"How did you know?" I asked my Aunt Mimi as I unwrapped Malibu Barbie. We were celebrating my birthday and she had come all the way from Orlando, Florida to see me. Everyone in the room smiled. They all knew I loved Barbies.
Then came my favorite foods for dinner: fried chicken, macaroni-n-cheese, and fresh green beans. Best of all, there was an ice cream cake for dessert.
As I crawled into bed that night, I couldn't stop smiling. It had been a perfect birthday. My parents, my sister, my friends, and my family had made me feel special and loved. The day had been all about me!
I love birthdays, especially recreating for others the magical days my mother and father created for me growing up. I enjoy fixing favorite dishes, buying special gifts, and planning special moments that are exactly what the birthday boy or girl wants.
So, as we approach Christmas again this year, I want to keep in mind that Christmas is a birthday. Not just any birthday; Christmas is a King's birthday.
In the Netherlands, King's Day, celebrated on King Willem-Alexander's birthday, is a national holiday. Most stores close down and people celebrate. There are parties, parades, concerts, and all kinds of festivities. The king and his family join the people in their celebrating. Since the king is a member of the House of Orange, everyone wears orange and waves orange flags. Some people even wear orange wigs.
In the United Kingdom, the Queen's Official Birthday is celebrated the second Saturday in June. Until 1936, it was celebrated on the reigning king or queen's official birthday, but when George V died, it was decided to make the official celebration the second Saturday in June. Her majesty's birthday is celebrated with a parade, gun salutes, and a host of festivities. Queen Elizabeth walks around outside of the palace greeting well-wishes. She and her entire family also appear on the balcony at Buckingham Palace and the Royal Air Force flies overhead.
In the Netherlands and England, the people want their monarch to know they are loved, admired, appreciated, and celebrated. It's a lovely time to be had by all.
With that in mind, let's celebrate Christmas as a birthday! Here are some ways to keep the birthday person JESUS in mind as we plan celebrations that He enjoys and show him adoration and honor.
In Denmark, they have a tradition of holding hands and dancing around the Christmas tree while they sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve.
What are carols?
Well, the English word "carol" comes from the Greek word "choros" translated "dancing in a circle" and the French word "carole" translated "a song to accompany dancing."
Christmas carols are songs about Jesus and the time of his birth. Sometimes they are sung while dancing or walking.
In England, carolers would go from house to house singing carols to neighbors and friends. Some carolers sang on the street corners.
In the Curtis house, we have a tradition of caroling each December some time the week before Christmas. We carol through our neighborhood, singing one or two songs at each house. Sometimes we carol alone and sometimes friends join us. It is a special time each year.
Afterward, we come home and eat cookies and drink hot chocolate. Occasionally, we invite neighbors to come back and join us.
Would you like to try caroling in your house?
Tips to Make Caroling Easy & Fun
Everyone has their special Christmas traditions. We do lots of baking at Christmas time, even washing off the dusty rolling pin to make cut-out sugar cookies.
With the cupcake craze, we decided to add a new tradition: Christmas cupcakes!
Cupcakes are so easy to make, easy to decorate, and easy to serve.
We like to make decorating the cupcakes festive, so we use tubes of frosting to try all kinds of fancy touches and then use sprinkles or colored sugar. You can also go simple with the frosting and make little faces or designs on the cupcake tops with candies.
Start with 1-2 dozen baked cupcakes in paper liners.
Pass out one cupcake per child. Give them frosting and decorations.
When they are finished with one cupcake, they can make another one.
Finished cupcakes go on another platter.
Christmas cupcakes make a lovely addition to any Christmas buffet, a special dessert after Sunday dinner, or a festive treat at a Birthday Party for Jesus.
he holidays are here once again and it's time to attend parties, plays, cookie swaps, and decorate the Christmas tree.
What will you wear?
Should you buy something new?
I go shopping every year for a new holiday look. Where do I shop? In my closet!
Each season brings new trends and, best of all, old styles come back in style. I love that!
The fur-collared shirt that seems so dated the rest of the year can seem festive at the holidays.
Adding a touch of sparkle, pairing red and green together in a new way, or throwing a red jacket over a pair of jeans and T-shirt goes a long way in looking festive this season.
