Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year Resolutions: The Maddness of Dreaming & Making Plans

I've always heard, time flies by faster as you get older. 
This New Years, I feel that is truer than any other. 2011 was such a modpodge of a year. Summed up, I'd say the Word of the Year is Tears. Tears of joy, tears of loss, tears of adventure and tears of unbearable pain. A lot of this year caught me off guard. I think most people can relate with that. 

It's crazy that we still plan in the first place. Though we hope things will follow suit, we know, deep in our souls that something very well may go wacky at any given time. Plans will change, yet we make them. Call me hopeful or call me mad, but I'll keep doing it. It let's me keep dreaming. 

I looked back at last year's resolutions and I am thrilled to say all but one (the album one) have been accomplished! First year ever!

-Finish the first draft of my book.
-Write @ least 1 of 3 e-books.
-Lose the wedding weight. :)
-Start our creative workshops.
-Finish writing my new album.
-Learn to like sushi.

I didn't want to jinx this year, so I narrowed my over-zealous list to 4 things for 2012. 

1. Write out my grandparent's love stories.
On the way home from Christmas this year, I was telling Ty about how my mom's parents met. I was getting a little jumbled in the details and by the end of the story I thought out loud, Man, I should really have them tell me again and this time, write it down! I can't wait for this one. 4 love stories will be documented this year. Maybe I'll e-book them for the world to read.

2. Get rid of things I don't use.
Clothes, knick-nacks, makeup, jewelry, books, etc. I probably won't sell any of it, because I hate doing eBay, but I'll definitely be giving a lot away. So if you get a book from me for your birthday this year, well, you know I'm on track.

3. Raise the bar on my writing.
While working with She Seeks these last couple of months, I am learning how important, hard, but rewarding an editing process is for all writings. The team over there has taught me a lot of strategies and formulas to writing well, and I want to implement those over here as well. 

4. Dream a little bigger for this pretty space.
I want this blog to be a place of conversation and inspiration. I want to create a community built around alliance, relationships, and encouragement. I have a few ideas but I'd love yours too. Anything you think might work here? 

I have many goals and dreams this year and I hope you do too.
I'll leave you with my closer from last year because it still rings true.

For some of us this year is our Ctrl + Alt + Del button. 
For some of us, this year is the continuation of the best year of our life. 

For some of us this year will bring great joys and greater triumphs.
For some of us this year will bring such sorrow and utter disappointment.

For some of us this year will fly by just like the rest.
For some of us this year will drone on into what seems like an eternity.

For some of us this year will be one of significant discovery.
For some of us this year will be one of significant loss.

But for everyone, this year will be another year added to the timeline of our seasoned lives. And when we look back we'll see how invaluable this year was to the making of who we have become. 

Happy New Year dear friends & family. Happy sweet New Year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Farewell 2011 | See you in the New Year

This blog has been a great many things for me: an escape, a tool, and recently, a community. 
It's taken me a while to figure out my niche in this big wide world of blogging. I've written many silly pointless posts, grasping for some purpose and/or traction. I still feel as though I'm floundering, however 2011 has been a good year for me and this little hobby of mine.

Here are just  a few of the many exciting things that happened this year:

-I became a writer as part of the She Seeks team!
-Advertisements in JOIE Online Magazine
-Created & launched 2 online e-courses: Blogging & Singing
-Partnered with Antioch Temecula for a follow-up to their Dating Series
-More collaboration [20+ writers!] and guest bloggers on many topics, from spirituality to beauty secrets
-Developed 2 staple segments: Sundays are for Worship & Friday's at JM

So what's next for JM? 2012 holds many a goal and dream. Things will change around here. I want this small space to be a place of obvious community. A space where you and I feel safe, encouraged, and inspired

There will be new segments, features, downloads [!!], focuses, spins and twists. I'm finding my niche a little bit at a time and I think 2012 will prove that. 

I'm a girl who wants to conquer the world through words and music; or at least make a dent in it. I'm not sure how that will play out in this next year, but I am hopeful. 

So this is farewell my friends, for 2011
I am spending the last weeks of this year re-designing this pretty place and eating and laughing way too much with friends and family. 

See you in the New Year! Come see me January 1st! 


The only important thing about design is how it relates to people.

