Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!


Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.


May this Christmas bring you peace and joy!
Love, Becky

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nibble, nibble, like a mouse...

Today's Wonder of the World is...Gingerbread Houses!

Gingerbread house by Sam
This season always makes me long for the smell of just baked gingerbread in my kitchen.
So I light a gingerbread candle and open up the gingerbread house kits I bought at the craft store! Woo hoo!

Do you know where gingerbread came from?
Gingerbread became popular after the crusades, when ginger was brought to Europe. People went crazy for the taste, and soon gingerbread fairs started popping up in Germany and spread all over Europe. In France they call gingerbread pain d'epices.

Flickr photo by daveleb
No, that's not nature bread. Nature means plain in French.
Even plain and unfrosted, it's oh so good!

But what about gingerbread houses?
Do you know who had the very first edible house?

It's the witch in Hansel and Gretel--the one who said, "Nibble, nibble on my house, Who is nibbling at my house?"

Before the Brothers Grimm made the German folk tale famous, there were no gingerbread houses. There were also no little girls with stop sign glasses who were afraid to open the oven door just in case any lurking bad guy might creep up behind her, pop her into it, and cook her to a golden brown when no one was looking.

But back to gingerbread houses...
Maybe it's my sweet tooth talking, but I think a lot of German houses look like gingerbread houses.

Dusted with powdered sugar snow!
And pagodas look like gingerbread too, apparently!

Flickr photo by tamyleino
A gingerbread pagoda! Tamyleino took that photo at the Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Competition Festival over the North Carolina border from us in Asheville. We went one year to see it and were all completely awestruck. And hungry!

You want some food for the soul? How about a gingerbread church?

Flickr photo by abra cat
Or maybe you're just in the mood for a gingerbread mansion.

Flickr photo by supersugarsnaps
So pretty!

Speaking of pretty, look at the fine threesome of gingerbread house decorators in my kitchen!

It's a family tradition at the Ramsey household. After school lets out, we put on the Christmas music and let the frosting fly! And yes, sometimes that really does happen!
And when it does, guess who's the happiest?


Tanner the Slobber Dog, of course.
Here's our finished products. It's a gingerbread neighborhood.


From our house(s) to yours, we wish you the merriest of Christmases!
I'll be taking a little blogging break until the new year, so give yourselves a hug for me. I'm so grateful for your friendship and count you amongst my dearest blessings! I hope your holiday is full of joy!
Love, Becky

PS. If you're as amazed as I am that some folks don't buy their gingerbread houses from the craft store, watch the creation of this beauty!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Nativity Scene

Today's Wonder of the World is...the Nativity Scene!

Photo from jdmelaine.etsy.com
Like this one!
You can buy it at Etsy, here, but it's the same exact one my mom sewed for us when Sarah was born. It's made of fabric and all the pieces are stuffed with fluff, so Baby Jesus and the gang can be chewed on by little mouths or even fly across the room without a single worry! My kids played with the set for hours, and oh, if he could only talk, the stories that Baby Jesus could tell! Like his piggy back rides on the king's back, or the time the sheep got together and demanded their turn in the manger. Or the day he tiptoed away and went camping with Barbie and GI Joe.
(Don't worry. He could tell his birth story too.)

I've always admired the importance that the Jewish tradition places on all the hands-on stuff--the menorah, the dreidels (I love that song, even if I'm not Jewish,) the Seder meal--so full of meaning and tradition.
Handling the parts of a story (and sometimes even eating it) is such a great way to teach the story and remember it.
St. Francis of Assisi knew all about that. He's the one who introduced the whole idea of Nativity scenes back in 1223.

Nativity scenes can be beautiful. Plus, they're fun!
After Sam stopped swallowing Barbie shoes, we added a more detailed nativity scene to our home.

With Playmobile!
Try to set this out in your house and not play with it. It's irresistible.

Nativity scenes don't have to be full of little pieces to be meaningful. Here's one of my favorites.

So simple and tiny.

The Christmas after my sis-in- law Swanee joined the family, she gave me this Nativity set for Christmas.

