Christmas Lights and Comfort Food

Yesterday was interesting.  I went to work at my normal time but had to leave less than two hours later to get to the courthouse to report for jury duty. It was with more than a little frustration that I reported to do my civic duty – which I don’t hesitate to say we all should be willing to perform – because in our county (maybe the state, but I can’t say that for positive) we are not allowed to be released from duty for financial hardship.  In fact, there are very few allowable reasons NOT to do jury duty.  The morning was improved by default when someone pulled out of a space just two over from the main entrance to the building. YES! Then the guards at the door were pretty awesome gentlemen who took their jobs seriously, but who were friendly while they did it, which seems appropriate for people making you walk through a metal detector and scanning your purse, don’t you think?  A very nice bailiff gave me directions to the jury assembly room, I was checked in with my badge, and took a seat to fill out the form.  It was about that point I realized the temperature in the room was set to “roast the jurors” status, and not long afterward, the hot flashes started rolling through my body and I was tempted to run screaming from the room and find a refrigerator to stick my head into. I was saved by the nice bailiff who asked me (I am sure I was red-faced) if I was OK, to which I responded, No, I’m in hot flash hell while cooking in an oven. She brought me something to use as a fan. Nice woman, and it was a little better, if only to move the hot air into my face in waves. After waiting a bit, they showed us two educational dvds about what to expect and how not to be biased. OK! We get it! Don’t pre-judge! Now get us some cool air already! We got the next best thing . . . we’d made it to lunch time without making any forward progress towards jury selection. Oh good. They were going to give us a long day. NICE! I happened to start chatting with a lady on our way out, who was going to the same place where I was – the coffee shop across the street, since there was NO WAY I was going to give up my awesome parking spot – so we started chatting. Very nice gal and we ended up having a great visit and sitting next to each other when we got back for more waiting in the jury room.  A bit after 2:30 the judge herself came in, thanked us for our patience and told us that the accused pled guilty and we were dismissed. Our duty for the rest of the week and the next year is over. The bottom line is that I only missed part of one day of work, I have enough PTO accumulated to cover it and I don’t have to go make it up on Friday! I was able to get to Trader Joe’s and Costco and still home before Hubby did, and get dinner started.  All in all, it was a pretty awesome day!


Verse of the Day

December 5, 2018

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it the full.”

John 10:7,9-10

Thoughts on the Verse of the Day

Jesus came to the world to give us life. He didn’t come to bring us rules, or judgement, or fear, or work. Jesus came to give us life in its fullest form. While we know that this is promised to us when we go to be with him for all eternity, John wants us to clearly hear that Jesus’ promise to give us life begins right now! Not JUST life later, but also life NOW!


History of Christmas Traditions

Lately it has been getting dark while I drive home from work, so I have been enjoying the beautiful Christmas lights on the houses I go by. They are so beautiful and some of them quite elaborate! Have you ever wondered why we put up all of those lights or what started the tradition? Well, I did, so here you go!

The tradition of chasing away the darkness with light this time of year goes back to the Yule, which was a midwinter festival celebrated by Norsemen. They had nights of big feasts, drinking Yule, which was a sacrificial beer dedicated to the Norse god Odin, and watching the fire burn the Yule log in the hearth.  This tradition spread across Europe, with many believing that the log’s flame brought about the return of the sun, while driving away evil spirits.  Christianity adapted this tradition to their teachings, with the light from the Yule log coming to represent the light of Jesus in the darkness.

There are some scientific studies that say that under the right conditions the human eye can see a candle flame from 30 miles away. Before there was electricity to light up the dark skies, people put candles in their windows, especially on long winter nights, to welcome tired travelers.  It was a beacon of hope for wanderers on those dark roads and the tiny glow showed them that there was sanctuary just ahead.  Because of this Christians came to see this as a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph after their long trip to Bethlehem, and as a light that represents Jesus being a light in the darkness, just as the Yule log represented His light.

This is all wonderful, but how did they get from all of that to lights on trees?

Ancient Druids and Romans decorated trees thousands of years ago, and as with many other traditions, Christians embraced this practice also. It is said that Protestant Reformer Martin Luther was the first person to put lights on a Christmas tree.  When he was walking home one night, he was in awe of the brilliance of the twinkling stars through the trees that he passed.  He wanted to share this sense of awe with his family, so he put up a tree in his home and wired the branches with lit candles.  Others began to also decorate their trees in the same way, evolving to put a star on top to represent the star in the east that shone where the baby Jesus was in a manger.  The lights and ornaments came to represent the stars and planets in the sky and many Christians put a manger at the base of the Christmas tree in honor of His birth. 

Most Americans and the British did not have decorated trees in their homes until the mid-19th century because of the pagan origins of the tradition, but it did grow in popularity, starting in 1848 in Great Britain.  The London News ran a picture of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children gathered around their tree lit with candles in Buckingham Palace.  Once people started having trees in their homes, it became a normal practice, which spread to the United States.  Lighted Christmas trees were enthusiastically accepted, even though it meant having a bucket of sand or water nearby in case of fire and from what I’m reading, there were a LOT of fires.  The candles were beautiful on the trees, but with safety being such an issue with the combination of candle light and dry trees often ending in tragedy, insurance companies stopped paying for fires caused by them.

This problem was soon to come to an end. Thomas Edison was the first to connect lights together with wire in 1880, but he wasn’t the first to put them onto a Christmas tree.  He strung them around his laboratory as a way to advertise to gain a contract providing electricity to Manhattan.  It was his partner, Edward Johnson, who decorated his tree with electric lights in 1882, and is now called the “Father of the Electric Christmas Tree”. Surprisingly this practice didn’t catch on quickly because it was expensive, and Americans were still pretty leery of electricity.  President Grover Cleveland changed all of this in 1895 when he featured the first White House Christmas tree lit up with more than 100 multi-colored bulbs, starting a craze across the country. The down side was that they needed a generator and a “wireman” to operate the lights, which at that time cost $300 (about $2000 today).  This expense meant that most Christmas trees lit with electricity were seen most often in town squares, at community functions or in the wealthy homes of high society.