It is not daily increase but daily decrease; hack away the unessential.
Your best work is your expression of yourself. Now, you may not be the greatest at it, but when you do it, you’re the only expert.


TOP  10 POSTS of 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Traditions: Cake on Christmas Day

I am on family vacation for the holiday, but while I'm gone, you are in for a treat from some sweet friends. They're sharing their Christmas traditions with us! If you missed one, click here to catch up. Happy reading!
By Tammy HodgeI love traditions. Growing up my Mama was the queen of them. Each year at Christmas time us kids knew what to expect. There were jobs for all of us... Stringing lights on the tree, stringing popcorn, tossing tinsel on the tree, spraying fake snow out of a can on the front windows (Southern California Christmas time is special like that), helping to pick the Holiday menu and shopping for it. Mama covered all the bases.

So, when I grew up and had a family of my own, I realized that my mother had taken all the great traditions. What was left for us?


I am the only Believer in my family, so, as a Christian my celebration of Christmas is a bit different than it used to be when I was a child. If I am now choosing to honor the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas day then we are just gonna have to have a party.

A Birthday Party!

When my kids were very young we started our own little tradition of baking a birthday cake together on Christmas Eve. We’d all decorate it however we wanted. And this cake was for Jesus and we got to eat it on Christmas morning. For breakfast.

That’s right. Cake for breakfast. I either get the bad mommy award or best mommy award. Depends on who’s voting ;)
Most kids go to their stockings or presents under the tree first thing on Christmas morning. But mine? No...they go directly to the platter of sugar for Jesus.

But let me clarify...this isn’t just about getting to eat cake for breakfast. It’s about setting our first moments on Christmas morning aside to read about the birth of Christ, to remind ourselves why we celebrate and why we give gifts. It’s just a great, and delicious, way to begin one of the most beautiful days of the year! A tradition we still take part in, even though my kids are now 17 and 15, they still look forward to this tradition. One I hope they carry on with their families some day.
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About Tammy: I live in beautiful Nashville, TN with my husband, Brent, of 20 years and my two fantabulous children Kassidi, 17 andDakota, 15. Brent is a Campus Pastor at Cross Point Community Church - North Campus. I am in the process of writing my first book titled, “The Day I Told My Daughter”. You can read more about that on the My Story page. If I could share one thing with everyone I ever meet it would be that we do not have to live under the pain and regrets of our life’s choices or hurts. That we can allow them to grow us…grow us into something powerful that God can, and will, use to reach His people.Where to Find her:Taminprogress.comTwitter

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Traditions: One Big Day of Little Traditions

I am on family vacation for the holiday, but while I'm gone, you are in for a treat from some sweet friends. They're sharing their Christmas traditions with us! If you missed one, click here to catch up. Happy reading!
Photo Credit

By Tamara Clare

Throughout the year we have many family traditions, but the traditions we do at Christmas time are by far my favorite.  For us it’s not the big and elaborate traditions, but the little moments we share doing simple things together and enjoying each other’s company that become the most powerful traditions.  Here is how our Christmas day goes…

The alarm clock goes off around 7:00 am.  Our four children are reminded on Christmas Eve when we tuck them in that they are not allowed to come down stairs for any reason until we call them down.  Charlie and I get freshened up while still in our jammies and head downstairs.  I get my coffee, Charlie gets the camera and we hear the kids rustle on the stairs as they wait patiently, giggling in anticipation of what is to come.  I then take their picture as they sit on the stairs while they begin to get frustrated that I just can’t get the right picture.  Finally, they head down the stairs and around the corner to find their stockings full of goodies.

Once we all get situated Charlie reads from the Little Golden Book, The Christmas Story (which was his as a child) and then reads Luke 2:4-22 from the Bible.  It is then that we take a moment of do “popcorn prayer” and each of us prays to our Heavenly Father, giver of all things, especially our Savior Jesus Christ.  This is one of my favorite traditions that help us to keep our hearts and focus on the greatest gift given, Jesus Christ.

What comes next is the fun part.  
Charlie will choose one of the kids to be the one who hands out the gifts.  Then from youngest to oldest we open the gifts one at a time.  I love the gratitude and happiness that is shared when they receive their gifts.

