth parties and church get-togethers I have been asked to bring this dip. I think the mushroom soup makes the difference-you decide.

1 pound of ground beef or sausage, browned and drained
1 pound of Velveeta cheese
1 can of Rotel
1 can of cream of mushroom soup

Add all the ingredients to a crock-pot. Set on high and let it cook up, stirring often. It can be cooked quicker in the microwave if you need to, but it isn’t as good. Be sure to turn the crock-pot off or on low. It will burn if you are not carefully.


“Why make salsa when you can buy it at the store,” you say? You have never had this salsa! It was first introduced to us by a family that we knew from Venezuela. I have also seen Martha Stewart make a version of it on her show. We eat buckets of this stuff in the summer time.

4-6 tomatoes
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
Juice of one lemon
Optional: green or yellow pepper, cilantro, and oregano

Chop up all fresh ingredients in the food processor. Be sure to pulse some of the tomatoes so that you still have some “chunks.” Add the lemon juice and salt to taste.

You can eat this stuff with chips, on eggs, over steak. It’s wonderful!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Main Dish

Beef Brisket
This is a version of a recipe my dad has used for years to serve the church folks. It is absolutely delicious. These portions are a bit small. I would double them for extra yummieness and use the juices after cooking to make some gravy. I've literally seen folks drool (in a good way) after eating this brisket.

4-6 lbs. beef brisket
1/2 c. soy sauce
1 can beef broth
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T.. liquid smoke
2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix together all of the liquid ingredients together then add to whatever you want to marinate your meat in. We’ve done it in the big cooker pans (you know which one I mean). Marinade meat overnight in refrigerator. Place meat and marinade in oven-proof pan. Cover tightly and bake at 300 degrees for 4-5 hours. The meat should fall apart.

P.S. I have a distinct childhood memory concerning this brisket recipe. My parents had assembled pans and pans of brisket and marinated it at home and were in the process of carting it to the church in my mom's car to bake it. Somebody hit a bump and one of the pans went spilling all over the upholstered seats. That car smelled like liquid smoke and vinegar for years afterwards.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

This might sound fancy, but this version is fairly simple to make. You can make a sauce out of mushroom soup, sour cream and a little lemon juice, but I think it's fine just like it is.

8 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (estimate for 2 pieces of chicken per person...we all like chikin')
8 slices of Swiss cheese (just don't use that cheap imitation white cheese)
8 slices of ham
1 egg, beaten
1 cup of seasoned flour (just add salt & pepper or some all-purpose seasoning salt or a little bit of parsley)
1 cup of breadcrumbs

Put the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap or in a ziplock bag. Pound with a meat mallet until fairly thin. This should help you relieve some stress.
Season the open fillets with salt and black pepper. Place a cheese and ham slice on each fillet. fold the fillet in half to enclose the filling. You can also roll them and “fasten” them with toothpicks. Just be sure to warn folks or make the toothpicks obvious. You don't want anyone to become impaled by a wayward toothpick.
Coat each of the fillets in the flour. Dip them in the egg and then roll in the dry crumbs, turning to get an even coat.
Bake them in a lightly greased oven dish at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. Everone will think you are a gourmet cook!

Mama Leone's Lasanga

No. My mama (or her's either) is not Leone. But she has had Leone's Italian Cookbook since I can remember. I don't think there is a drop of Italian blood flowing through our veins, but I still absolutely love lasagna, ravioli, polenta. I love the rich meaty sauces and garlic...I love garlic. This is our standard "serve to impress" lasagna recipe. It is modified a little...Mama L really did it up. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time. This isn't a throw it together kind of recipe. You could even make it ahead of time and refrigerate just before the "baking" step.

Tomato Sauce

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork (though I've been known to use Italian sausage)

10 fresh parsley springs, leaves only (though just a few shakes of dried parsley will do)

2 large garlic cloves, mashed

1/4 cup olive oil

14 cup of butter (you can do without it if you need to)

3/4 pound onions, peeled and diced

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds peeled, chopped tomatoes

1 small green pepper

3 T. tomato paste

Saute meat, olive oil, butter (yeah right!), & onions in skillet. Add parsley and garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes. Ad tomatoes and green pepper and cook for 10 minutes. If you are going to use the meatballs this is where you do it. If you do use them cook for 1 1/2 hours on simmer. If not just cook sauce for another 30 minutes or so. When cooked add the toato paste.

Now Mama L's recipe calls for meatballs. You can make these if you want too. I usually don't.

Meat Balls

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1/2 small garlic clove

Fresh parsley

1/2 cup bread crums

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 Lg. egg

1/2 cup of small raisins (optional, in my opinion)

1 t. salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix well and form into small balls. You should get about 32.

Now Mama L also gives a recipe for making your own lasagna noodles. If you are considering that just quitely turn off your computer and consider taking your guests to the Golden Corral. You don't have to be so fancy (though I will admit I have gone so far as to make my own noddles from time to time...but then again I have issues). Use premade lasagna noodles and cook them according to the directions on the box.

Sauce for Top of Lasanga

Oh yes. Mama has a top, too.

2 T. of butter, melted

2 T. of heavy cream

3/4 cup of your previously made Tomato Sauce

2 T. of flour

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a sauce pain. Heat. Stir slowly nd add flour.

Assembling the Lasagna

Do it in this order

Tomato Sauce

Cooked Lasanga noodles

Ricotta Cheese (you will need 2 lbs. total)

Grated Parmesan cheese (1 1/2 cups total)

Do this for about three layers. End with a layer of lasanga noodles and cover with sauce. Cover pan with foil and bake in an 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for about 20 minutes longer. Mama L says that this will serve 8. Yummy!

This is my “Mama Leone’s Lasanga Recipe is just too much for me” Lasagna


1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb. ground meat

1 26 oz. jar spaghetti sauce

1 28 oz. can tomato puree

2 tsp. Italian seasoning (basil)

1 tsp. oregano

1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese

1/4 c. milk 2 eggs parsley

1 1 lb. package lasagna noodles

1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook sausage and then add garlic and a little olive oil in a large skillet. Drain.. Add spaghetti sauce, tomato puree, Italian seasoning, and oregano. Simmer to allow flavors to blend, give or take ten minutes.Combine ricotta cheese, eggs, milk in small bowl. Add chopped parsley to taste. Lay lasagna noodles in 9 x 13 pan. Cover with very hot water and allow to stand at least five minutes. I would then take them out and lay on a damp towel while you assemble the lasagna.In a 9 x 13 spread a thin layer of the sauce over the bottom. Arrange one layer of the noodles on the sauce. Spread a thin layer of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles. Scatter a layer of sausage over the cheese. Follow with a layer of sauce. Repeat to the top of the baking dish, ending with noodles topped with sauce. Scatter mozzarella over the top. To serve, cover baking dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees about one hour. Remove foil for the last ten minutes of cooking time.

New-Comer Fellowship

New-Comer fellowships or Dinners are events that allow visitors or new attendees to get to know your pastor and your staff better. They are important because they help connect people to other individuals and to leadership. They are generally are in more intimate settings. There are plenty of options when planning a New-Comer Dinner for your church.

How Often?

