It’s NOT Christmastime yet!

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Thanks to those merchants who begin their Christmas marketing before Hallowe’en is over, it’s easy to be duped into thinking we need to keep in step with them and start our own preparations earlier every year.

I love everything about Christmas — celebrations of holiday and holiness along with the preparations, family festivities and traditions. What I don’t like is pushing aside our Canadian Thanksgiving, Remembrance/Veterans Day, and American Thanksgiving in a rush to dig out the creche, Christmas ornaments and coloured lights.

The one exception in our household is when we bake our Christmas fruitcakes six weeks before Christmas. The whole family gets involved, and for that one day, carols provides a backdrop to the measuring, stirring and wonderful baking aroma. But just for that one day.

(Oh, all right, I suppose I also have to admit we bought a poinsettia at the church’s Christmas Bazaar this past weekend. It’s a HUGE event and is always held the third weekend of November. Any later and it would conflict with Advent.)

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A friend reminds me every year that Christmas Eve is soon enough to put up her tree and bring out the few treasured ornaments that will remain in place through the twelve days of Christmas and come down after Epiphany. I don’t argue with her because her tradition is reasonable.

Do I wait until Christmas Eve? Certainly not! The older I get, the faster time passes, so I find it necessary to embrace all of Advent and the twelve days of Christmas to ensure I have adequate time to prepare myself and absorb all the special joys of the holy season.

However, I wait until after my American friends have celebrated their Thanksgiving Day. When the following Sunday ushers in Advent, then I’m set to move ahead into Christmas preparations. Then and only then! Our outside lights will go on to remind neighbours that we’re looking forward to celebrating the birth of Him who is the Light of the world. The miniature porcelain village will be unpacked along with the creche, and by the next weekend we’ll be hunting for the perfect tree.

It’s important to respect each special occasion, and I think it’s difficult to focus properly on their history and true significance if we are rushing past in anticipation of what will follow. So no, it’s not Christmastime quite yet.

This week I join in wishing my American friends a very blessed Thanksgiving.

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Giving thanks always for all things
unto God and the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

[Ephesians 5:20]

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A writing lesson gleaned from rose hips

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In the same field where I had snapped photos of purple fireweed during my August trip, last week I was greeted with a haze of red. Summer’s wild roses (Rosa acicularis) had left behind an abundance of their seed pods, known as rose hips.

Years ago in my more ambitious ‘happy homemaker’ days I had haphazardly gathered a large bucket of them during a mild fall, and taken them home to make Rose Hip Jelly. I heard rose hips contain Vitamin C in large quantities, twenty times that of an orange, but didn’t know they contain little or no pectin. I also didn’t know the seeds contain tannic acid, are covered with silver hairs that can irritate the digestive system, and should be removed first or strained out after cooking. I used an aluminum pot instead of a stainless steel one, too.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that my first attempt at making the jelly wasn’t much of a success. It turned out as a rather tasteless, tart syrup. Later years I waited until after the hips had been touched by frost. For better flavour I picked the ones that were neither orange nor deep red but scarlet red, cooked them with apples, strained out all the seeds, and added pectin. Success!

It proved that diving into the project without any real knowledge of what I was doing resulted in an inferior quality product.

I’d say that pretty well sums up what happened when I wrote my first novel, too. While I was an English major and had no problem gathering together 120,000 words, I didn’t know how to properly process them. The result was disappointing. I’ve learned a lot since then, and subsequent stories have seen the benefit of my education. But I’m still working to come up with the best recipe!

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Have you ever tackled a project without adequate preparation? What was the result?

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ROSE HIP JELLY

(This isn’t the recipe I used, but I think it’s a good basic one.)

Rose hips reduce by two-thirds during cooking, so you will need 3 cups of raw rose hips for each cup of puree. 
A good gel is difficult to achieve without added pectin.

  • 9 cups raw fresh rose hips – to make 3 cups rose hip puree
  • l pkg. powdered pectin

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 4 cups sugar

  • Add coloring, if desired

Wash berries, cut off the tops and ends. Simmer the prepared rose hips in a minimal amount of water until soft — about 10-15 minutes. Mash with a potato masher until smooth or puree in a blender. Filter through a jelly strainer or cheesecloth.

Combine 3 cups of the puree with pectin and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Add sugar, boil hard for 2 minutes or until gel is reached. Pour into hot sterile jars, leaving 1/8″ headspace. Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and rings. Water bath for 5 minutes (or seal jars with melted paraffin).

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I Didn’t Want to Know That!

Stumbling from the bedroom early this morning I clicked on the television. The first words uttered by the news anchorman were that Christmas is exactly two weeks away. I didn’t want to know that! Truly I didn’t.

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Yes, there is a decorated tree in our family room and the outside lights are up. That makes it sound like I’m well prepared, but guess what? I’m not. That’s just an annual trick to give the illusion that everything is under control. As is the case almost every year at this time, my cards aren’t written, the baking isn’t done, the shopping’s not finished and the gifts that need to be mailed out of town aren’t.

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But this evening I will join a group of carolers from our church singing for shut-ins and my heart will feel ready for Christmas. Advent is all about preparation, not of home but of heart. These first two weeks of Advent have focused on Hope and Peace. The next two will be about Joy and Love. When I return to my cards, baking and gifts, I will be remembering with joy those for whom these items are meant, and giving thanks to Him whose Love created Christmas.

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