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Holiday Information

 

 

 

Christmas Tree Hint

According to a master gardener here. When you get the tree home, cut it again and put it immediately into water. Keep adding water as the tree soaks it up. To the water add 1 can 7-Up the lemon and carbonation in the soda helps preserve the freshness of the fibers in the trunk. Add water every day. You can try checking following site www.pallensmith.com he is a gardener here in MO and does the garden spots for the Weather Channel. He usually has good tips.

 

GIFTS THAT DON'T COST A CENT (and even a child can give) 

THE GIFT OF LISTENING
REALLY listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response. Just listening. 


THE GIFT OF AFFECTION
Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds. Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends. 


THE GIFT OF LAUGHTER
Clip cartoons. Share articles and funny stories.  Your gift will say, "I love to laugh with you". Make a web page. 


THE GIFT OF A COMPLIMENT
A simple and sincere, "You look great in red", "You did a super job" or "That was a wonderful meal" can make someone's day. 


THE GIFT OF A FAVOR
Every day, go out of your way to do something kind. 


 THE GIFT OF A WRITTEN NOTE
It can be a simple "Thanks for the help" note or a full sonnet.  A brief, handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime, and  may even change a life.

 THE GIFT OF SOLITUDE
There are times when we want nothing better than to be left  alone. Be sensitive to those times and give the gift of solitude to others.


THE GIFT OF A CHEERFUL DISPOSITION
The easiest way to feel good is to extend a kind word to someone, really it's not that hard to say, Hello or Thank You.

AND. FINALLY, THE EASY ONES
A hug
A peck on the forehead
A simple, "I Love You" 

 



CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS:

Gifts do not have to be expensive to be appreciated. All year long when you see something on sale that you know a family member or friend would like, buy it and put it away. These can be small stocking stuffer types of things. Either box them into a one package or wrap each one individually. More presents to unwrap.


Labels: For those who don't have a computer, design address labels with cute graphics and print up a whole batch and use them as stocking stuffers. Put them into one of those cardboard envelopes with a self-closure and then wrap it as a gift. You can find these envelopes at local office supply stores. Use label stock that has three labels across and then cut them into strips. Choose a graphic that is meaningful to them. They really appreciate having a supply for their outgoing letters and bills. 

More gift label suggestions:

For a choir member or a band member: From the Music Library of: their name and/or name and address.

For Musical CD's: From the Music Collection of:

For Computer Software: From the CD-Rom Library of:

For Books: From the Library of or for a specific book collection like cookbooks, from the Cookbook Library of:


Home-baked Goodies: Bake numerous varieties of Christmas cookies and then put them into Christmas muffin papers and either put them into a tin or a nice deep box. Bake loaves of sweet breads, wrap them in colored plastic wrap, and put a stick on bow on top. If you make several different batches, use mini loaf pans and give the recipient one of each.


For Gardeners: cute garden signs, plant markers, gardening gloves, small shovels and spades, a padded kneeler, watering can, a selection of vegetable and/or flower seeds (go for something unusual), a bottle of liquid fertilizer, a gardening book or a subscription for a gardening magazine.


For Computer Users: a ream of computer paper, a box of labels, a mouse pad, ink for their printer, a computer game or graphic program, a box of brightly colored floppy disks, CD-Rom cases, or a holder for their CD-Roms.


For Dogs: Fill a large dog bowl with a squeaky toy, rawhide bones, dog biscuits, small packets of treats, dog brush, dog collar, and leash. 

For cats, same ideas.


Stationery Basket: Fill a square basket with note cards, envelopes (choose a variety of sizes), note paper, letter opener, a pen or a pen and pencil set, a personalized seal and some sealing wax, personalized return address labels and a book of stamps or two.


Kids Keep Busy Kit: Fill a rubber/plastic storage box with crayons (get the big package with tons of colors), non-toxic markers, assorted papers (include a variety of colors and textures), coloring books, assorted stickers, a paint box and brushes, a some non-toxic modeling clay.


For the new homeowner: Use a toolbox as a "basket". Fill with screw drivers, wrench, hammer, pliers, assorted nails, screws, washers, gift certificate for the local hardware store, a "do-it-yourself" book, assorted odds and ends like light switch covers, light bulbs, duct tape, paint brushes, picture hanging kit, etc.