When we are all done opening gifts, Charlie helps the kids put anything together that needs batteries, screws or the use of instruction manual and then we prepare breakfast.  I set the table fancy using my best dishes and water goblets.  The kids love this and feel so adult like and special.  When we sit down to eat we take time again to give thanks to our gracious God and enjoy the feast prepared.

Around noon, my Grandparents and my Dad and Lyn (my God given Mom) come over for Christmas Dinner.  We spend the next few hours preparing one of the most delicious meals of the year.  I wear the apron my Grandma Mary Nell (who is now with Jesus) made. Wearing it makes me feel so close to her.  

So, four generations of women laugh and love, hug and cry and make memories as we prepare and cook the Christmas Dinner.  The men of course are watching football and bonding the way men do as they wait for us to say “It’s Dinner Time!”

All ten of us then sit at our table in the dining room that my daughter Samantha and I prepared and made as beautiful as we could.  Once the kids are done, they excuse themselves from the table, but the adults remain for what seems like hours.  We sit and talk with my grandparents listening to the stories of how they met, when they first fell in love, the hard times, and the good times.   Sometimes we hear stories that we have heard before, but it never seems to matter.   We laugh, we learn and we connect our family of families one generation at a time.
This has been the way we have shared Christmas Day for the last 7 years.  It’s a day that we love to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the gift of life He gave us, the overflow of His love through gifts and sharing with one another and building a strong family through simple traditions.
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About TamaraTamara is married to an amazing husband Charlie and has 4 beautiful children that she dedicates her life to.  She loves having “Coffee with Jesus” early in the morning, so she can be a vessel to share His truth and love with all those around her. Tamara desires to always speak in truth, with boldness, yet speak gently to the women who cross her path.  Her passion is for all to taste and see that the Lord is good and find joy through taking refuge in Him. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Traditions: Remembering the Old and Learning to Love the New

I am on family vacation for the holiday, but while I'm gone, you are in for a treat from some sweet friends. They're sharing their Christmas traditions with us! If you missed one, click here to catch up. Happy reading!

Hi! I'm Aislin (ash-leen) from scribbles by a.

When Julianna e-mailed me and asked if I'd like to scribble a guest post for her, I squealed at the opportunity! seriously, I did. first off, any excuse to curl up in my chair and write always makes me smile. Secondly, it's a post all about Christmas traditions and truth is, I love me some christmas all year round.
Growing up, Christmas time was always huge in my house.
When I was younger, my mom, my three younger brothers, and I would decorate the house one day in early December. Then, that evening, my dad would climb into the attic and bring down all the boxes of ornaments [plus our really old fake tree].

It was absolutely delightful.

For my brothers and I, Christmas meant my dad [a brilliant engineer. who worked. a lot.] was home more. It meant an amazing feast at my dad's parent's house on Christmas Eve. and setting up our video camera in 'secret' hiding spots, hoping to catch santa. Funny, our dad always knew just the perfect place to hide it.

Christmas meant Christmas morning! Perhaps the happiest day of the year in our house.

Christmas meant ski-dooing on the lake at my grandparent's cabin. It meant watching my mom skate circles around our little rink, in complete awe. and eating plate after plate of my grandma's amazing strawberry triffle. It meant drying the dishes while my mom washed. I loved every minute of that [and still do!]. It meant the annual "photo in front of the tree" and always opening our stockings first. 

Growing up, Christmas meant family time, love, and was the absolute best part of the long, cold winter. And even now, all growed up, it still means all that to me, and more.

This will be the third christmas since my parents split up.
People say that the first year's holidays are the hardest; that it's all uphill from there. I don't really agree. Each holiday is different - you remember different years, different traditions, different special little moments. Maybe you cry for a minute or two. Maybe you scream into your pillow until you're numb. I've done both.

Then, slowly but surely, you go on to make new traditions. Ones that are the same, but different. New memories you'll cherish just as much as the ones you grew up with. Traditions are a hundred special little moments that get you through the year. 

Looking forward to those is what makes christmas so bright.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas time.
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About AislinI scribble about real life, my job as a full time nanny, everything I am grateful for, my struggle with faith & accepting my body. most importantly, I write about all the love in my life that makes me smile!