This depends on the size and type of church you have. If you are in a larger church or have a lot of visitors you need to have them as often as you can. A lot of people slip through the cracks. It’s important to make them feel welcome and a part of your group. Some churches have them once a month. You also could consider once a quarter or once every other month.

What type?
Again, this depends on your church and basically your gifts. We pastored a small church for a few years where it was easier to host small groups in our home. That is a great option for church plants or even small groups. Dinners are always the best option….everybody likes a free meal. Of course, you can always just serve coffee and dessert. Though I prefer appetizers and snacks to solely dessert. If you have staff assign everyone a appetizer, salad, etc. to bring. I’ve given you some menu ideas on down.

The Invitation
Be sure you make announcements and place it in your bulletin. There might be somebody you miss by just a letter or email invitation only. Plus, open it up to newer visitors. Maybe a family is just visiting your church, but wants to learn more about the church. Make it an open invitation. Call, email, send a card, announce it, stick it in the bulletin and make a flyer to hang on your bulletin boards. You’ll get plenty of attention. Most importantly, just ask somebody. We were “pew sitters” during a difficult time in our lives. We would hear of church events and think “that sounds like fun,” but felt so disconnected that we didn’t make the effort. It would have made a big difference for someone to come to us and say, “please would you…” I never knew how much that makes a difference until I was outside of the loop looking in.
The Decor
I could go on and on about this, but make sure you make your event look warm and inviting. Nothing too fancy. You might consider decorating seasonally. For spring you could garden themed table decorations (planters, small clean garden tools, pretty garden gloves & flowers). If it is summertime consider using beach decorations (inflatables, beach towels, sunglasses, sand toys). For fall use scarecrows, pumpkins and mums. In winter decorate with snowmen or snowflakes. If you wish to keep it really simple purchase or make decorations that you can use over and over again. I had some really pretty wooden birdhouses I had purchased on year (Hobby Lobby half-price) for a Home Missions convention. I just added some greenery and we had very cute tables. (For the Home Missions convention I added small American flags)

All About Me
Make out a fun and non-threatening form for people to fill out at your event. You might make this part of your icebreaker game time. It will give people a chance to let you know a little bit more about themselves. Include a section for prayer needs and any area of interest to get involved in. Don’t make it complicated. People don’t want to feel like they are signing away their first born or anything.

Here is a link for some interesting questions to ask.

The Games
You need an ice breaker or two to lighten the mood. Keep in mind that these are visitors and might not be comfortable trying to pass an orange along under their chin. Here are a few sites for ice breakers. - she also has a link at the bottom of the page for other sites

The Food
You should do the best you can. Don’t do potluck. This is an evening just for your guests. They don’t need to stress out about what to bring. If you have a group in your church that does the cooking for functions let them assist you. If you chose to do dessert have your staff bring a dessert or two a piece. Just keep this in mind. You are going to have some folks with health issues. I am diabetic. I cringe every time I am invited to a dessert party. I either don’t get to eat or I spend the night in a sugar coma. I like the snack party idea better if you are not going to serve dinner. Here are some of my favorite menus for a New-Comer Dinner. I have recipes or tips under my recipe label.

Lasagna (save your Spaghetti recipe for an all church event – I have a recipes for both on this site!)
Garlic Bread

Beef Brisket
Smashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Hot Rolls

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Smashed Potatoes or Baked Potatoes

The Goodies
Make sure everyone goes home with something. You can either put together a goodie bag or make your own favors. There are plenty of printable templates for candy bar wrappers, etc. Just add your church information.
Here are a list of items you might consider for your goodie bags.

Samples of hand lotion, note pads, candy, bookmarks, calendars, pens, magnets, small devotionals, gum

Here are a few links for printable favors or other favor ideas. - love her has survival kit ideas. Really cute!

Door Prizes
Gift certificates from local restaurants, car washes, retail stores, gas stations Once again Julia has some wonderful tips and ideas for door prizes.

The Fellowship
It is so important for your guests to feel comfortable. If you have staff, mix them up in between the guests. If it is just you and your family consider having another church family involved. Encourage your helpers to be friendly and engaging.

Here is a sample event schedule

Opening Prayer
Ice Breakers
Short Introduction to church, staff, ministries
Open Forum (answer any questions)
Door Prize Giveaway
Closing Prayer

The Follow-Up
Be sure to send a thank-you card to all your guests. If possible, write out a hand-written note. Though for many people now emails are perfectly expectable. Follow-up with any prayer requests, volunteer services, etc. that they might have indicated on their All About Me form.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Broccoli Tree Salad
This recipe probably has a proper name, but this is what my mom always calls it. There are several versions of this recipe. I took what I liked from all of them. I also like to serve this in a clear truffle serving dish I bought at Wal-mart.

Four cups of raw broccoli
One pound of bacon, cooked and crumbled (no bacon bits, please!)
¼ cup of green onions, chopped
½ cup of golden raisins
½ cup of sunflower seeds
1 cup of mayo
½ cup of sugar
½ cup of red wine vinegar

Just dump everything into a big bowl. Just be sure you mix your mayo, sugar and vinegar in a separate little bowl first and then add later. Stir everything around really good and refrigerate.
Chinese Cabbage Salad
I could eat this all by itself. I’ve used this recipe for potlucks, leadership meetings, company meals, & and just because.

1 medium head green cabbage (or Napa cabbage)…I use the already pre-cut coleslaw mix
2 pkg Ramen noodles (though you can get away with one)
1 cup of nuts (use almonds, sesame seeds, whatever)
4-5 green onions,
sliced1 stick butter or margarine
1/2 Cup vegetable oil (try putting a few drops of sesame oil in)
1/2 Cup sugar - though if you are sugar conscious try other alternatives (like Splenda) or simply use less sugar.
1 Tbs Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup vinegar
I have also been known to put a bit of the ramen noodle seasoning packet in with it….Just taste and see.

Shred cabbage like you would for coleslaw and add sliced green onions. Place in a large bowl. In a large saute pan, melt the butter or margarine. Crumble ramen noodles in the package. Remove packet of seasoning from the noodles and saute noodles with the slivered almonds and sesame seeds until golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes and add to cabbage & onions. Whisk oil, sugar, vinegar and soy sauce in a bowl. Toss with cabbage/noodle mix. Make sure you wait to dress it right before serving it.

Party Hardy

The Best Ever Cheese Dip
My cheese dip is legendary. When we were youth pastors years ago this dip was requested at every occasion. I think it’s the mushroom soup that makes the difference.

1 pound of green beef or sausage, browned and drained
1 pound of velveeta cheese
1 can of rotel
1 can of cream of mushroom soup

Add all the ingredients to a crockpot. Set it on high and stir often. Just keep a watch on it…it will burn if left unattended for too long.

My Salsa Recipe
I used to buy salsa at the store. That was a long time ago. I was first introduced by this kind of salsa by a family that attended our church from Venezuela. Oh my goodness! Years later I saw Martha Stewart make a version of it on her show. She seeded her tomatoes…I leave the seeds in. We could eat buckets of this stuff. It’s oh so fresh!

4-6 tomatoes
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
salt to taste
Juice of one lemon
Optional: green or yellow pepper, cilantro and oregano.