For Car Owners: Fill a plastic bucket with a tire gauge, container of oil, wax, chamois, car wash coupons, emergency flares, squeegee for the windows, mileage log and pen and a travel mug. 


For the Cookie Baker: Use a cookie tin and fill with your favorite cookie recipes or a cook book, an assortment of cookie cutters; gourmet chocolate chips, nuts, decorator icing set and assorted sprinkles.


For Chili Lovers: Fill a stew pot or pottery casserole dish with assorted dried beans such as kidney, black, white, navy, pinto, etc., dried red chili peppers, chili powders such as cayenne pepper, cumin, and cilantro, chili recipes, a long handle ladle and chili pepper designed oven mitts and apron to match.


For BBQ enthusiasts: use an apron with pockets and stuff the pockets with marinade recipes, BBQ sauce, BBQ tools, packages of meat tenderizer, skewers and perhaps a gift certificate for the local butcher.


I wrote several issues ago about putting homemade jarred gifts in baskets. I purchased lots of nice baskets for my jarred gifts at second-hand stores. I brought them home and rinsed them in soapy water and laid them on big bath towels to dry. Then I painted them with spray paint in colors to match the kitchens or bathrooms of the recipients, depending upon what I was filling them with. For kitchen gifts, I picked up tea towels on sale; for the bath, fingertip towels on sale; and used these as liners. I also tied a cute bow around the handle with printed fabric ribbon in colors to coordinate with the baskets. For kitchen baskets, I put some artificial fruit or veggies in the bow. For the baths, I used a sprig of silk flowers. Once the baskets were painted, decorated and filled, no one ever would have guessed they were recycled.


The Christmas Fairy/Angel

The fairy at the top of the Christmas tree was originally a little figure of the baby Jesus. In late seventeenth century Germany this became a shining angel. Windsor Castle's Christmas trees were topped by a large angel.

In Victorian Britain, little girls would take the angel down after Christmas and dress him in dolls' clothes. Eventually the angel turned into a thoroughly female fairy, complete with wand.

The transformation was boosted by the pantomimes that became popular in the Victorian era - and, naturally, included a good fairy in the cast.



The Christmas Tree

People often wonder where the custom of having a tree in the home during Christmas time comes from. We will probably never know for sure. But there are many historical clues that point out where this custom came from.

Thousands or years ago, there were people who believed that evergreen trees were magical. Even in winter, when all the other trees and were brown and bare, the evergreen tree stayed strong and green. People saw the evergreen as a symbol of life and as a sure sign that sunshine and spring would soon return. Candles, or the electric lights we use to decorate our trees today, are also an ancient symbol. They represent the light of spring overcoming the darkness of winter.

So when did the Christmas tree go indoors? Legend has it that the tradition was begun by Martin Luther in Germany. He was a monk and church reformer who lived from 1483 to 1546. According to the legend, Luther was returning home one wintry night when he saw the stars twinkling in the sky through the tree branches. Luther was amazed by the sight, and when he arrived home, he was eager to tell his family about it. To help them understand, he went to the woods and cut down a small fir tree. Luther brought it indoors and decorated it with candles, which represented the stars he had seen. 

The custom spread in Germany, and from there all over the world. In England, the Christmas tree first appeared when Queen Victoria married Albert, a German Prince. In 1841, Albert set up a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle near London to remind him of his homeland. The Christmas tree custom was brought to the United States by people from England as well as by many German immigrants who came in the 1800's. Whatever its origin, the Christmas tree is a beautiful symbol for everyone who celebrates Christmas.