Isn't it amazing? She made it in a ceramics class! Can you believe it?

She gave me a handmade 15 piece Nativity set, which she poured and sanded and glazed herself, and do you know what I gave her?
A scarf.
It's sad but true.
Bad me.

One last nativity scene to share...

I found it in a French antique/junque shop back in our French life. I LOVE the pure white of the set Swanee made me, and I also like the wild colors of this one.

And the faces! I'm not sure which piece is my favorite. Baby Jesus, who looks so comfy in that manger?
Or a shepherd...

Or a king...

Or this mystery man with the red hat.

Do you know who he's supposed to be? I've always thought he's another shepherd, but I could be wrong. That beautiful face always reminds me of a French translation of one of the beatitudes, Heureux les d├ębonnaires, Blessed are the debonair.
I love that! I hope you're feeling pretty debonair yourself today!

Before you go, tell me, if you're celebrating Christmas, do you have a special nativity set that you treasure? Or have you ever been part of a live Nativity scene? I've never done that and I'd love to hear about it!

Have a wonder-full Friday and a super weekend, y'all!
Love, Becky

PS. Since I can't seem to let go of yesterday's post on holiday weirdness, enjoy these singing cats!


PS again...Don't forget Angela's give-away!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Weirdness

Today's Wonder of the World is...Holiday Weirdness!

Flickr photo by Effata
Because nothing says Merry Christmas like naked shrimp.
Or sausages hanging from the tree.

Flickr photo by lemmingby
Don't you love weird holiday traditions? I do!
Like this tree.

Flickr photo by EvaMen
The photo is a little blurry, but can you tell what those are?
Hint: They wouldn't need any "Our First Christmas Together" ornaments!

I think most Christmas weirdness is fun, but honestly I just don't get this.

Flickr photo by Katie Aaberg
Aack! It's Krampus! Saint Nicholas, don't just stand there! Do something!
He's got his icky tongue near that sack of babies!
(And by the way, what else is in that sack? Are there more babies out of sight? They can breathe in there, can't they?)
Do you know about Krampus? It's an alpine thing, I believe. He hangs out with Santa, just waiting to catch any bad little girls and boys. We met him--or his French twin--when we vacationed after Christmas in Alsace back in our French life. He appeared out of nowhere at a dinner theater and scared my children half to death. We had nightmares for weeks! Thanks a lot, Krampus.

You know, I wonder if this Christmas elf is related to Krampus?

Flickr photo by tumblewieds
Awfully cute, but she looks a little naughty.
I should warn the Big Guy about her.
Oh yeah, I can't. He's out riding his lobster.

Flickr photo by Caviar

Do you enjoy outdoor Christmas shellfish during the holiday season? What about any other weird traditions this time of year? Come on, I know you have some! Please share!

I'll go first.
Last weekend we made the half hour trek out to Pelzer, South Carolina, (population 101, as of 2007) to see something I'd always heard about but never experienced. The circling helicopters should have given us a clue...it was quite the holiday hot spot!
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to...
The Light People!

Sorry the photo is so blurry, but I was sort of in a daze from all the bulbage!
The light people wrap themselves with Christmas lights and stand in their yard and wave! That's it!
But it's not just any yard. Their house rivals Clark Griswold's!

I'm afraid the photos don't do it justice.

Anyway, we came home and drank hot chocolate and tried not to feel ashamed of the pitiful light display in our front yard.

Poor dears!
So now it's your turn!
What wacko things do people do to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah in your part of the world? What about in your own household?
While you're thinking, those deer have reminded me about Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey, maybe the weirdest Christmas song around!
Enjoy!
And my apologies to Italian donkeys everywhere.

Have a wonder-full Thursday, everybody!
Love, Becky

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Passports With A Purpose!

Today's Wonder of the World is...the Passport!

Flickr photo by wrld_trvlr
Feel like traveling?
You're in the right place!