In 1917 there was a tragic fire caused by Christmas tree candles. Teen-ager Albert Sadacca took the novelty lights that his family made and promoted them to be used on Christmas trees. They became the first Christmas lights that were affordable that would be sold for widespread use.  With safety issues no longer a problem, strands of lights were sold so quickly that it seemed they flew off the shelves. Sadacca formed NOMA (National Outfit Manufacturer’s Association), which became the largest holiday light manufacturer in the world.  By the 1920s lights that were developed for use outdoors hit the market, and with them, began the outdoor lightshow.  The first outdoor Christmas light display was on Santa Rosa Avenue in Altadena, CA, organized by Frederick Nash.  This tradition not only continues to this day, but has spread everywhere, which is awesome!  President Calvin Coolidge got in on the fun by lighting the very first National Christmas tree on the White House lawn on Christmas Eve in 1923.  After WWII the economy was booming, which gave people more money to spend, and spend they did, on more lights and other Christmas decorations like never before.

The lights first used as a symbol of Christmas will always be a beacon of hope and welcome, shining through the darkness of night – both physically and spiritually.




Bathtub Party Day – With the temperature dropping outside this one sounds wonderful. Today is the day to have a little personal bathtub party!  It’s such an easy one to celebrate that I think we should all give it a go – well, for those of us with a tub.  Just fill a tub with wonderful hot water, add some bath oil beads or bubbles, and you’re ready to get in and soak all of your cares away.  The peace, quiet and serenity of a hot bath is exactly what many of us need to relax and let go of the stress of the day.   Turn off your phone, put in a quiet CD, pour a glass of wine and light some candles.  You are ready for the most relaxing minutes of your day. If you happen to have a hot tub, maybe invite some company to join you, and even have snacks on hand while you visit in the bubbling water.


Repeal Day – Today we commemorate the day the 18th amendment to the Constitution was repealed.  Once again Americans were free to buy, sell and drink alcoholic beverages.  In the 1900’s, many of the people in American thought that alcohol was the root cause of many social ills in the country.  Prohibition on a national scale was promoted in part by the American Christian Women’s Temperance Union.  As the movement grew in popularity, it pressed the United States Congress to pass the 18th amendment on January 16, 1919, which prohibited the manufacture, transportation, sale and consumption of alcohol. In spite of their best intentions, the ban on alcohol did little to improve the social conditions of the country, or to reduce crime.  Instead, crime increased as racketeers started making and selling alcohol, turning it into BIG business.  As the popularity of the 18th amendment faded, more and more people sought to repeal it.  On December 5, 1933, Congress passed the 21st Amendment, which effectively repealed the 18th Amendment.   This is a perfect example how Big Brother telling individuals what they can and cannot do, especially in their own homes, doesn’t work.  It violates our right to make our own choices.  There’s a lot of this going around lately, as our government spins out of control.  Individual groups of people mandating what others do, say, think, eat and buy.  It’s ridiculous, it’s offensive, and the fact is that it won’t work in the long run and will only lead to more hate and more discontent.


This Day in History –

1933 – The 21st Amendment repeals Prohibition. I’ll drink to that!


Food Celebration of the Day –

National Comfort Food Day – Although the concept has been around for ages, the term “comfort food” wasn’t officially added to the American dictionary until 1977!  We all have our favorites.  What would yours be?  I have several, depending on my mood.  The one thing that always makes me feel better when I’m bummed out though, is oatmeal cookies – from the recipe that my Grandma used to use.  There’s something about them that fills my heart with happy feelings.




Sachertorte Day – Today we celebrate a very specific type of chocolate cake, or torte, that was invented by Austrian chef Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna, Austria.  It is one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties. There are recipes similar to the Sachertorte that appeared as early as the 18th century, with one example being in the cookbook of Conrad Hagger in 1718.  In 1832, Prince Wenzel von Metternich ordered his personal chef with creating a very special dessert for some important guests.  The chef became very ill and gave the job to his 16-year-old apprentice, Franz Sacher. What a lot of responsibility!  Today’s kids of that age would go running for a “safe place” from the challenge and whine that it was too much!  OK, maybe not ALL kids, but so many of them! Sad, isn’t it?  Franz was in his 2nd year of training in Metternich’s kitchen.  The Prince declared that evening “Let there be no shame on me tonight!”  The torte is reported to have delighted the Prince’s guests but didn’t get further attention right away.  Sacher finished his training as a chef and afterward spent time in Bratislava and Budapest, coming to settle back in his hometown of Vienna, where he opened a specialty delicatessen and wine shop. Sache’s oldest son Eduard followed in his father’s culinary footsteps, completing his own culinary education, taking the time to perfect his father’s recipe and develop the torte into its current form.  The cake was first served at the Demel and later at the Hotel Sacher and remains among the most famous of Vienna’s culinary specialties.  I found this recipe for a Sachertorte as interpreted by Wolfgang Puck from  May be worth giving a try since it’s a delicacy created for royalty! We all deserve to be royal from time to time, right?


The week is halfway over, which means the weekend is nearly here! Do you have any goals for the weekend? Mine is to get all of the gifts we have so far wrapped and get a good start on my Christmas cards. That’s a pretty good goal, right? Well, I think it is. So, with that, I’m heading to work to catch up on what I missed yesterday. God bless you and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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