Where to find her:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Traditions: Documenting Christmas Dinner

I am on family vacation for the holiday, but while I'm gone, you are in for a treat from some sweet friends. They're sharing their Christmas traditions with us! If you missed one, click here to catch up. Happy reading!
By Laura Tremaine

I’m so honored to be guest posting here for Julianna.  You can usually find me at Hollywood Housewife.
I’ve always known that my family’s sacred holiday tradition was strange.  It isn’t sweet or conventional like my other friends' families, who get to bake fresh cookies for Santa or who settle beside a crackling fire to read about Jesus’ birth.  
Sometime in the late 80’s my dad started videoing our holiday meals.  He set up a tripod at the end of the table, pressed “record,” and then our every bite and chew was documented.  My brother and sister and I thought it was bizarre and whined about it loudly.  My dad thought just thought it would be interesting to look back one day on what we were conversing about over our meals.  My mom was silent on the subject.
Over time we started to forget the camera was running, for better or worse.  My sister and her husband had a small tiff while setting the table one year.  I may or may not have said something disparaging about another family member in that person’s absence.  Throughout the 90’s there were ever-evolving dinner guests at our table, from dear friends to a wide range of significant others.  The little red light always blinked.
A few years ago, my not-so-technical dad handed me a big box of video tape and asked that I use my Hollywood resources to have them transferred to DVD.  There were dozens of tapes, hours and hours of my family...eating.  But as I watched a few to make some sense of their order, I felt a lump in my throat.  The faces of my family were smooth and unlined.  There was so much laughter, opinions expressed that are no longer held, a virtual time capsule of our family each year.  It was so much better than pictures.
Our family tradition is not traditional.  It is almost always awkward for visitors.  And it has taken me a very long time to realize what makes it special.  But it is ours.  As my little family grows, I hope to develop my own traditions with my husband and two kids.  But I can’t wait to smile secretly to myself the first year I set up the tripod in the corner of the dining room.     
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About LauraI am an Oklahoma girl somewhat misplaced in the City of Angels. I spent six years working in reality television, but my true passion is writing. I live in Hollywood with my toddler daughter, infant son, & my producer/director husband, who is nothing like you'd expect. I hope I bring a little southern grace to this crazy city.

Where to find her:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Traditions: A How-To on Tamales

I am on family vacation for the holiday, but while I'm gone, you are in for a treat from some sweet friends. They're sharing their Christmas traditions with us! If you missed one, click here to catch up. Happy reading!
By Marissa Bryson

I far as I can remember, Christmas growing up consisted of 3 major things: 
Church (Advent, decked out sanctuary, musicals, candle light Christmas Eve service), 
Family Fun (I'm the youngest of 8, cutting our own tree at the Christmas Tree Farm, driving around town looking at lights, picking names for secret gifts, major wrapping paper mess on Christmas morning),
Tamales (waiting ALL year to make them, and happily consuming them for days!) 

Yes ladies and gents,  tamales are a vital component to my Christmas experience. I can't remember ever having a Christmas 'season' without seeing my mom in the kitchen dedicating a full day to tamale making. Lovingly cooking delicious meats that would soon find a cozy home inside the masa (corn meal) casing. Cleaning and soaking the corn husks until they become soft and pliable for the graceful spreading of the masa. 

And the pot! Aluminum workhorses they are. Who could ever forget the enormous steam pots specially designed and equipped to hold 50-100 tamale beauties at a time? 

When Julianna asked if I would be interested in sharing a Christmas Tradition, I without hesitation said "Yes!" as visions of tamales popped into mind. So I thought I'd try to take you through some procedural steps to give you and idea of all that goes into making a homemade tamale in my moms home (and proudly, now my own home as well!).

How to Make Tamales: Step by Step 

1. Prepare your fillings- Cook your meats. Traditionally in our family this has been limited to slow cooked beef & chicken. In recent years we have expended to include a cheese and green chile variety as well. After meats have cooled and been shredded, we add some of the #2 'salsa roja' (red sauce) to the meats for added flavor and consistency. We also take this time to cut up the cheese and green chile. 