 



THE PINE 
TREE LEGEND 


The pine was mortal, once, like other trees 
That lift their boughs in the air, 
Wearing in summer its green fripperies. 
In winter going bare 

And desolate of birds. 
But that was in an old, forgotten age 
Before the words 
Of Wise Men stung King Herod to such rage 

That his loud armies went 
About the land to slay the Innocent. 
Then there was consternation and no joy 
In Israel. Joseph and Mary, Flying 
Into another country with the Boy 
Came when the day was dying, 
Houseless to the edge of a green wood 
Where valorously stood 
A needled pine that every summer gave 
Small birds a nest. 
And half its trunk was hollow as a cave. 
Said Joseph, "This is refuge. Let us rest." 
The pine tree, full of pity, dropped its vast 
Protective branches down 
To cover them until the troops rode past, 
Their weapons jingling, toward a different town. 
All night it hid them. When the morning broke, 
The Child awoke 
And blessed the pine, His steadfast lodging place. 
"Let you and your brave race, 
Who made yourself My rampart and My screen 
Keep summer always and be ever green. 
For you the punctual seasons shall not vary, 
But let there throng 
A thousand birds to you for sanctuary 
All winter long." 
The story tells us, too, 
That if you cut a pine cone part way through, 
You find it bears within it like a brand 
The imprint of His hand. 

 

 

Are poinsettias poisonous? 

For years we were warned that poinsettias those beautiful red and pink flowering plants we display at Christmastime were poisonous. Parents magazines, medical books and guides, and even doctors and veterinarians cautioned us to keep the beautiful plants out of the reach of children and pets for fear that they might nibble on the flowers or the leaves which were believed to be toxic. 

In fact, some books still indicate poinsettias are poisonous. Thanks to more recent testing, however, it is no longer necessary to keep your beautiful poinsettia plants on high shelves and out of reach. The long-standing belief that poinsettias were poisonous has finally been proven to be nothing more than a myth a false alarm. 

According to a source at the Poison Control Center in Madison, Wisconsin, most of the fear originated from the death of one child in Hawaii in 1918 who was believed to have eaten a poinsettia plant. 

However, experts are no longer sure this death really had anything to do with the ornamental plant. In fact, a research study conducted at Ohio State University in more recent years reveals that poinsettias are not truly poisonous at all. The study conclusively proved that all parts of the plant are non-toxic. 

Today the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, DC and poison control centers across the country list the poinsettia as a non-poisonous plant. According to the Madison Poison Control Center, a 50-pound child would need to  ingest 500-600 poinsettia leaves to suffer ill effects of any significance which is highly unlikely to occur. 

Of course, minor gastrointestinal upset may occur if a child or pet consumes the leaves, as with the consumption of any non-food product, but the plant is not a deadly poison as previously thought and will not kill a child or animal. 

In the worst-case scenario, the child or pet could have an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea all treatable using over-the-counter products. 

This was further confirmed when the  Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Melon University conducted a study of almost 23,000 poinsettia exposures reported to poison control centers across the country and found that none presented evidence of actual toxicity. 

Playing with the leaves could cause local minor skin irritation in humans, and children who play with the leaves and then rub their eyes could experience redness and irritation of the eyes. To prevent further irritation, eyes should be rinsed with lukewarm water for 10-15 minutes, and hands or body parts irritated by the plant should be washed well with soap and water. 

However, ingesting poinsettias is not shown to cause several stomach upset, convulsions, or other symptoms requiring emergency care. 

Probably the greatest threat the plants pose is the potential to obstruct a child or pet's airway, causing choking. 

This holiday season, everyone can sit back and enjoy the beauty of poinsettia plants without a worry. Caution should be exercised with other ornamental holiday plants and even some normal houseplants, however. 

Just because the poinsettia has been "cleared" doesn't mean all other plants are just as safe. Various parts of some plants including holly, mistletoe, English ivy, azaleas, rhododendrons, philodendron, and others can cause severe reactions and may be fatal. If in doubt, check it out. Better to be safe than sorry! 

~  Tina L. Miller ~

 

Chocolate-Covered Cherries

[EDITORS' NOTE: This Christmas letter was sent to friends and family along with a box of chocolate-covered cherries.]

What a terrible way to spend Christmas! My oldest son, Cameron, had been diagnosed with acute myleoblastic leukemia on June 30, 1997. After a harrowing ride in a military helicopter to Walter Reed Hospital, three rounds of horrendous chemotherapy, an excruciating lung resection and a disappointing bone marrow search, now here we were...at Duke University Hospital. Cameron had a cord blood transplant, a last-ditch effort to save his life, on December 4. Now, here it was...Christmas Eve.

