18 12, 2023

A Charles Dickens Christmas

By |2023-12-17T20:45:03-06:00December 18th, 2023|Holidays|0 Comments

These words are from an 1843 Christmas novella written by Charles Dickens. His Christmas short stories include: “The Chimes”, “Cricket on the Hearth,” “The Battle of Life,” “Haunted Man,” and his most read, “A Christmas Carol”

“A Christmas Carol” was by far the most popular having never been out of print. It’s also been adapted many times to film, stage, opera, and other media.

Dickens divided his novella into five chapters, labeled “staves” or song stanzas or verses, in keeping with the title of the book.

The short tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s strange night visitors continues to send a message that cuts through all the trappings of the season and straight into the heart and soul of the holiday.

Dickens defined Christmas as

“a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

This description became known as the “Carol Philosophy” and Dickens strove to live accordingly for the rest of his life.

Charles Dickens has probably had more influence on how we celebrate Christmas than any single individual in human history … except the One whose birth we celebrate.

Wouldn’t honoring Christmas by “opening shut-hearts and thinking of others as fellow sojourners on the same path” be an excellent way to celebrate this holiday season and begin the new year?

~~ This will be our last post for 2023. New blogs will begin again after the holiday season.


15 12, 2023

Ugly Christmas Sweater

By |2023-12-13T14:55:54-06:00December 15th, 2023|Friday on the Miller Farm, Holidays, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Our school is doing a dress-up theme every day this week. Thursday is ugly sweater day.

I have the perfect sweater. And it has a story. The story first appeared in my December 2014 blog.

Twenty-one (now thirty) years ago, my parents gave me a Christmas sweater. It was something they knew I would never buy for myself but would love.

They were right. I wore that sweater for many years starting with our daughter’s first Christmas. This very same daughter has borrowed the sweater not once but twice to enter her “tacky Christmas sweater” contests. This year she’s loaning it out.

I would be offended except for two years running, my sweater has won.

I think I deserve at least some kind of prize for having held on to that sweater long enough for college kids to think it is tacky.

I can’t wait to wear it on Thursday. I hope people are ready to hear the story. It is what makes the sweater the most interesting ugly sweater on earth!

~Read the original blog here:

11 12, 2023

What is an Advent Wreath?

By |2023-12-10T21:05:49-06:00December 11th, 2023|Holidays|0 Comments

Advent comes from adventus meaning “coming” or “visit” and includes the four Sundays before Christmas ending on Christmas Eve. Advent also serves as the beginning of the liturgical year for churches.

Modern-day Advent services feature a garland wreath with four or five candles.

The purple color symbolizes royalty, repentance, and fasting. Many churches are beginning to use blue candles in Advent wreaths. Why blue?

Blue symbolizes hopefulness. Using blue candles emphasizes the difference between Advent and Lent.

The Season of Advent anticipates both Bethlehem and the consummation of history in the second coming of Jesus Christ. That’s hopefulness whereas Lent’s purple emphasizes repentance with a mood of solemnity and somberness.

Traditional liturgical churches light the first candle of an Advent wreath on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, or the Sunday, which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24. Each candle has a specific significance.

1st CANDLE is the PROPHECY CANDLE or Candle of Hope. The prophets of the Old Testament foretold the Messiah’s arrival. Isiah 7:14

2nd CANDLE is the BETHLEHEM CANDLE or the Candle of Preparation. The prophet Micah foretold the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2

3rd CANDLE is the SHEPHERD CANDLE or Candle of Joy. Angels announced the Christ child’s arrival to shepherds. Luke 2:7-15

4TH CANDLE is the ANGEL’S CANDLE which signifies peace. The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace. Luke 2:10-11

5th CANDLE is the CHRIST CANDLE reminds us Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God and is lit on Christmas Day.

Lighting the candles of an Advent wreath in church or our home is a sign of watching and waiting in joyful hope for the coming of the Savior. Our home Advent wreath is a simple wreath with purple candles. Next year we’ll probably use blue. Advent wreaths are a wonderful way to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Do you or your church use an Advent wreath?