2. Prepare your masa- We buy our masa prepared from local Mexican markets. The masa is perfectly fine to use as is, BUT being that my mom is an insanely good cook, she has always up the standards by 'adding' flavor to the prepared masa. This includes, homemade beef or chicken stock blended with rehydrated red chilies, garlic and some salt. This concoction is added to the masa and worked 'a mano' (by hand) until thoroughly blended. 

3. Prepare your husks-  Store bought corn husks range in cleanliness. Most packages need to be soaked for about 15-20 min. in hot water to loosen up the dirt particles and corn silk strands left behind. It's very important to work with a clean husk.  

4. Assemble- Now it's time to assemble the tamale!  You balance a corn husk in one hand while using a wooden spoon to spread a good amount of masa onto it as if giving a good paint application. This becomes a special talent as beginners soon find out. Then you add your filling of choice, fold one side in, then the other and the bottom tucked up.   

5. Set aside until enough are made to add to the pot to steam. 

6. Cooking time varies on how many you are cooking at a time, but normally it averages around 20-25 min. per batch. It's crucial to not over stuff the pot with tamales - they each need equal steam time to cook through. 

7. Once the VERY 1ST batch of the season is completed... STOP what you are doing and EAT one! : )  This is a must and pretty much a ritual in our house. Not much comes close to a homemade fresh tamale ~ ~

Tamale making is a process that is simple in steps but very hard tedious work. Often back breaking when you've been standing afoot for 8-10 hours reaching, bending, spreading, soaking, cooking and on and on and on 100's and 100's of these precious gems.  And it's that hard work and love poured into making each and every one of those amazing corn husk packages that makes them taste even better.  Once you have learned how to make them, your appreciation sky rockets for them and the 'hands behind the husks'. 

I've been helping my mom assemble tamales since I was a wee one. I am sure mine were never very neat and pretty compared to my mom's, but it was important to her that I felt like I had a part in the Christmas tradition. She was passing down heritage to me. A living legacy of sorts. 

And now I have felt it extremely important to master (or attempt) my mom's tamale making process and recipe so that one day I too can pass on the tradition to my daughters (or son... he likes  them too!) and keep it alive. Each year under her tutelage I have gotten better and better.  Last year I made my first attempt to do some tamale making all on my own just to see if I could wing it.  And I did! And they were gooood

Not to be completely side tracked. Christmas is most definitely not all about eating tamales, and I thank God for the greatest tradition of celebrating His Son's birth first and foremost. 
It's just really hard not to get giddy over the thought of tamale season : )  
You know that phrase "worth the wait"? That's kind of how I see tamales. It's a specialty food that, sure, it could be made and enjoyed year round BUT reserving it for Christmas time... once a year... surely makes it truly worth the wait. 

Feliz Navidad everyone!  Blessings on your Christmas traditions ~ 
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About Marissa: She is a proud homemaker & homeschooler.  That's her by day. Being that she is part nocturnal creature, she often spends many late nights researching, implementing and offering creative ideas.  She enjoys finding amazing deals, themed parties,  cooking multicultural cuisine for family and friends and making her house a little more like 'home' everyday. She loves Jesus with her whole heart and strives to show His amazingness through her creative endeavors.   Marissa is married to her college sweetheart and is mother of three beautiful children, ages 7, 5 & 18months. She resides in Whittier, CA.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Traditions: It's Not Christmas Without Tamales

I am on family vacation for the holiday, but while I'm gone, you are in for a treat from some sweet friends. They're sharing their Christmas traditions with us! If you missed one, click here to catch up. Happy reading!

By Crystal-Lee Howley

Christmas= my favorite holiday.
Not because I think Jesus was born in December {our savior's bday doesn't change the fact that He is God}, not because I love snow {So Cal... not in abundance in the valleys}. Partially because I LOVE christmas music, and partially because I do love how So Cal Christmases can be 80ºF {nope, I actually hate that}. What I DO love is this celebration of light out of darkness, of promises answered by God, of a glorious miracle remembered. But I must be completely honest, it's just not Christmas without tamales!