Chop up your onions and garlic in your food processor (now is the time to chop a pepper if you are so inclined). Empty the food processor (put your onions, etc. into your bowl). Cut up your tomatoes just a bit and add to the food processor…hitting pulse just a few times (you still want them kind of chunky) Add the tomatoes to the bowl. Then add salt, lemon juice and your herbs. Be sure to taste as you go.


Corn Casserole
I have carried this casserole to sooo many church potluck dinners. In fact, I used to have a pretty enamel casserole dish that was specifically for this dish. Not only is it pretty, but it’s delicious as well.

2 cans of cream-style corn.
1 package of Jiffy corn mix
2 beaten eggs
1 T. of milk
½ cup of onions, chopped
¼ cup of butter
½ pint of sour cream
½ cup of cheddar cheese, shredded

Saute chopped onions in butter. Mix corn, muffin mix, eggs and milk in a large casserole. Add onions and mix together. Dot with sour cream and add the grated cheese on top. Bake at 325 for 1 hour. This casserole raises so be sure to use a big casserole dish.

Another Corn Casserole

This is an old family favorite. You can either bake it or put it in your crockpot.

½ cup of evaporated milk
1 large package of cream cheese
3 cups of white shoe peg corn (though you can use any cut corn)
1 can of chopped green chili peppers (optional, but a nice addition)
Cheese, shredded

Mix together cream cheese and milk. Ad corn and peppers and mix together. Pour into a casserole dish and top with shredded cheese. Bake in a 350 oven for about 25 minutes.

Broccoli Corn Casserole

1 (10 oz.) frozen chopped broccoli
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz. carton cottage cheese
1 ¼ sticks of margarine or butter
4 eggs

Melt butter and pour into 9X13 pan. Mix other ingredients together and pour over butter. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until brown.

Broccoli Tree Salad
This recipe probably has a proper name, but this is what my mom always calls it. There are several versions of this recipe. I took what I liked from all of them. I also like to serve this in a clear truffle serving dish I bought at Wal-mart.

Four cups of raw broccoli
One pound of bacon, cooked and crumbled (no bacon bits, please!)
¼ cup of green onions, chopped
½ cup of golden raisins
½ cup of sunflower seeds
1 cup of mayo
½ cup of sugar
½ cup of red wine vinegar

Just dump everything into a big bowl. Just be sure you mix your mayo, sugar and vinegar in a separate little bowl first and then add later. Stir everything around really good and refrigerate.

Breakfast and Brunch Recipes

Country Breakfast Casserole
There are plenty of good breakfast casseroles out there. Some might even be simpler, but I like the extra ingredients.

2 1/2 cups seasoned croutons
1 pound of sausage, though I have used ham or bacon
4 eggs
2 1/4 cups milk
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach - thawed,
drained and squeezed can add chopped broccoli instead
1 (4.5 ounce) can mushrooms, drained and chopped (optional)
2 cups of shredded cheese

Spread croutons on bottom of greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Cook up whatever meat you decide to use and spread it out over the croutons.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended. Stir in soup, spinach, mushrooms, cheeses and mustard. Pour egg mixture over sausage and croutons. Refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, preheat oven to 325 degrees F
Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until set and lightly browned on top.

Hashbrown Casserole
This is a favorite for any occasion. I guarantee they’ll be asking for more!

1 package of frozen hashbrowns (shredded or diced will work-I prefer the diced.)
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 package of shredded cheddar cheese
1 small carton of sour cream
½ stick of melted margarine or butter
½ onion, chopped
Topping (optional): crushed cornflakes, ½ stick of melted margarine

Saute the onion in the butter. Mix all the ingredients well in a large bowl. Put into a well-greased 9X13 pan. Cover with topping, if desired. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Mom’s Biscuits
This recipe is a family heirloom. This is actually my great-grandmother’s recipe. She was a pastry cook for a fancy hotel way back when. My grandmother also made them, passing down the recipe to mom and from my mom to me. We don’t bother with canned biscuits. These are simple and delicious! You can even make them extra special around the holidays. Use your cookie cutters…stars, pumpkins, hearts…how fun!

2 cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. of baking powder
¼ cup of shortening (cooking oil works, too.)
1 cup of milk, give or take

Sift dry ingredients together. Mix with shortening and milk. Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut out biscuits. Place on ungreased cookie sheet or pie plate and bake at 450 until brown (not too brown-just a little!)

You can top these with anything…jelly, sausage gravy, chicken and noodles…anything!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tea For You And Me

Nothing like a tea party to make us all feel pretty special. You can have your tea party any time of the year. We've had Christmas Teas, Harvest Teas, Valentine's Teas. But the most favorite time of year for a tea party is around Mother's Day. Here are some of my ideas (and a few of some other folks) to create a nice Tea party for all ages! We have even used our Tea Party as a fundraiser. For years, my parents (in particular, my dad) were collectors of vintage china, especially, Homer Laughlin china (you might be familiar with their Fiesta Line....which I love...especially the red stuff (hint, hint). They searched flea markets everywhere for inexpensive, yet pretty and unique tea cups and saucers. We charged $10 for each ticket for our tea party and one of the take home favors was a cup and saucer set. It was a big hit!

You’re Invited!
*Find some very pretty ceramic tea pots or tea cups at the dollar store. Attach a poem to the handle or make teapot or teacup shapes.

*Or go to one of the following sites and print off tea bag favors. You can include on them the date and time of your tea party. You can purchase a box of herbal tea makes a nice little treat. more plain templates (in fact, lots and lots of templates!)
Tea Poems
A little cup of friendship
With a bag of tea
When you drink this
Think of love from me.
-source unknown
I'm not sure where I got this poem from
Tea pot is on, the cups are waiting,
Favorite chairs anticipating,
No matter what I have to do,
My friend there's always time for you
All the Pretties
Focal Point:
*A small table and set it up for a child’s tea party, complete with stuffed bears and all.
*A nice idea for the serving table is to lay down a white cloth and spread twinkle lights all around. Then cover the table with tulle (in any color) bunched up here and there. (don't spread it out want it to look like airy fluff). Arrange your food (be sure it is presented very nicely) around the table and poke flowers and greenery sprigs here and there. I also like to set up a few boxes (hiding under more tablecloth) for a tiered effect. Consider using a few porcelain decorations, etc. I have a Precious Moments figurine that is of two little girls having tea. I like using it.

The Tables
*First start by gathering up all the stuff you can find. Tea cups and saucers, linens, anything pretty that you can use.

*Consider assigning each table a theme. You can do so by color, flower, or my favorite, kind of herbal tea, herb or anything in between. Let’s say you have a yellow table cloth, and a few cups and saucers with yellow on them. Stick some fresh lemons in a dish, add a few daisies and call that table The Lemon Drop or something of that nature. Do the same with all your other tables. I have done this on a number of occasions. It is a lot of fun for all the gals attending your party.