4 12, 2023

Christmas Card Time

By |2023-12-03T12:56:03-06:00December 4th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is receiving Christmas cards from family and friends with newsy letters. I bundle the cards by year with a ribbon and store them in baskets. The baskets then become part of our holiday decorations.

I like to take a packet from the baskets, look at the photos, and read the letters. It always sparks memories. Some sad knowing the original writer is no longer with us. But mostly the cards trigger good thoughts. It’s almost like having the senders here with me again.

I’m not alone in my love of sending and receiving Christmas cards. As outdated as the practice may seem to some, others cling to the tradition along with me. Americans buy approximately 1.6 billion Christmas cards a year!

The tradition began in the 1800s. As printing techniques improved, and costs dropped, Christmas cards increased in popularity. Read a detailed history here.

When postage dropped to half a penny, more people were able to send greetings. I collect those vintage postcards. Some date back to the 1900s. I love reading through the handwritten notes and looking at the intricate designs.

Many people today send handcrafted cards or order family picture cards. Handcrafted ones are extra special. So are the ones with family pictures.

What is it about this old-fashioned tradition that appeals to me and so many others?

The Greeting Card Association research suggests: “The tradition of giving greeting cards is a meaningful expression of personal affection for another person…”

Some question whether that appeal will be compelling enough to survive the conveniences of the digital era.

I believe it will.

If you want to start the tradition yourself, create a Christmas card list. Gathering addresses is as easy as gathering email addresses and holding a card in your hand beats reading a screen, in my opinion.

My list is on a spreadsheet that I update every year. It’s an easy way to correct addresses and keep track of cards sent and/or received. Because I prefer holiday-themed stamps, I order seasonal stamps online

To make the task less daunting, I use address labels and newsy letters. Some don’t like newsletters. I love them. Makes me feel like I’ve been a part of my friend’s world.

Christmas cards – sending and receiving – will always be a favorite part of the holiday season for me. They are a way to stay in touch, to share our lives even though we may live an ocean apart.

What do you think? Do you send Christmas cards?

27 11, 2023

Christmas Tree Time

By |2023-11-26T10:07:41-06:00November 27th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Live Christmas trees are standing outside my grocery store. I remember when you bought your tree from roadside Christmas tree lots like you see in Hallmark movies set in New York City. Nowadays grocery and big box stores in our area are the ones with fresh trees for sale.

Christmas décor has been out since Halloween competing with ghosts and jack-o-lanterns and pilgrims and turkeys. But there’s something about the scent of fresh trees that truly sends me into the Christmas mood.

My family went out searching for the perfect cedar along the rural roads in the hill country of Texas when I was young. We’d spot one and holler for Daddy to stop. He’d hop out of the 1957 Ford station wagon and check it out.

“Two trunks. No good.” He’d say as he climbed back into the car. Or “Too skinny” he’d mumble with a head shake not even stopping.

Finally, we’d find the perfect tree. He’d carry his ax over and chop it down. We had to watch from the car. We were never allowed to stand by the tree while he chopped. “Too dangerous, the ax could slip,” he said.

Years later, we learned the perfect tree was always on the other side of the barbed wire fence on someone’s property and he might have to run fast.

Fond memories.

Growing up my Aunt’s Christmas tree, fully decorated, always stood in the garage wrapped in a plastic bag year-round. Some time in early December she’d move the tree into the den to the same place it stood every year.

We call the trees pencil trees these days. Back then, it was simply a skinny, little pre-decorated tree. As the years went by, the tree lost most of its ornaments. It stood like a sparkling light tree. We never cared.

It wasn’t the tree we’d come for, but the family celebration.

We’ll be dragging our tree from the barn soon. It’s not fully decorated or the live cedar of my memories. We call it “Charlie Brown.”

Soon our three adult children, their spouses, eleven grandchildren, two grand-spouses, and three great-grands will be here building holiday memories around our little tree all decked out in its holiday finery.

I can hear them sharing their memories years later. “Remember Nana and Pepa’s skinny beanpole tree.”

They’ll have a chuckle and, hopefully, remember most of all the love and fun of family gathered like I do.