In the picture I have on a loose white blouse and black slack, a normal everyday outfit, but once I add the Christmas vest--tada! I have a Christmas outfit.
Adding gold and silver shoes, jewelry or scarves can also perk up an ordinary outfit during the holiday season.
Anything furry, fuzzy, velvet, sparkly, sequined, glittery, or shiny looks festive. Plaids, especially predominately green or red plaids, always say "Christmas."
Somewhere in your closet, there are treasures waiting for you to find them. Then you can mix and match them with clothes you wear everyday to create a brand new holiday look.
Mix Red & Green
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and to be honest, by the time it arrives, I will already be decorating for Christmas. Yes, I go all out for Christmas, but I don't completely forget decorating for Thanksgiving.
I mainly focus on decorating the table for Thanksgiving dinner.
Years ago, I made my mother a very long Thanksgiving tablecloth and with the same fabric, I made myself some napkins with my serger.
I have now inherited the tablecloth which matches my napkins. This makes our table festive when it's my turn to host the holiday meal.
I put a cornucopia in the center with gourds and fall leaves. Or I use a basket of pine cones, gourds, and fall leaves. Another idea is a flower arrangement in yellows, reds, and oranges.
That is super-simple, but definitely gives us the Thanksgiving feel.
Sometimes the children and I do Thanksgiving crafts like a thankful tree or making our own Thanksgiving placemats. Oops I almost forgot the pine cone turkey crafts. All of these make cute additions to the table.
Here are some ideas for decorating from our house to your house.
The Puritans wanted to purify their nation's church, the Anglican Church, or Church of England.
To the Puritans of the 17th Century, the new Church of England was too much like the Roman Catholic Church they had broken away from during the Reformation. They also saw corruption in the leadership and immoral living. To the Puritans, obedience to the Lord Jesus was the most important thing. Their ideas of freedom would fuel the independent spirit and love of liberty in America.
John Winthrop (1588-1649), a devoted Puritan, left England in 1630 to create a godly commonwealth in the New World. John had a beautiful vision of a colony completely centered around Jesus and His Word, a City on a Hill.
A wealthy Puritan lawyer, he was creative in his financing and founding of the colony. First of all, the New England Company was granted land between the Charles and Merrimack Rivers. A year later, this company received a royal charter and a name change: Massachusetts Bay Company. The group of Puritans who were moving to the New World became stockholders and bought up all the stock. You had to be going to the New World to own stock. So the Massachusetts Bay Colony was the only colony in the New World that was not subject to a board of trustees or governors back in England. Isn’t that neat? In 1630, John led a group of settlers to the mouth of the Charles River—Boston was born!
Before boarding the ships, Puritan Pastor John Cotton preached to the departing folks. His sermon, "God's Promise to His Plantation," urged the departing Puritans to be a shining light in the New World, preach the Gospel to the Native Americans, obey the Lord, make the Lord their strong tower, and enjoy the blessings of God who has sovereignly led them to settle in a new land.
Eleven ships sailed from England with their flagship Arabella in the lead. These ships carried almost 1,000 Puritans along with livestock, possessions, supplies, and food.
What Puritans Believed
Celebrations always seem to include good food, sweet drinks, singing, and dancing!
One way to celebrate is to throw a party.
Throwing a party can be intimidating. Don’t worry, though. They key is planning. The planning process involves asking and answering lots of questions.
Answering these questions helps you think through what you are hoping to see happen at your party.
Are you ready?
Party Planning Begins with Basic Questions
Why are we having this party?
What are we celebrating?
What is the occasion?
This might be your son’s graduation from high school, your husband’s fortieth birthday, or Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection!
When? Where? When?
Next, we decide the date, time, and location!
Choose where the party will be and when. Will it be at your house? Is there enough room at your house?
Who or What is the Party For?
Is There a Guest of Honor?
A special occasion such as a wedding, graduation, or birthday will have a guest of honor. A seasonal party usually will not.
If there is a guest of honor, let him/her play a large role in deciding the menu, theme, decorations, and guest lists. If it is a surprise, try to keep the guest of honor’s likes and dislikes in mind.