*Use a mirrored glass (can be purchased at home improvement stores) for a base in the middle of your table…so pretty!
Purchase some little girl dress up items. Tiaras, boas, jewelry, etc. and arrange them in the middle of the tables.
*Use fresh flowers and candles in simple glass bowls or goblets. I have also used tea cups themselves as candle holders.
*Purchase a set of matching teacups w/ saucers and flipped the cup upside down and placed the saucer on top like a pedestal. Use as a place setting or centerpiece with chocolate kisses. *Another cute idea is to purchase some inexpensive porcelain children's tea sets (the dollar store usually has them). Set up your tea set in the middle of a mirrored tile with bits of ribbon roses or chocolates around it. Give away the tea sets as favors or door prizes.
On the Menu
Here are a few food ideas. I have included a few recipes.
Chicken Salad with Croissants*
Cucumber sandwiches without crusts, PBJ cut with flower cookie cutters and deviled ham.
Miniature scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and raspberry tarts (cut pre-rolled pie into circles and pressed into mini muffin pans. Filling was raspberry jello mixed with Cool Whip and topped with a raspberry).
Fresh Fruit & Dip*
Veggies & Dip (display your veggies in a basket and use a hollowed out cabbage to hold your dip. Angel Food Cake
Chocolate Covered Strawberries*
Strawberry & Spinach Salad
Mini Muffins
Lemonade or punch
Bonnet cookies*
Teapot Cake*
And of course, an assortment of herbal teas
Bonnets - I think I found this at the Pillsbury website.
Makes: 16 bonnets
1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® Create 'n Bake® refrigerated sugar cookies
16 lemon or orange mini muffins (from bakery)
2 cups vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting (from two 1-lb containers)
Green and red food color
Heat oven to 350°F. Cut cookie dough into 1/2-inch slices. On ungreased cookie sheet, place slices 2 inches apart. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.
If necessary, remove papers from muffins. Cut 3/4-inch slice from bottom of each muffin to use for bonnet. Reserve muffin tops for snacking. Spread cut side of each muffin bottom with frosting; attach to cookie, frosting side down. Place bonnets on rack over 15x10x1-inch pan.
Place 1/2 cup frosting in resealable food storage plastic bag. Add green food color; squeeze bag until well mixed and desired color.
Place remaining frosting in microwavable measuring cup. Microwave on High 30 to 40 seconds or until pourable. DO NOT BOIL. Stir in enough red food color for desired pink color. Pour pink frosting over bonnets in circular motion to cover completely. Reheat frosting as necessary to keep it pourable. Let stand 10 minutes or until set.
With small spatula, remove bonnets from rack, smoothing edges of frosting. Cut tiny hole in corner of bag with green frosting. Pipe ribbon of frosting for hatband; add bow design. Make dots and flower designs on each hat as desired.

Beke’s Famous Chicken Salad
1/2 cups diced and chilled, cooked chicken meat
1 cup chopped apple
1 cup sliced, seedless grapes
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 lemon squeezed
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
In your food processor give the chicken a quick whirl.
Combine meat, celery, grapes, almonds, parsley, salt, and mayonnaise with whipped cream. Chill.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
16 ounces milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening
1 pound fresh strawberries with leaves
Insert toothpicks into the tops of the strawberries. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth. Holding them by the toothpicks, dip the strawberries into the chocolate mixture. Turn the strawberries upside down and insert the toothpick into Styrofoam for the chocolate to cool
Beke’s Easy Fruit Dip
1 container of marshmallow cream
1 package of cream cheese
a little dash of cinnamon or mint, if desired
Whirl around in your food processor until well blended then chill.

This is a link for a whole bunch of tea party games. There are organized into types/countries/etc.
*Have a special speaker.

*Play old fashioned Parlor games

*Gather a few craft projects together, such as decorating straw hats or scrapbooking

*Have a mother/daughter fashion show

Some of these ideas, plus more at Creative Ladies Ministries website (link at the end of this post)

Favors and Such

*A special tea gift basket.
*Individual Tea cups - Sprinkle candy inside of the tea cups. Wrap with cellophane tied up with ribbons or raffia.
*Other tea items like tea strainers, special herbal tea or cute little tea spoons
*candy necklaces, jewel ring pops, bead bracelets, hair clips and bands, play tea sets (for the girls)
Tea Cup Refrigerator Magnet
One year I cut out tea cups out of scrapbook paper and glued them together leaving a pocket open. I wrote "My Cup Runneth Over" on them and inserted a folded paper doily and a bag of tea. I then glued a small magnet on the back. Very cute.
Tea Card - I'm not sure where I found this idea...possibly at a craft website?
Materials and Supplies
Medium Weight Card Stock Paper: 8-1/2" x 11"
Envelopes: 4-3/8" x 5-3/4"
Steam-a-Seam sticky back
Holiday or other fabric of choice: 6" x 3-1/2" for each cup
All-purpose glue
Tea bags
Water-soluble pen
All purpose thread or machine embroidery thread
90/14 needle
Open toe foot
Important Note: These project instructions are specific to the Brother ULT2001, ULT2002D, ULT2003D sewing machines; however, the project can be adapted for use on other machines.
1. Cut the 8-1/2" x 11" card stock paper in half.
2. Fold each piece in half to form a card.
3. Cut out the oval over the cup area (see pattern).
4. Cut a piece of card stock to 5-1/4" x 4". This will cover the stitches and form the pocket on the inside of the card. Note: If you do not have a paper cutter, a rotary cutter will cut the paper very evenly.
5. Set up the sewing machine for sewing.
6. Select the zigzag stitch (1-10) and set the width to 3.0 and the length to 1.0.
7. Trace the cup and saucer on Steam-a-Seam sticky back and press it to the fabric.
8. Cut out and clip around the cup handle.
9. Place the cup on the card.
10. Press the cup in place with an iron.
11. Draw lines to form a stitch guide for the cup and saucer.
12. Starting at the right hand corner of the cup, sew with a zigzag stitch across the top, down the side, and around the right hand corner of the cup.
13. Stitch around the upper edge of pocket oval.
14. Cut and tie off threads.
15. Place needle at the saucer on the left side, stitch around the saucer and cup handle, and then tie off threads.
16. Use all-purpose glue to secure the 4-3/8" x 5-3/4" piece of card stock to the back of the card.
17. Finally, sign and date your card on the back.
Tip: The needle on the zigzag should be half on the fabric and half on the card. When sewing curves, stop with the needle down and turn the card slowly to obtain a smooth look.
Other Resources

Julia has some great tea party ideas at:

Some I might even taken from her over the years! She has a little bit of everything.

My one of my favorites artists, Mary Englebreit, has a cute tea party coloring page. Here is the link.

Here are some more of Mary's Coloring Pages. lots and lots of tea links

Frugal Ways to Decorate the Tables for Christmas

I know first hand what a struggle it is to do anything of quality in a church with limited funds. Which by the way is a nice way of putting "we're just broke." Since I've always felt (and I have made myself fairly clear about this) that any efforts put into a church function would be our best, I wasn't satisfied with a green sprig here and there in between the salt and pepper shakers. Sometimes it takes a few years to come up with enough of a "stash" of stuff to handle any kind of party, but here are some inexpensive ways to decorate your tables for your Christmas dinner or party. You can also check out my "Snowy Evening Decorating Theme." I plan on posting more like it, but this is as far as I've gotten.

