Happy vintage Christmas!

Vintage-Christmas-Label-GraphicsFairy-1024x593I love all things vintage. I can’t help it. I was raised around my grandmother’s antiques and to this day I love looking at pictures of them and seeing them when I manage to make it to my parents’ house ever few years.

So I’ve included some of my favorite vintage free use images I’ve found around the web. You can make great gifts with these! Gift tags, cards, decoupage — the ideas are endless!

Which ones are your favorite?

I’m partial to the green Santas, the bunnies and the pugs ringing the bells. Birds, too. Anything with birds I’m all in it. Oh, and the foxes sledding. What a hoot.

But I have to be honest. I think the snowmen are a little creepy. What say you? (Tweet this.)

(Sorry for having to scroll so far down but I don’t yet know how to insert pics side by side into WordPress. Tom Threadgill hasn’t tutored me in that yet.)









































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Autism + Christmas = Nightmare

merry christmas sign

Let’s get something out of the way up front.

Autism and Christmas don’t mix.  (Tweet this.)

For so long I dreaded the holiday because of the stress it brought to our house. From the week prior to Thanksgiving until January 1, the tension in our home was through the roof. The screaming and tantrums were non-stop. I was covered head to toe in bruises.

Candy for Christmas Wallpaper

Looking back, I marvel at how we survived in the beginning when the twins were severe. Christmas was a nightmare for them when they were small.

After the first few years (they showed autistic symptoms as infants), we learned that we had to open our gifts without them because they screamed and banged their heads during the ceremony. For this idealistic mother who worked toward and longed for a Walton-family-style Christmas, this was devastating.


But the fact is, Christmas meant nothing to the twins but scary unpredictable change. Kids with autism long for sameness. It’s how they keep fear at bay. The fact that there was a tree–that belonged OUTSIDE– standing in the living room completely freaked them out.


Not to mention the people unwrapping the very gifts that for weeks they’d been told to leave alone. And then there’s the color red. There’s so much red.


Frankly, Christmas simply made no sense. And some of our traditions are kind of silly when you think about it. But that’s part of the “hidden curriculum” that people with autism struggle with. All those unwritten social rules that those of us without autism just “get.”


Thank God the twins eventually grew to accept Christmas and trees standing inside houses and fat guys in red suits.

Now, they are 18 and I’m happy to say that it’s a holiday they enjoy and look forward to. Christmas is still the most stressful time for them, and they do have more conflicts with us and their siblings (all adults now) during this time of the year. But it’s soooo much better than it used to be. They even look forward to watching their nieces open their gifts.


If you have a relative with a child with autism, don’t judge them. Be patient and offer to help. Give them hope. It can get better. And most likely it will. My guys who used to be self-injurious head bangers and biters (of themselves and each other) no longer hurt themselves this way at Christmas. Now they put themselves to bed early on Christmas Eve so they can get up early the next day.

And instead of screaming there are squeals.



There’s not a more pure spirit of Christmas than a soul with special needs grinning ear to ear after opening a simple gift. Even if its socks, the twins are thrilled. (And there’s always socks. It’s a tradition in our house.)

Really, when you think about it, every day that’s a good day with autism is like Christmas. I’m thankful we’re having more of those these days than we used to.

Here’s hoping you do, too.

14All images via Bing search of free use images.

The war on Christmas giveaway!

I’m very excited to be part of the #waronchristmas book blog tour. The War on Christmas by Bodie Hodge is an excellent resource book for every  Christian Sunday School teacher, pastor, and parent.

The two chapters I’m assigned to review are Chapter 6: “Timeline of Events Surrounding Christ’s Birth” and Chapter 7: “Making the Christmas Sermon Relevant for Today’s Culture.”

These were great chapters for me to have since I’m a historian and a pastor (and a pastor’s wife). I slurped them up with great enthusiasm and will be keeping this book among my collection of Christmas books. I know I’ll be reaching for it often as I teach all ages about this wonderful story of Christ.


In Chapter 6, we travel back through time to immediately after Jesus’ birth. We stop at circa 4 B.C., eight days, 41 days after the birth,  and the time during Christ’s first year of life on earth to early 3 B.C. There is a brief discussion of the magi and Christ’s family returning to Bethlehem from Egypt after King Herod’s death. These little tidbits of trivia are great for including in your next advent presentation.

In Chapter 7, the writer encourages pastors and teachers to share the message of Christ via the story of Genesis, the fallen state of man, and the issues of sin and death. Today’s culture touts a faulty view of God. If those listening will hear that God is the maker of all things good (he did not declare sin to be good or part of his creation), it would help them develop an accurate picture of God and one very different from the world’s secular view of Him.