Theme & Decorations
What will the theme be?
How will we decorate?
When my friend, Sarah, had her twenty-first birthday, she had a 1950’s Party complete with root beer floats, malted milk shakes, and cheeseburgers. We all dressed up and it looked like the cast of the old television show, Happy Days, had invaded my house.
Choose a theme or at least a color scheme right at the beginning. We have used Western themes (cowboy hats, rope, bandanas, cowboy songs), Hawaiian (pineapples, coconuts, tropical isle décor, island music), Mexican (sombrero, Mexican flags, music), and Teddy Bears (with teddy bears EVERYWHERE!).
Different holidays and seasons bring their own themes and colors. Christmas colors are red and green or burgundy and dark green. Easter colors are lavender, mint green, yellow, soft pink, and powder blue. St. Valentine’s Day colors are reds and pinks with lots of hearts, lace, and roses. Thanksgiving colors are orange, brown, dark greens, gold, and beige.
So many events on your calendar this holiday season.
What should you wear?
One thing I like to do is to look inside my closet with new eyes. Can I mix a shiny top, pretty blazer, and a comfortable pair of jeans to make a new outfit? Can I add a scarf to a dress or shirt with slacks to create festive attire?
Here are some great ideas for different holiday events. The key is to use these ideas as a springboard to create your own outfits with a festive flair. Sparkly earrings and chunky jewelry can add a whole new look.
Even adding a pair of holiday shoes can add some sparkle.
Have fun dressing up for the holidays!
Thanksgiving at Grandpa's
Decorating the Christmas Tree
The pilgrims gave us Thanksgiving and the Mayflower Compact. That in itself is enough, but they also modeled for us courage to stand on our convictions, no matter the price. Risking life and limb, they traveled to the New World and, as they say, the rest is history. Did you know that the pilgrims on the Mayflower were actually a local church from Scrooby, England?
I am writing this in November with Thanksgiving right around the corner. Planning Thanksgiving menus, trying out some new recipes, and pulling out the special Thanksgiving tablecloth are all things that will happen this week. It's the time of year where everyone talks about pilgrims.
Most people don't even know who the pilgrims are and some people think that know who they are, but have their facts confused.
I thought it would be fun to talk about the pilgrims today. Maybe you have never heard their whole story. I hope I will whet your appetite today to learn more about the pilgrims.
In 1517, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the Whittenburg Door, the truth of salvation by grace through faith, not works, was rediscovered. The Reformation had begun! These old truths spread like wildfire through northern Europe and made their way to England. As some people studied the Word of God now available to read in English, they felt conviction to worship God in a more simple way, to elect their church leaders, and to live a simple, pure life. This group of people were know as Separatists because they felt they could not worship in the Church of England because of the pomp, ceremony, and fallen lifestyle of some of the church leaders and members so they separated. They formed their own congregation, meeting in Scrooby Manor, the home of William Brewster.
Hiding Out in Sherwood Forest Like Robin Hood
My dear friend Aisha just got married and had a lovely ceremony and reception.
We had a blast dancing, eating good food, and celebrating their new life together.
In another blog, I'll tell you all about the wedding, but in this one, I just want to tell you about the decorations.
The lovely Shabby Chic decorations were created and set up by my young friend Marielle. At 17, she is already a gift artist and creative decorator. She turned attic and thrift store finds into lovely treasure that were a delight to my eyes.
I am so impressed with Marielle's work that I have to share these decorations with you so that you can do them for your own or a loved one's wedding.
I hope these beautiful wedding decorations will inspire you to seek out treasure in your attics or nearby thrift store and come up with some just-as-amazing wedding decor as Marielle did.
Temperatures dropping, leaves showing off their beautiful hues, and watching football games means that fall is here. Here in Florida, we just pretend it's fall because, well, we are still wearing flip-flops and shorts. But we can dream.
Fall is a great time to celebrate! Here are some fun, easy, and frugal ways to celebrate the season. Some are completely free!
1. Rake a Pile of Leaves and Jump into Them
Fall means raking leaves, but who says you can't have fun, too. Rake the leaves into a big pile and then take turns jumping in. This sounds like a great photo-op.