The Table Coverings
Party stores have a variety of pretty patterned paper (try saying that 5 times fast) table coverings. You can cut them in half and have instant table runners. Or if they have the big white section down the middle, just cut off the patterned sides as your runner and use the white section for your food table. Just put the "runner" over a solid color and you have a really pretty table to start with.

Another favorite idea of mine is to use wrapping paper to cover your tables. There is a lot of pretty paper. You could even use it as table runners also.

1. Angels We Have Heard on High.
Make a plea for all of your angel collectors to come together. Have everyone bring in their angel figurines, etc. and group them into little settings at each table. Be sure to mix them up. Don't put all the angels of the same height together, etc. You can surround them with pillow fluff and a few clear votives if you wish so that they appear to be floating in the clouds. You could use these "themed" idea for any kind of Christmas collectible. Stars, Snowmen, etc.

2. Into The woods
Make Christmas Candle Logs. We did this one year and used them for several years after that in a variety of ways. This takes a little time, but it's really inexpensive. Have someone cut the logs (make sure they are all of similar size) in half and plane the bottoms so that they lay flat. Then you will need to drill holes along the top (not quite sure what tool you have to use for that...someone else did it for me) for candles. Make them wide enough to hold long tapers. Decorate the top of your logs with pine greenery, poinsettias, ribbon, etc. You can get some little flowering poinsettias or other Christmas greenery pretty inexpensively at Wal-mart. We used hot glue and a staple gun. We then added our tapers (in whatever color you choose) and wow! Very pretty table decorations.

3. Jars A Plenty
One year we were pretty broke and I wanted to create something special and interesting for the tables. So I gathered Mason Jars (both pints and quarts), purchased some inexpensive starlight mints and some tealights. We filled the jars (with various amounts) of starlight mints (both green and red) and added the tealights. I wrapped the top of the jar with raffia (you could also use that thin star tinsel or fabric). We then took pine cones that we had rescued from the church yard and more old-fashioned Christmas candy and made a tablescape. It was really unique and got lots of attention! You could use any kind of Christmas candy you wanted to...gum drops, whatever.

4. A little bit of this and that
If you are really in a pinch try using a little bit of this and that. Get some sort of clear glass plate or platter (or whatever color scheme you are trying to go with), a few long candle tapers or one big chunky candle, a few pretty Christmas bulbs and go cut off some greenery from a nearby evergreen bush or tree. Just check for bugs and be sure not to cut too don't want any kindling! Create a little scene inside your plate or platter with the candles, bulbs and greenery.

5. Christmas Bulbs
And speaking of Christmas Bulbs, one year we had an overabundance of rather abused and neglected bulbs left over from our tree trimming party. We just simply spray painted them to freshen them up and filled a variety of large glass candle holders, bowls, etc. with them. We added some of that thin star tinsel garland woven in amongst them. You can also use some silver or gold tinsel itself.

6. Illuminating Luminaries
One year after Christmas our local Hobby Lobby store had marked down their merchandise to a whopping 90% off. I spent just a little money on a lot of stuff. Among my treasures were dozens and dozens of those little paper gift bags. These bags were a little Victorian looking. The next year when it was time to decorate the tables again for the Church Christmas dinner we pulled these out. We spent an afternoon poking a few holes in them and filling them partly with sand. They became a very pretty addition to our Christmas Tables.

7. Wrap It Up
As I stated above, I like using Christmas wrapping paper as table covering, either has a runner or the table covering itself. You can take that idea a bit farther and make the table a big present. Just use some wide ribbon and crisscross both the height and the width of the table...adding a big bow in the center. You could also wrap a variety of boxes (nothing too big) and make a tablescape with wrapped presents, curling ribbon and a few votives.

8. Hostess with the Mostest
One unique way to decorate your tables is to enlist the ladies (or fellows) of your church to "adopt" a table. They would be in charge of decorating one table. There are so many ways to make this idea extra special. They could add old family Christmas photos, small favors or treats that are their specialty. Now just a warning to the know your congregation best. We have had some ladies groups that would have eaten this challenge up. Other's would have been a bit put out. You decide if this idea could work for you...and make it completely voluntary.

Here is a link to Creative Ladies Ministry. Julia has lots of links and ideas. This particular link is for her "Baking Up Christmas" theme and has some cute decorating ideas.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jesus Loves You Snow Much!

One of our family's favorite holiday themes are snowmen. In fact, one of my husband's favorite movies is (shhh! don't tell anybody) "Frosty the Snowman." Why not have a "Jesus Loves You Snow Much" party as an outreach event. You can show Frosty the Snowman if you are so inclined...or just set up a variety of activities...all based on our favorite snowy friend. I apologize once again if I have taken an idea that someone considers an original one. I have had many of these things for several years.


A Snowman Named Just Bob by Mark Kimball Moulton (Author), Karen Hillard Crouch (Illustrator)
A Snowgirl Named Just Sue
by Mark Kimball Moulton and Karen Hillard Good


Frosty the Snowman (though there is an appearance by Santa be considerate of how others might feel)


Ice Breaker Activity: (Hah! get it?)

Half fill a milk carton with colored water. Place in the freezer and when partially frozen, drop in various small toys. After this is frozen add another color of water to fill the carton. Again, let it freeze partially and add more toys. This is one of the best Christmas party ideas and the children love to chip and melt the ice to find the hidden treasure.

Marshmallow Sculptures
Materials: Marshmallows (mini size and large, Toothpicks or pretzels
Create sculptures by using toothpicks or pretzels to hold sculpture in place...have someone judge to see who created the best marshmallow sculpture.

Frosty the Snowman

All you need are two teams and two rolls of toilet paper. Appoint one member of each team to be the snowman. Then see which team can wrap their snowman in toilet paper first.

Look at my Christmas Game Ideas blog. There is a game there for passing the "snowball."

Have a snowball throwing contest. Using marshmallows (or cotton balls for an even more frustrating time) the kids throw "snowballs" to try and hit a premade target. Lot's of posibilities with this!

Bite the bullet and visit Oriental Trading. (I've included a link off to the side) They have lots of games, inflates and more. Lots of time saving help, there.


The following links have lots of snowman craft sites. All are really cute and worth taking a look at. You can also look at my favorite snowman craft in my blog post "Christmas Craft Party."

Snowman Bottle:

Fill an empty, clear water bottle with white crepe paper or tissue paper. Replace the top. Cut or gouge out a hole in a styrofoam ball so that the top of the bottle will fit snugly inside. Add a little hot glue, then stick the ball onto the bottle. Cut a hat, mouth, and buttons from black felt. Cut a carrot nose from orange felt. Glue these on as well as two "wiggly" eyes onto the styrofoam ball. Cut out a scarf from red or blue felt. Tie around the neck of the bottle and fringe the ends. If desired, add arms made of brown pipecleaners or real twigs. The pipecleaners can either be glued on, or a tiny hole can be punched in each side and the pipecleaners and /or twigs inserted

Snowman Snacks

Snowman Rice Crispy Treats

I took this straight from
3 Tbls Butter or Margarine
4 cups Miniature Marshmallows
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
4 cups Crispy Rice Cereal
Decorating Items (listed below)
Melt butter or margarine over low heat in a large saucepan or in the microwave in a large bowl. Add vanilla and marshmallows. Pop back in the microwave for 30 second intervals until marshmallow are melted, stir between each interval.
Or, if making it on the stove, keep over low heat, stirring constantly until marshmallows are melted. Bend well.
Add the crispy rice cereal and stir until the cereal is coated.