A very small room on ward 9200 was a different place to spend Christmas. We had always spent weeks baking cookies. Now the cookies were sent from family and friends because I wanted to spend my time with Cameron, trying to ease the long, tedious hours. He had been in isolation for weeks because he had no immune system, the result of even more chemotherapy and drugs that would hopefully make his new bone marrow engraft. As some presents had arrived in 
the mail, we opened them immediately...anything to make a bright moment...here or there.

Christmas Eve, 6:00 p.m., was always the magic hour. The time when my family, in Iowa...Wisconsin...California ...or Washington, D.C....all opened our presents at the same time, somehow bringing the family together, even though apart. Cameron's father, stepmother, sister and brother would also be opening presents at their house in Fayetteville, North Carolina. This Christmas, it would 
just be Cameron and me in the small room with few decorations, since they weren't allowed in the sterile environment.

With the drone of the HEPA filter and the beeping of his six infusion pumps hooked to a catheter in his heart, Cameron waited until 6:00 p.m. exactly. He insisted we follow this small tradition, some semblance of normalcy abandoned six months earlier. I gave him a few presents I had saved, his favorite being a Hug Me Elmo that said "I love you" when you squeezed him. It was over too quickly. 

Christmas was over. Or so I thought.

Cameron carefully reached over the side of his hospital bed and handed me a small green box. It was wrapped beautifully, obviously by a gift store -- perfect 
edges, a folded piece of ribbon held down with a gold embossed sticker. Surprised, I said, "For me?"

"Of course. It wouldn't be Christmas unless you had something to unwrap from me," he replied.

I was almost speechless. "But how did you get this? Did you ask a nurse to run down to the gift store?"

Cameron leaned back in his bed, and gave me this most devilish smile. "Nope. Yesterday, when you went home for a few hours to take a shower, I sneaked downstairs."

"Cameron! You aren't supposed to leave the floor. You know you are neutropenic. They let you leave the ward?"

"Nope!" His smile was even bigger now. "They weren't looking. I just walked out."

This was no small feat, because Cameron had grown weaker after the cord blood transplant. He could barely walk, and certainly not unassisted. It took every ounce of strength just to cruise the small ward halls, pushing the heavy medication and pain pump IV pole. How could he possibly have made it nine floors to the gift store? 

"Don't worry, Mom. I wore my mask, and I used the cane. Man, they gave me hell when I got back. I didn't get to sneak back in; they had been looking for me."

I held the box even tighter now. I couldn't look up. I had already started to cry. "Open it! It's not much, but it wouldn't be Christmas if you didn't have something 
from me to open."

I opened the box of gift-store-wrapped chocolate-covered cherries. "They are your favorite, right?" he asked hopefully.

I finally looked at my poor eighteen-year-old baby, who had begun all this suffering so soon after high school graduation and who taught me so much about what being a family really meant. "Oh...absolutely my favorite!"

Cameron chuckled a little bit. "See, we still have our traditions, even in here."

"Cameron, this is the best present I've ever received, ever," I told him, and I meant every word. "Let's start a new tradition. Every Christmas, let's only give each other a box of chocolate-covered cherries, and we'll reminisce about how we spent Christmas 1997 at Duke University Hospital, battling leukemia, and we'll remember how horrible all of it was and how glad we are that it is finally over." And we made that pact right then and there, sharing the box of chocolate-covered cherries. What a wonderful way to spend Christmas!

Cameron died on March 4, 1998, after two unsuccessful cord blood transplants. He was so brave -- never giving in, never giving up. This will be my first Christmas without him. The first Christmas without something from him to unwrap.

This is my gift to you. A box of chocolate-covered cherries, and when you open it I hope it will remind you what the holidays are really about: being with your friends and family, recreating traditions, maybe starting some new ones, but most of all, love.

What a beautiful way to spend Christmas.

By Dawn Holt, Reprinted by permission of Dawn Holt (c) 1998, from 
Chicken 
Soup for the Soul Christmas Treasury by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor 
Hansen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Holidays from Spike & Jamie


 


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