Walking to Bethlehem

Today it was very cold. The sky was gray, gun-metal gray.
Did we really want to leave the warmth of home and venture out.
Did we really want to Walk to Bethlehem?
The answer was a simple yes. And so our journey began.
A simple country woman handed us a few shekels to do with as we please.
With a song in our hearts and a hymn on our lips, may we all Walk to Bethlehem.
In Bethlehem, in Israel, this blessed Babe was born,
And laid within a manger upon this blessed morn.
From God our Heavenly Father, a blessed angel came;
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;
how that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.
Loving shepherd of Thy sheep, keep Thy lamb, in safety keep;
Nothing can Thy power withstand, none can pluck me from Thy hand.
They looked up and saw a star,
Shining in the East beyond them far;
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued day and night.
This star drew night to the northwest;
o'er Bethlehem it took its rest,
And there it did both stop and stay,
Right o'er the place where Jesus lay.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
close by me forever and love me I pray.
bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And take us to heaven to live with Thee there.
O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fear of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
Look at the world, everything all around us;
Look at the world, and marvel every day.
Look at the world; so many joys and wonders,
So many miracles along our way
Look at the earth bringing forth fruit and flower;
Look at the sky, the sunshine and the rain;
Look at the hills, look at the trees and mountains,
Valley and flowing river, field and plain.
Think of the spring, think of the warmth of summer
Bringing the harvest before the winter's cold.
Everything grows, everything has a season,
till it is gathered to the Father's fold.
Every good gift, all that we need and cherish
comes from the Lord in token of His love;
We are His hands, stewards of all His bounty His is the earth,
and His the heavens above. Praise to thee, O Lord, for all creation,
Give us thankful hearts, that we may see;
All the gifts we share, and every blessing,
All things come of Thee.
The Cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
and all for Thy mercy's sake.
O divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious unto you;
the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you
and give you peace.

Santa Lucia

Lucia, Child of Light, Sweden's beautiful Christmas tide celebration.
Santa Lucia Day holds for our family a true place in our hearts and family traditions. Grandmother Mimi Sorensen's ancestors came from Sweden. And perhaps that is one reason why this special day is loved by our family. Celebrated in Sweden on December 13th (and in many homes around the worl,) this is a day of honor and remembrance of a young woman, who was said to be born 300 years after the death of Jesus Christ. It is a story of truth, legend and mystery.
For our family, it provides us an unique opportunity to create our own family tradition.
Early in the morning mom would awaken Mindy, dress her in a long white dress with a red sash. On her head was placed a wreath of candles. Real candles were used until melted wax was a bit of nuisance. Carrying a tray of buns, our Santa Lucia would awaken her brothers and sisters. They would put on their cone shaped hats decorated with stars, paint and glitter and wear pastel colored gowns. Each was given a lit candle to care over.
This was a MAGICAL moment.
Mindy would lead the little blurry-eyed troup about the upstairs hall into dad's bedroom. Sweet voices singing, each would hold a candle and hoping that wax wouldn't drip onto their fingers, they sang their daddy awake.
Dad would wake up to the surprise and join them.
The Second Magical Moment
Slowly, carefully, our little family would wind through our festively decorated home, which for some strange reason was lit only with candles and soft Christmas lights that gave off halos.
Before each of our lovely Christmas decorations: the creche holding baby Jesus, the dancing music boxes, the hand painted wooden crate that held Advent surprises, the fireplace with its faux manger scene complete with baby Jesus laying on real straw, the Swedish goat and tomptes, and the dining room table set with blue and white china, and dishes of delectable foods, by each of these lovely areas we would sing a joyful Christmas carol.
We SANG our way through our Magical Home
...and we hoped nothing would become singed!
Our Santa Lucia Celebration was culminated with a wonderful breakfast of sausage, bacon and Swedish Oven pancakes.
For many years the tradition stayed the same. But the years pass and traditions are adapted to different situations. Matthew and Christopher both enjoyed celebrating Santa Lucia Day with their companions while serving their missions. I recall one special occasion when we first moved to Gaithersburg. Ashley dressed up and wore, our now electrical, crown of candles, and went to the Hemmings to sing and bring gifts.
Through the years we have had close friends; the Smiths and the Hemmings, who also celebrated Santa Lucia Day.
But best of all, our family of five wonder-eyed children are now parents with their own families. And so the tradition goes on.
Baby Luke eager and ready to participate on Santa Lucia Day. He even has his own custom-made crown!
Happy Santa Lucia to you all!