The foundation of the birth of Christ is found in Genesis. From Genesis 3:15 God had a plan to reconcile us to Him. In Genesis 26:4, Christ is a descendant of Jacob. It is in Genesis that the Christmas season begins.

The author of this book believes that people don’t listen to the Good News because they don’t understand the bad news. If people know why they need Jesus, they will understand their need for Him.

What do you  think of his point of view? Leave a comment below and I’ll enter your name in a drawing to win your very own copy of The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression plus a free t-shirt! Giveaway ends December 10.

T is for Truce in the Trenches

christmas truce

Imagine being in a war zone trench, just feet away from the enemy’s on Christmas Eve.

Such a thing occurred on December 24, 1914 when carols were sung between the British and German soldiers.

Perhaps it sounded something like this:

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu[N 1] sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein, auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!
They are green when summer days are bright,
They are green when winter snow is white.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!


At sunrise on Christmas Day, unarmed German soldiers approached the British calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the British and allied soldiers feared being tricked, but eventually climbed out of their trenches and exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs.

This short cease fire also allowed both sides to retrieve the bodies of fellow combatants.

Sadly, this was the last example of chivalry between enemies. The gesture was never repeated again.


British and German troops meeting in no man’s land during the unofficial truce (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector)

Is there someone you need to call a truce with? As Christians, we are to love our enemies. All year ’round. Not just at Christmas. But if you’re human, there are probably a few prickly people in your life you may need to extend some grace to. Why not make it a goal to call a truce with these people at Christmas?

Who knows? You just might make history with your gesture of love.

A to Z blog hop at Patterings.

Christmas widgets!

I love widgets. Yes, I know, they are kind of tacky sometimes. But isn’t it fun to be a little tacky and little lampoon-Christmas-lights-crazy at this time of year?

Here are some fun Christmas goodies for your online celebrations. The hard part is picking only one!


Christmas countdown widget (if someone knows how to help me make this smaller, please let us know in the comments below. I did put smaller dimensions in the code but it’s not transferring, thanks!):

How about your blog’s own Christmas tree?

Another countdown theme:

Here, have a yule log:ku-xlarge

Or another Christmas widget:

If you love pets and especially cats, you will want to check out this adorable site where a kitty teaches you how to set up and maintain your Christmas tree (Lilybits will love this one!):


Another adorable countdown:

Days until Christmas:

What’s your definition of real romance?

31 years ago today I married my man!

At a little baptist church (that isn’t so little anymore) in Haysville, Kansas.


(When we got married there was only the little building on the right and no passageway leading to a big building.)

(But that’s irrelevant.)

What’s relevant is that I’M STILL MARRIED TO THE SAME GUY!


Besides being a parent, marriage is the hardest work I’ve ever done. And that’s not because of who I’m married to. It’s because of ME. Marriage has a way of stretching you. It really is a miracle this guy stayed with me all these years!

1234012_10202190225942193_1432274761_nUs when we were first married

We’ve been through so much together. So. Much.

How do we keep our marriage alive?

With real romance.

Romantic Funny Cartoons5

Real romance is cleaning up the other one’s vomit during a stomach flu epidemic. (Sorry for that shocking visual, but it’s true.)

Real romance is doing dishes together–in the middle of the night–after the baby’s finally asleep.


Real romance is eating eggs for supper on Monday night. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. And Thursday. And Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday–in order to pay the electric bill.

Romantic Funny Cartoons3

Real romance is listening to the other one talk when you’d rather watch TV or read a book.

Real romance is wrapping presents and stuffing stockings together at 4:00 AM on Christmas Eve.


Real romance is letting the other pick out the color of the new car.

Real romance is picking up their socks–and not complaining.


Real romance overlooks those extra pounds every ten years packs on.

Real romance is giving each other the space they need to pursue their own interests.


Real romance is loving each and every gift you get from the other one when it’s nothing at all you like.

Real romance is forgiving all hurts, wrongs, neglect. And letting it go.


Real romance is giving up the right to be right.

Real romance fights fair and never damages another with words.

253046072782766124Real romance is praying together, worshiping together, studying God’s Word together.

Real romance doesn’t look very much like those romance novels some people are known to write. <grin>


It’s not the candlelight dinners or gifts I cherish most. It’s the time my man sacrifices to be with me, do for me, listen to me. Even when I’m not lovely. Usually, when I’m the most difficult is when I need him to love me the most. And he needs the same from me.


So that’s my definition of real romance.

What’s yours?

A Christmas Giving Giveaway as I Introduce author Candice Sue Patterson

I’m delighted to introduce my readers to the very lovely, Candice Sue Patterson. I had the pleasure of meeting Candice at the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis. What a privilege it was to spend time with her there.