Mexican's and tamales; they are a genetic necessity. Being with family on a happy Christmas Eve after a joyful Christmas eve service is made perfect with a HUGE plate of delicious tamales. And these are the women who make it happen:
my mama, Nana Chela, and my Tia Maria.
{In preparation for this post, I realized I have not one single photograph of our annual tamale assembly. For shame!}

Come December 23rd, my nana's kitchen is filled with sinus-clearing spices, meats cooking 'til they're oh so tender, and the very tired arms of my Tata Ramon after long intervals of mixing the maza (corn meal dough) to the perfect texture. Then comes the assembly line: soaking cornhusks, maza, meat and wrap. It takes hours; hours of jokes and laughter, nana & tata's childhood memories, talk of church and what we're learning...and of course, hopes of more great-grand children {oh yes, the pressure's on}. It's a day like non other...almost as fun as Christmas. I treasure it each year, and can't wait until the next. This is a family tradition that spans back generations from the time my great-great grandparents made it to Mexico. And it's a tradition I fully intend on keeping for generations to come.

I am so thankful for a family centered around God and devotion to each other. Christmas brings everyone together in only ways God can. These traditions have shaped my family's history, and will hopefully define its future.
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About Crystal-LeeI love to do many, many things like singing classical music, teaching others how to appreciate classical voice, dabbling in graphic design, cooking {especially baking!}, but I work as a makeup artist focusing mainly on Wedding/special event and photography makeup. I also teach one-on-one makeup application lessons. My hope is to help women gain the confidence and knowledge they need to do professional quality {but natural-looking} makeup. When a women leaves my chair, I want her feeling gorgeous!

Where to find her:

PS. Come back tomorrow for a "How-To" on Tamales!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Traditions: IMAX, Ornaments and Bingo

I am on family vacation for the holiday, but while I'm gone, you are in for a treat from some sweet friends. They're sharing their Christmas traditions with us! If you missed one, click here to catch up. Happy reading!
By Misty Gatlin

I didn’t grow up with a lot of Christmas traditions.  In fact, I didn’t grow up with a lot of any kind of tradition, so I guess that’s why I’m determined to have many meaningful traditions for my family.  My husband and I have 2 children, ages 2 ½ and 6.  Our traditions are fairly new, and it seems we keep adding new ones each year.

This year, we decided to start putting up our decorations the day after Thanksgiving.  I know that sounds fairly conventional, but I’ve always been one to wait until a week or two before Christmas.  We refuse to play Christmas music until Thanksgiving has passed.  We are firm believers in celebrating both holidays separately and don’t want to rush Christmas.  I think we all have the same love of Christmas music, so it seems like we are itching to turn it on as soon as we wake up that Friday.  It blares throughout our house as we decorate, and we watch The Polar Express on Friday night. 

When I was young, I read The Polar Express, and I fell in love with every part of it.  It stayed with me even though I had never heard of it again until 2004 when the movie came out.  My husband and I, who had no children at the time, were first in line to see it at the IMAX in 3D.  It was everything I had remembered from the book and more.  I knew at that moment this story would become special to our family.

 The second weekend of December is dedicated to The Polar Express.  We head out to the Omni Theater on Saturday morning donning our favorite pajamas and watch the movie after drinking a warm cup of hot chocolate.  For those not in this area, the Omni Theater is a dome-shaped, IMAX theater where you literally feel you are in the movie.  This year is the first our littlest one gets to go, so we’re all excited to go as a whole family this time around.
Another tradition we have is that our children get a new ornament every Christmas, and they get to add it to their own, personal Christmas tree.  Usually the ornament represents something they both love at the time (example: motorcycle, monster truck, princess, God Rocks, etc).

On Christmas day, we wake up and open presents, and then we drive a few hours to visit extended family for lunch, presents, and the one and only tradition – bingo.  Each family brings little, wrapped gifts, and as soon as we finish lunch, we pull the bingo cards and beans (literal beans) out, and almost every member of our family play.  We get competitive, and we literally play for hours.  Each gift can be stolen twice, and when one of us bingos, we have to play at least one more game before quitting.  It’s one of the things I look forward to most every year.

The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. I love the decorations and the music so much, and I hope my kids find that same joy I do.  Each tradition we have brings us closer together as a family, which makes it even more special.

About Misty: Misty is a speaker and author of The Real You: Daily Readings for Daughters of the King.  She has a great desire to equip young ladies with confidence in who they are and who God created them to be.

Where to find her:

^^^Opinions, two-cents, questions and ramblings are welcome. And go above. Go ahead. Try it.

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