Line a large cookie sheet with wax paper. As soon as the marshmallow is cool enough to touch, rub a little margarine or butter on your hands and form the cereal mixture into balls. Work quickly so your rice cereal mixture stays warm.

You will need 2 balls for each snowman. Use about 1 cup of the mixture for the body and 3/4 cup for the head balls. Set your larger ball on the wax paper lined cookie sheet. Place the small ball on top of the larger ball. If necessary, use a dab of frosting to help the 2 balls stick together.

Now you are ready to decorate your snowman! Use frosting to help some items stick to the rioce cereal balls better. Here are some suggestions for items to use to give your snowman facial features and more.

Raisins (eyes, nose, mouth, buttons, etc.)
Red Hots (eyes, nose, mouth, buttons, etc.)
M and M's (eyes, nose, mouth, buttons, etc.)
Chocolate Chips (eyes, nose, mouth, buttons, etc.)
Tiny Jelly Beans (eyes, nose, mouth, buttons, etc.)
Large Gum Drops (hat)
Pretzel Sticks (Arms)

Let the snowmen set for a few hours.

Vanilla Wafer Snowman

Decorate vanilla wafers with frosting and items above for a tasty and simple snowman treat.

Make Snowman Soup

I have done this a number of times as gifts for teachers, neighbors, etc.

The Soup:
1 package hot chocolate mix
3 Hershey Kisses
15 (or so) marshmallows
1 candy cane

Put all the items above in a mug (decorated with a snowman of course!) Wrap with plastic wrap or cellophane and attach the following poem.

The Poem:

Was told you've been real good this year

Always glad to hear it

With freezing weather drawing near

You'll need to warm the spirit

So here's a little Snowman Soup

Complete with stirring stick

Add hot water, sip it slow

It's sure to do the trick!

Here is a printable tag to use with this version.

Here is another version. This is a cute one, because it labels the marshmallows as freeze-dried snowballs.

Another poem you can use.

Snowman Soup

When the weather outside is frightful, Snowman Soup can be delightful. May it warm your spirit and your soul. Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow! When you feel a chill or 'burrrrrr', Use the peppermint stick to stir. Add hot water and sip it slow. Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.

Polar Ice Cap

You'll need Blue Kool-Aid (prepare as directed), ginger ale, vanilla ice cream, clear glasses and straws. Refrigerate the Kool-Aid and ginger ale. Fill a glass almost halfway with the blue Kool-Aid. Add ginger ale almost to the top of the glass. Drop in one big snowball (scoop of vanilla ice cream) and let the kids enjoy their "North Pole" drink with a straw!

Craft Recipes

Sparkle Snow Paint

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water

Mix together and put in a squeeze bottle. Squeeze doughy paint out on to black construction paper. Make anything snowy, snowflakes, snowmen, - we made snow covered mountains with the moon and northern lights. Let dry thoroughly and it will sparkle. May also be painted (when dry) and allowed to dry again. This is a great 3 dimensional effect for snow.

Snow Paint
Make snow to paint on pictures with this easy recipe:
1 cup salt
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup water
large bowl
Light blue construction paper
paint brushes
Mix all the salt, flour and water in the large bowl. Draw a winter scene on the light blue paper. Then paint the snow on top. When it dries you will see the snow

Snowdough Snowmen: Here's a cool recipe for snowdough: Don't eat it!

1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup water, 2 Tbs. Veg. Oil, 1 Tbs. Cream of tartar, 1/3 cup silver glitter, 1/4 cup white powdered tempera paint.

Mix all ingredients together. Cook over medium heat, stirring until ball is formed. Knead dough until cool. Provide bowls with bits of cloth, paper, beads, pipe cleaners, felt, etc. Have the guests sculpt their own snowdough snowman and decorate it. You can also provide snowflake, snowman and other winter cookie cutters for the kids to experiment with

Links to Cute Snowman Recipes

Snowy Decorations

Check out my Snowy Evening Christmas Decorating Theme blog post for decorating ideas.

I would create a focal point of some sort. Maybe make a life-sized snowman out of butcher paper, etc. You can make him 3-day by stuffing him with fluff. Put a Christmas tree or two around him and some pillow fluff. Take everyone's picture with your Snowy Friend! Remember to include the caption "Jesus Loves You Snow Much!."

Here are directions for making snowman chair covers. Very cute. this is a link for a snowflake machine! Absolutely the coolest! All sorts of goodies you can purchase to make your party pretty

You could also use lots of white and pale blue balloons everywhere. And don't forget twinkle lights!

Other Ideas (and links)

Make these favor bags
Creative Ladies Ministry has a Snow Much Fun page with all sorts of links a page with lots of snowman links.

Oriental Trading (again...who can live without them?) have lots of snowman products. They even have ornaments..."Jesus Loves You Snow Much."

You could purchase snowman novelities for your favor bags or give the snowman soup to each visitor.

Be sure to take your visitors picture by your big snowman (or equivilant) and send them a picture as a reminder of their time at your party. Use it to remind them of your church and activities that are coming up.

Have fun!

Christmas Comes to Detroit Louis

One of the funniest plays I ever saw in church at Christmastime is an oldie, but goody. "Christmas Comes to Detroit Louis” by Bobby G. Wood. I first saw it when I was a teenager and had such good memories about it that I choose to direct it several years later when we were youth pastors. We used every age for the cast. We performed it on a Friday and Saturday night and invited the community. We also served hot chocolate and Christmas treats after the performance. It was a wonderful experience! Here is the link to Eldrige Plays and Musicals.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Snowy Evening Christmas Decorating Theme

I have done a variety of decorating themes for Christmas in our churches, but my all time favorite theme has to be based on the Robert Frost Poem, “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening.” I know it’s not necessarily based on a Bible theme, but there is something about this poem that speaks of better days…of family and faith. But I love it and it has inspired some beautiful Christmases.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

The Sanctuary
Some folks have issues with Christmas trees in the sanctuary. I am not one of those folks. I don’t want Santa Clause perched up on the stage, but we have had some really lovely trees that didn’t in anyway suggest the secular side of Christmas. With my Snowy Evening Theme I used my forest of small alpine trees…which we didn’t use as Christmas Trees but as an outdoor scene. I got them at Hobby Lobby or Michaels one year using a 50% off coupon I had printed off line. I got bags and bags of pillow fluff, twinkle lights, yards of pine tree garland, and several packages of snowflake ornaments. I lined the baptistery and basically every available edge with first the pine garland (with white twinkle lights woven through), them piles of pillow fluff and a few snowflakes here and there. I also had some sparkly snow glitter I spread around (though be prepared for a mess when you take it down). I set up the trees in a forest-like setting and covered the area around them with more pillow fluff, snowflakes and glitter. I also added bits of fluff to the branches of the trees. Absolutely gorgeous. I was able to utilize the decorations with my Kid’s Christmas Program too. On the communion table I placed the Nativity Scene. I surrounded it with pillow fluff, white votives and more sparkly. Plus I tucked in a few pine tree picks for some color. I created more snowy ledges throughout the sanctuary It was like walking into a Winter Wonderland. I have done this several years at different churches because it is always such a big hit…and fairly inexpensive to do.