Candice Sue Patterson studied at The Institute of Children’s Literature and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in southern Indiana with her husband and three sons in a restored farmhouse overtaken by books. When she’s not tending to her chickens, splitting wood or baking bread, she’s at her computer working on a new story. Candice writes contemporary romance with threads of nostalgia set in the east coast.

Karla:  I, too, studied with The Institute of Children’s Literature! What a fun little bit of trivia to have in common. And I envy your lifestyle in the country. Tell us about how we can find you online.

Candice: My author blog is titled “Hobby Farmer by Day, Author by Night,” where I discuss life on our hobby farm, my family, and various aspects of writing. I also host giveaways, do book reviews, and interview other authors. You can find it at: www.candicesuepatterson.blogspot.com. I also have a blog with my critique partners “The Quid Pro Quills.” Check us out at www.quidproquills.com.

I have a baking and cake design blog, where I share recipes and guide readers step-by-step in how I design my cakes. This blog can be found at: www.candicakes-bakingdesign.blogspot.com

I’m also on Facebook: Candice Sue Patterson

Karla: Where do you write? (What’s your office like?)

Candice: I write at a desk in our living room where I can remain available to my family. I can be found wearing a giant set of headphones to block out any noise coming from the TV. My cat shows his support by sleeping at my feet while I pound away at the keyboard.

Karla: I love how so many write with our family present, noise and all. What is your process? (Spreadsheets, Snowflake, Lists/Outlines, Seat of the pants?)

Candice: I’m definitely a “seat of the pants” writer. While I have a basic plot in mind before I ever sit down at my computer, I let the characters take me where they want to go. I use pictures from magazines or clothing catalogs to help describe my main characters physical descriptions, but their quirks, habits, likes and dislikes appear as the story develops.

My secondary characters surprise me the most, because I don’t always have them in mind until they show up on the screen. They usually become more involved in the story than I’d intended become vital to the main character’s growth.

I also have a title in my mind before I start writing a story, though I know it may not be the final one.

Karla: Tell us about your book. The cover is fabulous! I love the title, too.


Candice: Christmastown, Vermont: where it’s Christmas 365 days a year…

To Darcy Carr the holiday is depressing enough without reliving it every day. Her thriving wreath business and faithful cat are no longer enough to distract her from the pain of her past memories or her current loneliness. Is her frosty neighbor, the only one in town with no Christmas decorations, just another Scrooge, or could he be the one she’s been looking for?

Coppersmith Dean Whitfield hasn’t celebrated Christmas—or anything else—since the death of his wife and unborn child. And he certainly has no desire to carry on the family tradition of crafting a star for the town’s Christmas tree, even if it will benefit a charity. Can Darcy and the joy of the season thaw his frozen heart and help him love again?

Karla: How did your book come to life?

Candice: It started with an article I read about the D. Picking Company in Ohio who still makes copper kettles by hand after over 140 years in business. I love all things nostalgic and knew I wanted to include that in my story. From there, the fictional town of Christmastown, Vermont came to life. One of my favorite childhood memories during the holidays is visiting Nashville, Indiana with blocks full of individually-owned shops decorated for Christmas. That’s what I had pictured in my head as I described the setting, though I embellished Nashville to meet the story’s needs. I do plot out basic things before I start writing, but as I said before, I’m a “seat of the pants” writer. Most things in Bright Copper Kettles came to life as I typed.

Karla: Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Candice: Though I love Darcy and all her quirkiness, I have to say Dean is my favorite. He’s wounded, grieving, and believes that God has abandoned him which has made him bitter. I believe all Christians at some point go through something similar—knowing God is there, but it feels like He’s not—even if they don’t take it as far as Dean did. The book’s theme is: The God on the mountain (good times) is still God in the valley (hard times). The thing I want readers to take away most is that even when we’re hurting or angry, we can tell God. He already knows what we’re going through. If we tell Him how we feel, it keeps the door of communication with Him open so he can speak to us. If we clam up and don’t pray, even when it’s hard to, we close that door and can allow our emotions control us. Then we become unusable vessels for Him.

Karla: How did you name your characters?

Candice: I had a vision of my character’s physical descriptions before I named them. Dean just felt like a Dean. The name Darcy came to me as I was researching for another story I was working on also. I named Darcy’s twin brother David, since a lot of twins have names that begin with the same letter. I guess I had an obsession with the letter D at the time. It wasn’t until the other day, that I found an old baby name book we’d bought when we were expecting our first son and had put away. Dean, in Old English, means “from the valley.” How fitting! As for Darcy, I had trouble finding the meaning of her name. I did find that “people with this name look for harmony and balance in their lives and respond positively to beautiful things.” That description fits Darcy Carr perfectly.

Karla: Are the characters based on people you know?