2. Decorate the House for Fall
Even here in Florida, we can sprinkle autumn leaves (from Michaels(r) ) on tabletops. A basket shaped like a horn of plenty filled with gourds is always festive in the fall. Of course sitting a fabric scarecrow on a bale of hay and a large pumpkin on the stoop just says "Happy Fall" to the whole neighborhood.
3. Drive Around to See the Pretty Autumn Leaves
Just like you drive around neighborhoods to see all the twinkly Christmas lights, drive around to see all the pretty colors of fall.
As a young homeschool mom back in the early 1990s, I read a book on how to create your own unit studies by Valerie Bendt. I was so excited, but I was too nervous to use unit studies for the whole year.
Light-bulb moment! What about starting with Christmas unit studies? I liked that idea and for several years we did "normal school" all year except December.
What fun we had in December. We celebrated Christmas in Colonial America one year reading lovely stories, making berry ink, writing with feather pens, trying out recipes from Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, playing "Made for Trade," and writing little stories set in the American colonies. Since hospitality was important in Colonials Days, we studied hospitality for our devotions.
We also learned to decorate and set the table Colonial style: symmetrical with pewter, silver, pineapples, greenery, and formality. We ended our studies with a colonial tea where the girls had all their colonial crafts on display. Their friends loved the tussie-musssie, wooden fans, and dolls. Of course, we had to dress up. We gave little booklets to family members for Christmas that year with their stories, poems, and colonial drawings.
That year led to more years. One year was cookies with picture books about cookies and Christmas. Of course, we made several kinds of cookies to freeze and later give away. We also made cookie mixes in jars to give as gifts. We had so much fun baking together and our studies included making gift tags, wrapping up plates of cookies festively, and delivering gifts to family and friends.
More Christmas Unit Studies
"Are you going to cancel the Beach Bash," Julianna asked me again.
"I guess I have to. The weather is supposed to be horrible all week," I replied. I consider any kind of weather where the sun isn't shining brightly horrible.
"It's supposed to be 80% chance of rain at New Smyrna Saturday," she informed me.
I have gone to the beach on the Saturday closest to my birthday every year for the last 18 years. I love the beach and it is so relaxing to be surrounded by my family and friends, hear the waves pound the shore, walk, and talk. It is a highlight of my year.
Unfortunately, this year, May was unseasonably rainy! I decided that I would just have people over for cake, ice cream, and games. We could play Headbanz, my favorite game!
Julianna, knowing I was disappointed, texted our friend Laura who shot back ten texts. She was full of ideas and hurried off to the party store where she bought a plastic palm tree and parrot, as well as other Luau decorations.
When I came home from a book sale Saturday morning, the house had been transformed into a tropical paradise with shells, bright colors, and Luau decor. A slide show of photographs was playing beach music from the Beach Boys. The menu was tropical. Julianna made pina colada smoothies for everyone.
I was delighted! We had a blast visiting and playing games.
Micah, who is fascinated with anything related to firemen and firetrucks, turned 5 recently.
Naturally, his parents had a firefighter-themed birthday party.
A red tablecloth with fighter-fighter toys like a plastic firetruck and ax heralded the theme for all the visitors.
The simple snacks and drinks were under a large tree on top of a firefighter-themed tablecloth. Games adhered to the theme, too.
My husband and I enjoyed the party. We chatted with friends and watched the children laugh and play. As the little ones arrived, their eyes brightened with delight as they saw the decorations. They got so excited as they played the games together.
I was so impressed with Micah's fireman party that I just had to tell you all about it and how Sarah did it at such a low cost.
Theme & Decorations & Food
I attended an engagement party this weekend and was excited to discover they had a cupcake bar.
You can see how pretty the display was in the photo. There were little flags in the frosting bowls and paper topping dishes to inform guests what they were looking at.
Guests could choose from vanilla or chocolate cupcakes, just plain cupcakes.
The next step was to choose chocolate or vanilla frosting for your cupcake. If you are having your own cupcake bar, you could also use decorator bags of icing so you could pipe the frosting on fancy.
Once your cupcake was frosted, it was time for the goodies to decorate. You had a choice of ten different toppings.