The Fellowship Hall and Elsewhere
I have often carried my Snowy Evening Theme into the fellowship hall and used it for the Church Christmas Party/Dinner or whatever. One of my favorite things to do at Christmas is to use wrapping paper as table covering. It is pretty much the same width across as the church tables everybody has. With the Snowy Evening Theme I found either fairly woodsy paper (pine cones, trees) or some snowflake patterned paper…depending on my mood and the availability of the paper. Down the center of the tables I put my mirrored tiles (staggered) and more pillow fluff. On the mirrored tiles we put clear glass candle holders with white votives and pine tree picks. We also placed snowflakes throughout the pillow fluff. One year instead of snowflakes I used stars. I found some shiny star boxes at a party store (you can get them in any color….gold and silver would be pretty for Christmas) and created whole tablescapes with pillow fluff, these star boxes, some star cutouts also found at the party store and lots of little white votives. You could even insert an angel or two.
For a focal point you could create another wooded forest or make a special scene with a park bench, an old fashioned street lamp and more pillow fluff. It would be really special to find an old sleigh (even a few kid’s sleds).

Here is a link for more snowy evening decorating ideas:
If you are doing the whole snowy evening thing....considering giving out snowflakes (or stars) this year. Oriental Trading has some really pretty and inexpensive options.
I think I’ve covered it. I am going to attempt to add a few more themes later to my blog.. I have several that we have used and really like.

Christmas Party Games

I have spent years trying to find the ultimate party games for the Christmas party. I had a few duds, but a few that were absolute riots. These games can be used with about any group. Don't be afraid to try a few of the more rowdier games with your adults...they will have a blast! I promise! Most of these games can be found I apologize if I have used what someone might consider an original idea. There is also a link at the bottom of the list that has some well-made printable games. Just a note: I've included two versions of the left-right Christmas gift exchange game. I am not a fan of the whole nab and grab it game (I forget what it's called) So this is a nab it and grab it free zone!

For this Christmas party game, divide your group into two teams and have two bowls of Hershey's kisses.
Give each team one set of oversized mittens or gloves. The first person in line runs to the bowl of kisses, and has to unwrap the kiss while wearing the oversized mittens/gloves and pop the kiss into their mouth.
They run back, tag the next person in line, and exchange the mittens/gloves and the next person runs forward to get a chocolate kiss. The winning team is the one in which all members have enjoyed a kiss first....

Make and decorate human Christmas trees.
Stuff to Play:
Green paper, Paper and real ornaments, Scissors and construction paper, Tape, Prize for the winners.
How to Play:
Group players into teams of 4. Each team selects someone to be the tree. Give each team paper and ornaments, scissors and construction paper. Send a judge out of the room. Each team gets 5 minutes to decorate their tree. Then the judge returns and decides who wins.

A race to see who can create the best "reindeer" in a set amount of time.
Stuff to Play:
You will need the following items, in a paper bag, for each team: An unused pair of panty hose, 14-7" balloons, a Red Gift Bow and two 10" lengths of Christmas ribbon
How to Play:
Teams have 5 minutes to make the most attractive "antlers" they create with balloons they blow up and stuff into the legs of the panty hose which are worn on the head of a volunteer "reindeer", adding the red gift bow as "Rudolf's" nose and tying the end of the "antlers" with the ribbon. Judges (spectators) vote for the most attractive rack after time is called. Have your camera ready-the results are hilarious! Can also be done as a relay race.
Before You Play
1) Cut off the tip of the toe of each pair of panty hose.
2) Next: cut out a 5 inch hole in the center of the tummy of the panty hose.
3) Place one pair of panty hose, a red gift bow, 14-7" balloons (uninflated) and two 10" lengths of Christmas ribbon in a paper bag for each team.
4) Divide your group into equal size teams, (4 works good) and designate several "judges".
5) Give each team a bag with their supplies in it.
5) Instruct each team to appoint a volunteer to be the "reindeer". Have this person place the waist of the panty hose over their head with their face in the 5" hole you have cut out.
6) On GO! Teams begin inflating their balloons and stuffing them in the open toe, and up the legs of the panty hose to form "antlers". Team members should complete their creation by placing the red gift bow on the volunteer "reindeer's" nose, close off the open toe with the 10" lengths of ribbon and "positioning" the antlers for the most attractive look they can accomplish by manipulating the balloons.
7) After 5 minutes is up ask the "judges" to select the most attractive "rack"!

Pass gifts to the left or right around the circle as the story is read. We did this a couple years…there is also a nativity version further down the blog.
Stuff to Play:
Gifts for a gift exchange
How to Play:
Seat everyone in a circle. Provide one gift for every 3 or 4 people. Hand to gifts to people at different points in the circle (not right next to each other). Read the story below and have players hand the gifts right or left whenever the words "right" or "left" are spoken.

Story: Christmas was almost here, and Mother RIGHT was finishing the Christmas baking.

Father RIGHT, Sue RIGHT, and Billy RIGHT returned from their last-minute Christmas errands.

"There's not much LEFT to be done," said Father RIGHT as he came into the kitchen.

"Did you leave the basket of food at church?" asked Mother RIGHT.

"I LEFT it RIGHT where you told me to," said Father RIGHT.

"I'm glad my shopping is done," said Billy RIGHT. "I don't have any money LEFT."

The hall telephone rang, and Susan RIGHT LEFT to answer it.

She rushed back and told the family "Aunt Tillie RIGHT LEFT a package for us RIGHT on Grandma RIGHT's porch.

I'll go over there RIGHT now and get it." she said as she LEFT in a rush.

Father RIGHT LEFT the kitchen and brought in the Christmas tree.

By the time Susan RIGHT returned, Mother RIGHT, Father RIGHT, and Billy RIGHT had begun trimming the tree.

The entire RIGHT family sang carols as they finished the decorating.

Then they LEFT all the presents arranged under the tree and went to bed, hoping they had selected the RIGHT gifts for their family.

Now I hope you have the RIGHT present for yourself, because that's all that's LEFT of our story.....

Except to with you a Merry Christmas....Isn't that RIGHT?

A christmas game where you and your partner race to wrap a package first. The catch? You can only use one hand each!
Stuff to Play
Boxes for each pair, Wrapping paper, Tape, Ribbon, Scissors
How to Play
Each pair races to wrap the box and tie the ribbon in a box around the box. The host should warn all the groups that he/she will judge the winner based not only on speed but quality of wrapping. Have all groups start wrapping at the same time. Each person should hold one arm behind their backs (no switching in the middle). After everyone is done, the host can judge who wins.

