Do you like cozy mysteries?
Do you have a kindle?
Legend of the Candy Cane Murder is FREE for your Kindle from December 21-December 25, 2018.
This is our Christmas present to you! We hope you will enjoy this Christmas cozy mystery.
Homeschool mom Maggie King is reading one of her favorite Christmas books to her Sunday school class when a boy confesses to killing his mother. Though everyone else writes it off, Maggie thinks something mysterious is going on and is proved right when she stumbles across a dead body. Her investigation leads her to investigate a beautiful model, a con artist, and a prestigious family surrounded by mystery. Did I mention the FBI? All this takes place as the King and Martinelli family are getting ready for Christmas. Will this be a picture-perfect holiday? Only if they figure out who the murderer is. Can you figure out who the murderer is before they do?
You can download your FREE copy of Legend of the Candy Cane Murder. Legend of the Candy Cane Murder is #6 in the Maggie King Mystery series.
"Happy Birthday, dear Jesus, Happy Birthday to You," the children sang enthusiastically. We had played Pin-the-Tail on Mary's Donkey and taken turns trying to break the pinata with a stick.
We have had birthday parties for Jesus as long as I can remember.
When the children were little we invited a few of their friends over and then went to town decorating the house with red and green streamers. We ordered a birthday cake from Sam's and used red and green plates and napkins. We always hung a pinata from the big tree in the front yard and made sure we had a blindfold for everyone who wanted to take a turn whacking it. After playing party games with Christmasy names, we sang happy birthday to Jesus and blew out the candles together.
Now candles were a big deal. There's no way to put 2,000 or so candles on a cake, but we did fit on as many as we could. After all, Jesus IS the Light of the World.
As my children grew up, we started having a Christmas party for Jesus at church each year. We continued the tradition of the games, but exchanged the pinata for ornament making. After all, it's hard to hang a pinata inside a church.
The Christmas Story
They are kind of cheesy and we can predict the endings, so why do we love Hallmark Christmas movies so much?
While each movie is different, there are common themes that we enjoy.
Each movie takes place in a small town where the people are friendly and kind, caring for one another. Most people even have good manners. The small towns are enchanting and make you wish you could live there.
Good people have strong morals and loving hearts. Bad people can change and often do as a result of loving relationships or a wake-up call.
Family members genuinely love one another sacrificially, or will before the end of the movie.
The hero is a genuinely good guy who cares deeply for the heroine and is trustworthy. There is a romantic sparkle that is endearing. The couple want the best for one another. Most of the romances are pure with a passionate kiss as far as it gets.
Christmas is seen as magical and highly worth celebrating. The "spirit of Christmas" is viewed as intangible and valuable.
A Hallmark Christmas movie is satisfying. It gives us the change to relax and escape from the pressures of life, to be lost in the story.
So why do all these things mean so much to us?
Well, it's because without realizing it, we are created to crave these things, well actually very similar things. Let me explain.
Our Real Desires
Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women from Zondervan would make a great gift for any Christian girl on your list. These devotions for young women will help them grow in their faith and learn the truth about what Christianity teaches about womanhood.
As the mother of four daughters, I am concerned that young women know what God created them to be and how to walk in all He has for them. I don't want them to embrace the world's ways, but I don't want them to live beneath their potential.
I believe God loves women! I believe that the call on our lives to glorify God as women is just as important as God's call to men and that if we fail to embrace it, the world be suffer and ache.
This devotional book speaks to the heart of young women to commend them, inspire them, and urge them to live lives worthy of the calling they have received from Jesus.
My daughter and I each went through the devotional on our own. I started at the beginning and she started in the middle of the book. One day at a time, we made our way through the book. After a few weeks, we sat down to talk about it. We agreed it would be a wonderful gift for a new believer, as well as a teenager.
Each devotion starts with a verse followed by an inspirational application of the verse to daily life. There are a few lines at the bottom for journaling.
One of my favorite days was Day 18. The verse was Genesis 7:7: "And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood." The devotion goes on to ask whether we ever feel like we're drowning or overwhelmed with life's pressures. Yes! my heart cried out. I can feel that way. The devotion went on to call us to the shelter and safety of Jesus. Yes! my heart cried out again.
Yes, this book is written for young women ages 13 to 18, but as all of us (who are all over 18 and me by quite a lot) found out: this book works for women of any age. There are timeless truths that minister to those issues that hit us at every age and season in life.
Every magazine's December issue has a gingerbread house that looks beautiful and delicious. Little candies are transformed into roof shingles, trees, windows, doors, and sidewalks on snow of frosting. My heart always thrills at the sight of these photographs.
"How hard can it be?" I used to wonder.
After years of gingerbread housing with very young children who have no idea how inept I am at this, I can safely answer my own question: "Very hard!"
It all started back in the early 2000s when my friend Laura would go Christmas shopping at the last possible minute. It totally stressed me out to think about it, especially since I had all my shopping done by Thanksgiving. Laura loved it, stuffing cash into her pockets and socks. Her kiddos stayed with me and I decided to do something fun that my children and her children would love.
A gingerbread house!
So, I bought a simple kit from the nearest department store and we made our first gingerbread house.
That first year I learned the following:
The following gingerbread houses were not made by me. I'm too embarrassed to show you mine.
Brown-eyed Susans, sugar cookie rolls, and butter cookies with cherries in the middle were favorites I made with my mother. We rolled out dough and cut out different shapes, sprinkling them with sugar. My grandmother's specialties were snickerdoodles, haystacks, and lace cookies.
I loved those cookie baking days with Mom and Grandma. I can still remember the wonderful smells and the delightful conversation. The memories are so precious to me.
Of course, I have carried on the traditions of baking cookies with my own children.
We have our own favorites: snowballs, gingerbread men, toffee bars, pecan tassies, and molasses cookies. Of course, we still make my mom and grandmom's cookies too.
Like in days of old, we roll out the dough and cut out all kinds of shapes. And as I pull out Mom's old cookie cutters, there is always a stray tear or two.
We love to make cookies and package them to give as gifts, but our first batch of Christmas cookies is always made the day we decorate the Christmas tree.
Here are some things I've learned to make cookie baking fun and festive:
Now, where did the tradition of baking cookies at Christmas come from?
When Did the Christmas Cookie Tradition Start?
"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