Welcome to Wonders Never Cease's first ever Progressive Blog Post--kind of like a blog party, but with just two stops, and you've already made it to one of them.
There's a VERY SPECIAL reason I'm posting about passports today.
You'll see shortly!
We'll ruminate over passports here (you know I love to ruminate! It's so much better than ironing!) and then we'll hop over to Just Go! where my buddy Angela Nickerson will fill you in on the Purpose part of Passports with a Purpose! Have you met Angela yet? She wrote Michelangelo's Rome, a beautiful book that's both a cool travel guide and a fascinating biography.

Every time I flip through the pages I want to hop on a plane to Italy!

Now, on to the rumination!

Passports have been around for a long long time. Don't believe me? Check out Nehemiah 2:7-9.

Do you know where the word passport comes from? I bet if you're a French student you do... a passport lets you pass through la porte--the door, or in medieval times, the city gate.

My favorite thing to do with my passport (besides travel, of course) is to examine all the stamps.

Flickr photo by ds598
That, and gaze upon my children's old passport photos.

What babies I had when we first moved to France!

Looks like I'm not the only one who has problems with squinting.

Flickr photo by geeksara
My cat Katie didn't need a passport, but she did need a visa. But that's another story...

Getting a good passport photo can be a challenge!
That's why some governments produce helpful photo guides.

Flickr photo by gps1941
For some reason, this makes me roll on the floor with laughter!

I guess it's like driver's license pictures...some turn out better than others.

Flickr photo by zapatos
At least Mickey doesn't look Goofy.
(Ha ha.)


Flickr photo by benoit.deckmyn
Mr. Bean looks quite goofy, but he's happy that way.
You may have noticed that I haven't shared any of my old passport photos. It's because I could be Mr. Bean's sister.

I often wish we could return to passports like this one from China.

Public domain photo
Isn't it a work of art?

Passport covers can be works of art too. You can find loads of them at Etsy, of course.
Like these, over here.

Photo from StarlitNestGifts.etsy.com
Ah, passports. They allow us to broaden our world and become more invested members of the human family.
Now, hop over to Just Go! where Angela can show you a really cool way to broaden your world and get involved, whether you own an active passport or not!

But before you hop, tell me your passport stories! Are you a squinter too?

Have a wonder-full Wednesday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Books, Anyone?

Today's Wonder of the World is...Favorite Books for the Christmas Season!

Flickr photo by catsav
Wondering what to read to the kiddies this time of year? Or what to snuggle up with yourself?
I'll share some of my favorites and I'd love to hear yours too! I hope you'll speak up. I'd love to discover some new treasures this year.

Of course for Christians, nothing beats the Greatest Story of All.

Only A Star is by far my favorite picture book version of the nativity story. The artwork will stun you.

The story A Small Miracle is told entirely through pictures--no words.

I found it enchanting.

And of course I can't leave out my favorite Christmas book from my childhood.

Has anyone else read this? It tells the story of what happens when the littlest member of the Heavenly Host falls asleep in the field during the singing and is left behind on earth.

Here's another fun book.

It's like an advent calendar, with plenty of doors and tent flaps to open. Behind every door there's an interesting fact about life in ancient Bethlehem, like Kids played marbles with round walnuts or Doves are trained to carry the mail.

I'm sorry, but I just can't resist this baby board book.

Someone bought it for us the year Sam was born, and every year I CAN'T WAIT TO GET IT OUT AND HAVE A FIT OVER EACH PAGE!
Don't judge me.
Just look!

Those toes! Those cheeks!

I can't resist this book either.


Or this one.

I read it every year.

And I love this one too.

Have you read A Redbird Christmas yet? Please do! I'd hate to count how many times I've read that thing--in every season! Think of the gardens I could have planted, the laundry I could have done...But it was so worth it.

Last but not least, one of my most favorite Christmas stories, A Christmas Carol.

Flickr photo by Johnny Quixote
It never gets old!

Bless us one and all!
Have a wonder-full Tuesday, y'all!
And before you go, don't be a Scrooge! Please tell me your favorites for kids or adults.
I need another excuse to run to the bookstore!
Love, Becky