The Whole Enchilada

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone. Howard and Sharon left their home in Havre de Grace at 4:00am, driving nine hours to Charlotte to share Thanksgiving with Molly and Hunter. HMMM good timing mom and dad, just in time for TURKEY dinner with all the good things that go with it. Our hosts were very smart to order a small turkey, for it was absolutely delicious, very tender and moist. Molly made the Furner's favorite sweet potatoes from the Susan Branch cookbook...way to go Molly. Well just look below and you will see just how yummy it all was. It was fun to dine in their formal dining room. A very sturdy table. Remember the Furner round oak table that always wobbled until diners grew seasick!! This table is sturdy! Then there is the dining room. You can actually walk around those seated, to take second or third helpings...no bumping into one another. Hmm and the room is flooded with sun light! This room is going to host many parties, that is for sure. Dessert was as good as the dinner. Howard went for the pumpkin pie, but the rest of us fought it out over the home made coconut cream and pecan pies! Oh, my goodness were they tasty. Later in the evening neighbors dropped by for dessert. Little Luke is all ready for the big turkey dinner, even has his monkey bib on. Okay, he will just have to wait one more year, he is on the milk-bandwagon for now! But he was a happy looker-on-er! Come along with us to the ballet, the Nutcracker Ballet!
Hunter and Molly live in charming Matthews, NC. This is a community that is truly supported by the residents. There is always something fun going on in Matthews. And tonight was no exception. The community building was hosting the Nutcracker Ballet. You feel the southern charm as soon as you open the doors. This fun mural greets you as you enter. And if you turn around........
Above one's head is this diorama all decorated for Christmas. The auditorium was on the second floor. And that is where we found many happy mommies, daddies, siblings and grammies and grandpops, all eagerily awaiting the Nutcracker! Probably most of the audience had a loved child performing, all but us, of course. But the day will soon come when Kayla might dance in the Nutcracker.
The magic of the Christmas tree and one child.
It is very special to enjoy the Nutcracker with Kayla, because there was a time, long long ago, when Kayla's mommy danced in the Nutcracker in Reno, Nevada. She was one of those adorable little roly-poly children who pop out of Madam Buffoon's billowing skirt. And dipping deeper into memories, all those years when we spent Christmas time in San Francisco and had the joy of seeing the San Francisco ballet perform the Nutcracker. This evening brought back so many memories.
And letting the magic settle on the night, we awoke the next morning to........
Celebrate Molly's birthday!
Happy Birthday Molly.
Mommies who are born at the end of Thanksgiving and the Commencement of Christmas, need to celebrate with balloons and a poinsettia plant. Mommy received both from a happy Kayla.
Sharon cooked a Moroccan dinner for Molly's birthday. She brought to Charlotte her amazing tajine cooking dish, to cook a spicy stew of lamb, dates, almonds, pistachios, and fragrant herbs! Israeli couscous and sweet oranges with onions and olives completed the meal. Dinner was served from the tajine dish and Molly's beautiful blue and white bowl she bought in Israel.
For dessert we had Sarah's sublime coconut flan. I can't make it as well as Sarah, but it is still a pretty yummy dessert.
Some close friends of Molly and Hunter dropped by for birthday cake. Hunter baked from scratch an amazing German Chocolate Cake with homemade coconut icing, yum yum! Being a perfectionist, the cake looked like it had come from a bakery. Their friends were very impressed to learn that he baked it! The cake was blazing from all the candles. Hmmm how old are you Molly?
We drove down to Charlotte to attend the Discovery Museum. It will soon be under long term renovation, so we were excited to go one more time. Being a school day it was brim full of excited students, bus loads full. We were just as excited!
We always go to the puppet theater when visiting the museum. Each visit there is a new show and this one was all about Icky the Alligator who got stranded at Christmas in the forest. All the little forest animals came out to shelter and feed Icky and eventually help him get back to his true home. A very proper Christmas story without using the word Christmas.
Kayla had fun with the clay animal, reptile creatures. She was a super cheerleader at the Rat Basketball game! We all enjoyed the Imax theater presentation on Greece. We all left wanting to visit in person this fascinating sun-drenched country, the seat of Democracy.
After all the fun at the Discovery Museum, we headed off to a popular southern cooking
restaurant. We were there for fried fish, fried potatoes, fried onion rings, fried hush puppies--FRY--the true mark of a southern dish. Hunter and Molly were more than excited to share this southern experience. We were so early we had to wait for them to open the restaurant!! Once seated we gobbled up the offered hush puppies....I wonder who was responsible each day for deep frying thousands of them..
Sharon was the only one to not have the fried flounder, the house speciality. Rather she opted for a Greek white fish with vegetables and grilled salmon. We all enjoyed our meal, the friendly service, the boisterous, home-spun people coming in, the slightly sweet, very crispy hush puppies and the southern ambience. This was a true Southern cooking. We were way too full for dessert. Another time.
We celebrated a Charlotte Christmas with Hunter, Molly, Kayla and Luke. We enjoyed a lovely dinner of roast chicken and yams. The excitement increased when we gathered for a Christmas story and song, culminating with the exchange of presents. It was so fun to watch Kayla open her gifts, then help her baby brother, Luke. This is when Christmas becomes Magical!
Sweet little Luke is our Peace Baby. Grammy painted him a special canvas filled with children
from around the world, all sharing a Magic Carpet. May he be a child who furthers the cause of Peace.
Kayla is a bit like these colorful butterflys dancing in the wind, she is bright, happy, sweet little girl who loves to flutter about. She is our content and happy child.