Two teams race with Vaseline and cotton balls. The object is see how many cotton balls you can attach to your face.
Stuff to Play:
Vaseline, cotton balls.
How to Play:
Make two or more teams. On one side of the room put a couple big bowls of cotton balls. Then have the players line up while you put Vaseline all over your face (chin area etc). Make sure everyone has approximately the same amount of Vaseline applied to keep things fair. The point of the game is to run to the other side of the room stick your face in the bowl of cotton and then run back so the next person can go. The winning team is the one who has the most cotton balls stuck to their faces in the least amount of time. At the end of the race award 3 points for the team that finished first and a point for each cotton ball stuck to a face.

Guess the real names of the Christmas carols from the alternate titles.
Stuff to Play:
Lists for everyone
How to Play:
The following words are alternate titles for several well-known Christmas songs. Fill in the proper title in the space provided. 100% correct insures you of a full Christmas stocking!

1. Quadruped with Crimson Proboscis
2. Eight P.M. to Six A.M. without Noise
3. Minuscule Hamlet in the Near East
4. Ancient Benevolent Despot
5. Exuberance Directed to the Planet
6. Listen, Aerial Spirits Announcing
7. Trio of Monarchs
8. Yonder in the Hay Rack
9. Cherubim Audited from Aloft
10. Assemble, Everyone Who Believes
11. Hollowed Post Meridian
12. Fantasia of a Colorless December 25
13. A Dozen Twenty-four Hour Yule Periods
14. Befell During the Transparent Bewitching Hour
15. Homo Sapien of Crystallized Vapor
16. Desire a Pair of Incisors on December 25
17. I Spied My Maternal Parent Osculating
18. Perambulating Through A December Solstice Fantasy
19. Adorn the vestibule
20. Tin tintinnabulums

Answers: 1. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
2. Silent night
3. Oh little town of Bethlehem
4. Good king Wenceslas
5. Joy to the world
6. Hark the herald angels sing
7. We three kings
8. Away in a manger
9. Angels we have heard on high
10. Oh come all ye faithful
11. Oh holy night
12. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
13. The twelve days of Christmas
14. It came upon a midnight clear
15. Frosty the snowman
16. All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth
17. I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus
18. Walking in a winter wonderland
19. Deck the halls
20. Silver bells

A relay race with candy canes
Stuff to Play:
4 candy canes per team (have a few extras due to breakage)

How to Play:
Player holds 4 candy canes between fingers and passes them down the line, teammate to teammate, without dropping.

Another team game
Stuff to Play :
6 bows for each team
How to play:
Have the teams line up side by side, either sitting or standing next to each other (they could hold hands if they wanted to). At one end of
the line, place the six Christmas bows. With their left hand have each player grab the right wrist of the person to their right. On the mark, teams pass all the bows down and back again. If a bow falls, players must retrieve while still holding on. The chain must not be broken!

Group everyone into 12 teams, it can be random or have people count off from 1-12. Then group the teams together and give each one a verse of the twelve days of Christmas. Each team was responsible for singing one verse of the song. As you know, the song repeats itself, with a new verse added each time. The best part of all is that as the teams sing their verse, they are to act out the verse (i.e. eight maids a milking, six geese a laying). Each team should be allowed to gather together at first to determine what motions they plan to do. This is really, really funny to watch.

Stuff to Play:
Large marshmallows, spoons and mittens for each team.
How to Play:
Play this game as you would any relay race. Divide into teams. Each player takes turns putting on mittens and balancing a "snowball" on a spoon while racing to the other side of the room. Drop the snowball into a bucket, return to the team, pass the mittens
and go to the back of the line. First team to complete the race wins


To play this Right Left Christmas Game, form a circle and pass the
gift(s), (candy, prizes, etc.) to the right when you hear the word RIGHT and to the left when you hear the word LEFT. When the story is over, the gifts belong to whoever is holding them.

In those days, Caesar Augustus decided to count everyone LEFT living in the whole Roman world. Joseph LEFT, taking Mary with him RIGHT to his town of Bethlehem to register.
When they arrived, there were no rooms LEFT. All of the inns in Bethlehem were RIGHT full. There was just nowhere LEFT for them to stay. Finally, someone offered to let them stay RIGHT in their stable.

Mary was pregnant and while in Bethlehem the RIGHT time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a boy RIGHT there. RIGHT there in a Bethlehem stable, the Savior of the world was born. Mary wrapped him with LEFT over strips of cloth and laid him RIGHT in a manger.

Some shepherds who lived RIGHT near Bethlehem, were out at night RIGHT in their fields watching over their sheep. RIGHT then, they saw a bright light. The light was so bright that they had to close their eyes. When they opened them again, a beautiful angel was standing RIGHT in the sky RIGHT above them with his arms LEFT opened wide. The shepherds looked RIGHT at each other and were LEFT feeling very afraid.

Then the angel spoke RIGHT to them. "Do not be afraid. I'm RIGHT here to bring you the good news LEFT for all people. Today RIGHT in Bethlehem a baby has been born, He is the RIGHT one, the one that will save the world. You will know the RIGHT baby because He will be LEFT wrapped in cloths, and laying RIGHT in a manger."

RIGHT then, a large group of angels appeared RIGHT there, and they said, "Glory to God, and peace be to all people LEFT on the earth."

The shepherds were LEFT amazed and excited. They had to go RIGHT away to see this baby the angels were talking about.

They LEFT as fast as they could, and soon found Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus RIGHT were they angels said they would be. The shepherds fell RIGHT to their knees when they saw Jesus, and were LEFT filled with joy that they had found the Savior. They stayed for a short time and then LEFT . As soon as they LEFT they began shouting RIGHT in the streets and telling everyone LEFT in town about what they had seen.

RIGHT after Jesus was born, wise men traveling RIGHT on their camels noticed a very strange star RIGHT in the sky. They knew that the RIGHT One who would save the world had been born.

RIGHT away King Herod got very worried. He assembled all of the important people LEFT in the area and asked them where this baby had been born. The people replied, "RIGHT in Bethlehem."

RIGHT then King Herod called the wise men to meet with him RIGHT away. He asked them to go and find the child RIGHT away. “RIGHT as soon as you find Him,” he said, “ tell me, so that I can go to Him RIGHT away and worship Him."

After the wise men spoke to the King, they LEFT to find the baby. They didn't know RIGHT where the He was, but followed the star LEFT in the east until it hung RIGHT over the place where Jesus was. When they found Jesus, and they bowed RIGHT down and worshiped him.

RIGHT after that, they opened the gifts they had brought Jesus... gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then they LEFT to find a place to sleep for the night.

That night the wise men all had the same dream RIGHT as they were sleeping. They were not to go RIGHT back and tell King Herod where they had found Jesus. King Herod wanted to kill Jesus because he was jealous of Him. So, the wise men LEFT for home another way so that Herod would not know the RIGHT direction they had come from. They also decided RIGHT then that they would not tell King Herod anything about what they had seen.

When the wise men LEFT , an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Arise, take Jesus and Mary, and run RIGHT to Egypt. Joseph got up RIGHT away and woke up Mary. She quickly picked Jesus RIGHT up and they LEFT in the middle of the night for Egypt where they would be safe.

RIGHT after King Herod died an angel appeared again RIGHT away to Joseph and told him to go RIGHT to a place called Nazareth. And that's RIGHT where Jesus grew up.