For some, the holidays have no fond memories. To you, I send a cyber hug and prayers.

To the others, are you getting your Christmas tree ready for your holiday gatherings?

23 11, 2023

By |2023-11-19T13:58:30-06:00November 23rd, 2023|Author Interview, Holidays|0 Comments

Today I want to tell you how thankful I am that you read books, engage with me on social media, and let me know when you enjoy what I’ve written both books and blogs. Your emails and comments are a blessing to Chicken Wrangler Sara and me.

We offer this Old Irish Blessing for you and yours this Thanksgiving Day.

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!


20 11, 2023

Traditions at Thanksgiving

By |2023-11-19T12:58:16-06:00November 20th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving this week in the United States.

Time for family reunions, food, fun, travel, football games, Black Friday,

and expressing thankfulness

The American celebration of the day began during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Football games and Black Friday were not included on that first Pilgrim Thanksgiving in 1621, but the basis for our modern Thanksgiving festivities remains the same.

Families will gather to give thanks for their blessings.

Our clan will bring all the Thanksgiving feast fixings to our youngest daughter’s home where her famous brine turkey will fill the house with yummy scents.

Years ago, she started a family tradition that has become our favorite part of the day. Besides being the best turkey cooker, she’s a professional photographer and scrapbooker. Every year when we arrive at her house, she hands out cards.

On that card, we write what we are thankful for that year. She snaps a picture with her Polaroid Instant Camera which we affix to our thankful card. Before we eat, we share what we’ve written on our cards.

At the end of the day, she gathers all the cards and puts them into a yearly scrapbook. The highlight of our yearly gatherings is looking back through Thanksgiving scrapbooks from years past.

We have a lovely day filled with traditions that remind me of Tevye’s words in the song from Fiddler on the Roof.

"Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as a fiddler on the roof!"

Thanksgiving traditions, while lovely and touching, aren’t based on the things on the table or around the table but on the love that surrounds us.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving filled with love.

30 10, 2023

Halloween Decorations

By |2023-10-12T15:37:58-05:00October 30th, 2023|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Halloween yard decorations have become as popular as Christmas decorating.

Ghosts swing from trees to greet early morning walkers in neighborhoods. Jack-o-lanterns light the way in the late afternoon. Witches crashed into trees and giant spiders in spidery webs crawl on the shrubbery.

In the 1900s, Halloween wasn’t so much about zombies and gruesome headless monsters, tombstones and skeletons, or other scary, scary things like spook houses and ghost tours. Back then, crepe paper pumpkins, plastic candy containers, painted tin noisemakers, and paper lanterns were the items of choice for a happy Halloween.

Not many of these items are around today because people used them and then threw them away. Last week, I dug out what’s left of my vintage decorations.

Only a few things are still around:

Pumpkins constructed from honeycomb tissue.

A gauze mask

A paper-mache jack-o-lantern

A tin noisemaker

A couple of black cats I used for old bulletin board posters and chalk tray decorations in classrooms

Check out Kovels’ Pinterest page here to see other vintage Halloween collectibles

Do you have a future Halloween collectible among your Halloween decorations?

Antique experts predict these items might be a future collectible:

  1. Special holiday bottles and cans with special holiday flavors like Gruesome Grape, Spooky Strawberry, and Orange Ogre. Look for other limited-edition plastic bottles with scary faces.
  2. Plastic candy containers either reproductions of the 1950s and ’60s figures and jack-o-lanterns or contemporary plastic decorations with clever designs.
  3. Zombies and vampires of plastic, rubber, or resin-like zombie-hand candleholders.
  4. Charm bracelets with pumpkins, bats, and black cats; jointed skeleton earrings decorated with rhinestones and spider rings.
  5. Motion, or voice, activated figures that light up or emit scary sounds and music. Look for pumpkin men, witches, vampires, black cats, and body parts like crawly hands.
  6. Paper or plastic masks, costumes, treat bags, and dolls.

If you’re thinking about increasing your collection, there’ll be some good buys at reduced prices after Halloween, and don’t throw away the items you have. You might have some vintage treasures like mine one day.

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