Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Every Good Gift

Given that it's Christmas-time, and folks are in a gift-giving mood, I've been thinking about the nature of presents a lot. What makes a good gift?

My husband and I have a long-standing disagreement over whether certain items are appropriate or not. The table below indicates our position on these items.

Gift Item He I
Clothes Only if they bear a Star Trek logo.
Otherwise, no. Not ever.
Yes, especially if they come with shoes and a bag.
Power tools No thanks. Unless your name is Hank Hill, these are simply work requests in disguise. Absolutely. In fact, I want some.
I'll make a list.
Exercise equipment Judging by the fact that he has actually purchased some for me, yes. Heck no, unless you want to see me burst into tears.
Vehicles If it's a practical car for going to work, then no. That's just a necessity.
If it's a gas-guzzling muscle car, then absolutely yes, yes, yes.
If I buy you a car, you'd better show some appreciation. Otherwise, you can just walk.
Fruity soaps Only for teenage girls and pig farmers. Get me the ones that smell like lemons.

The list goes on, but these are the ones that come to mind first. If you'll notice, though, there is a definite pattern in our philosophical differences. With the exception of gifts telling me I'm fat, I really like practical presents. I want things that I will use over and over. On the other hand, he likes gifts that speak to his wants and not his needs. His rationale is that if he needs something, he'll buy it himself. He wants people to give him things that he wouldn't normally purchase on his own.

As I've been thinking about presents, I've realized that over the last few years, I've been blessed in so many ways. In fact, this Christmas marks the end of my second year as a stay-at-home mom. This is something that I always dreamed about since the birth of my first child, but I never thought I'd be able to do.

This realization helped me see that God is, in fact, the ultimate gift-giver. Because we needed a savior, He gave us Baby Jesus at Christmas. He also provides for our physical needs such as food and clothing. But He is not content to give us what we need. He also gives us the superfluous extras, the things that make us happy -- like the ability to stay home with my babies, bear-sightings when I'm feeling blue, a bundle of pussy willows left on my doorstep.  He gives us the desires of our hearts. I think both my husband and I can agree that He's got us both covered.

I may not get to writing another post between now and the 25th, so I wish you and yours the very merriest of Christmases. Peace on Earth & good will to all men.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making a Birdseed Wreath

One of the things I like about God is that He's a birdwatcher. To my delight, a few years ago I learned that He even has swallows at home (Psalm 84:3). Growing up, I never considered Him the pet-owning type, but I can certainly understand why he might like birds.

I, too, have a certain fondness for feathered friends. I could watch them for hours at our feeders. There are so many little dramas that play out there -- courtships, rivalries, squabbles, kindnesses, intrigues, and even some rather sad, gruesome deaths. 

Certain birds, like the turkeys, return every year, and I enjoy observing changes in the flock. In fact, I quite look forward to seeing how much the babies have grown between spring and summer when I catch glimpses of them in the field and winter when they come scratching in my yard. Because they visit so regularly, I almost view these birds as an extension of our family. Maybe they're not like brothers or sisters, but they could be very distant cousins.

While we keep feeders up all winter, it feels natural to want to provide my avian guests with some more festive fare at Christmas. This year, the boys and I thought we'd try our hand at making a birdseed wreath.

First, we mixed birdseed in a bowl with just enough corn syrup to lightly cover all the seeds. Then we spooned it into a mold lined with wax paper and tamped it down thoroughly to compress any air pockets.

Ready for the oven

Next, I set my oven to its lowest setting (170 degrees F) and popped the wreath in for about 2 hours. The goal was to dehydrate and harden the syrup without cooking the seeds. 

After removing it from the oven, I let it cool completely, then turned it out onto a baking sheet. My mold was pretty deep, so the seeds at the bottom were still rather sticky. Undaunted, I just popped it back into the oven for another hour. This time, I didn't use the mold. I just left it on the baking sheet with the sticky side up.

After the wreath had completely cooled, we peeled off the wax paper and let it sit on the sheet for two days to make sure it was really dry and hard. (I turned it over after the first day so the top and bottom would harden evenly.) 

Finally, we added a pretty ribbon and hung it on a sturdy branch. Now, we just sit back and wait for takers.

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