Candice: Darcy’s wreath-making occupation was inspired by Nancy Alexander of Ladybug Wreaths. She won a giveaway I hosted last year at the time I was plotting this story. Full details of this will be posted on my blog in December.

I did slip my parents’ names in the book for the mayor and his wife. My mom loves telling this story.

Karla: That’s so nice! I love using people’s names in honor of them. Why will readers enjoy your book?

Candice: Bright Copper Kettles holds a little bit of everything—humor, love, drama. When I read a book, I want to be moved. I want to feel all of my emotions. Therefore, I strive to write this way. I believe it will be a quick yet entertaining read for the holidays.

Karla: Is anything in the book based on your own life?

Candice: In a way, I feel like I lived this story. I’d written the first few chapters when our family was hit with something extremely difficult. I had to remind myself of the very things I was teaching my characters. Then during first edits with my publisher, my dad had a severe stroke at the age of fifty-five, just like Dean’s dad. Again, I had to remind myself that God’s plan is a perfect plan whether I understand it or not.

Gomez was a real cat that my mother-in-law had growing up. I always enjoyed the stories she told me about him and became part of the book.

I worked for the United States Postal Service for eight years, the last four years of my employment as a clerk, selling stamps and mailing packages. So the scene where Dean is in the post office was fun for me to write. In a small town, the post office is the place to go to catch up on all the “news.”

Karla: That is amazing, Candice, because the same things occurred for me in Biker Boots. I actually ended up going through things my characters went through. The Lord works in mysterious ways!  What is your favorite scene in the book?

Candice: The scene where Dean brings Darcy a Christmas tree. This is where their relationship takes a major shift. They share their holiday traditions with each other, and Gomez shares his personality.

Karla: Why Christian fiction?

Candice: I love reading the parables in the Bible that Jesus taught. They’re stories with a godly message that transcend time. God created me to be a writer, and I want to use words like Jesus did (though I can NEVER compare) to write stories that will bring others closer to Him, whether it’s for the first time or to help and encourage someone who already knows Him.

Karla: Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful book with us, Candice! I’ve got my copy and can hardly wait to read it! What a wonderful Christmas gift this will make!

I will send a free digital copy to one lucky commenter to give away!

Here’s how:

1. Buy your own copy of Bright Copper Kettles — a bargain at .99!  (Let’s help a new author get started!) Then tell me you did so in your comments (honor system)!

2. Tell me what you like about Christmas stories like Bright Copper Kettles! Be sure to leave an email address, too. I’ll announce the winner next week!

Congratulations, Candice, on your beautiful new book!

S is for Steamboats


Branson Belle

I never realized how much I loved steamboats until I started studying them in earnest for my work in progress, River Moon Don’t Cry.

I did have the pleasure of cruising aboard the Branson Belle (pictured above) for dinner and a show twice. The only part I didn’t like was how it didn’t last longer! I’d love to go on a week-long cruise. Of course, the excursions are much nicer today than there were in the early 1800s.


In the 1800s only the high-paying customers got a nice room on the upper decks of the steamboat on major United States rivers. Regular folks had to board with the animals and cargo. And from the diaries and letters I’ve read from the era, the aromas that emanated from these quarters made for a miserable trip.

Those who could afford it, had much nicer accommodations.



During the steamboat boom, boats competed for dock space. These ships lined up side by side in major ports.


Steamboats hauled everything on the Mississippi River from cows to sugar cane to cotton. They were also used to haul slaves and prisoners. It was a dangerous time on the Mississippi in those days. Fights on the docks were everyday occurrences.  Pirates were a constant threat.




I think I’d love to know what it’s like to live aboard a steamboat. What say you?

A to Z blog hop at Patterings.

Bronner’s part 2: The Joy of Christmas Decorations


Last week I posted about my trip to Frankenmuth, Michigan to Bronner’s. I promised to share what we bought there back in 2007 to commemorate our 25th wedding anniversary. (We were married Dec. 3, 1982.)

We had such fun shopping for our silver anniversary. I wish my pictures were better. My camera wasn’t working and I took these with my phone. Phone cameras have come a long way in the past seven years! (Click pics to enlarge.)


Naturally the first thing we looked for was an ornament that said “25” somewhere on it. So we bought the above one and had it personalized (below).



We bought a few bells (pictured above) but also some much bigger silver bells to put on our wedding canopy. You can sort of see the bells below in the background on the canopy arch. They were so pretty.  (This is my daughter and her husband walking down the aisle when we renewed our vows.)



I also bought a few sets of silver pine cones (pictured above). And a set of doves (bel0w).


I couldn’t resist the baby penguins sitting side by side.


They all came together to create a very special Christmas tree that year.


Do you have any favorite Christmas tree ornaments? I’d love to read about them! Leave me a comment below!

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