Created for all:With a touch of magic

Created for all:With a touch of magic
Since the 11th century

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Well folks its New Years again, and hope all of you have made your famous new years resolution. Mine is to be a better person, that intails treating my fellow man with a little more respect and love and showing that the Lord is truly in my heart, not just my mind. With this new resolution I wanted to take the time to give out some cool ldeas when it comes to planning that New Years Eve Party.
Whether it is 2 people or 200, we can all have a good time and experience our own unique memories to bring into the new year. So get your pen and paper and jot a few of these down. Be safe, and have fun.

List out the names of the people whom you would invite for the New Year party. Make sure that your invitations are sent much before the big night the simple reason being that most of the partiers make their New Year plans well in advance. The invitations can stand apart on their own, but it would be well to relate them with your dominant party theme. Like, for a party with a clock-theme you can send out invitations shaped like clocks in round boxes bearing the name of the invitee and an image of a clock on top.

A brilliant decoration goes a long way to create the right ambience and make your party a memorable one and one that stands out. A good decor is a prime requirement for any party, and a New Year Party is not an anomaly. Don't forget to decorate your house according to the theme of the party. It can also be adorned with New Year greetings, banners, bunches of flowers and streamers. Light up the outdoors and indoors of your house to add that extra sparkle to the celebrations. To know more about New Year decorations, click here New Year Decoration ideas.

Dance PartyParties without music tend to be a somewhat dull affair, moreso a New Year party. Never FORGET to arrange for a good sound system, all the better if it has a sing-along facility. Choose good music numbers prior to the party. Remember that the selection depends not on your choice but the general taste and age of your guests. It is great if you can be the DJ yourself or get a friend to do it for you, but you can always hire a professional if you are ready to spend the extra bucks to make it a grand affair. Have some slow-paced hits play in the background all evening to set the mood for the occassion. As midnight draws to a close, let play some groovy dance tracks to heat things up. Turn your party-zone into a big dance floor. Set it on fire with the latest chartbusters, a must have for such an occasion. You can also organize dance themes. There can be a couple dance or a mat dance. Dance competitions can also be organized among the kids and prizes distributed to the top three performers.

Dinner for New year partyThis is the most crucial part of the New Year party. Say whatever you may, but nothing matters so much to your guests on the New Year Eve as the items on your party dinner menu. Arrange for simple snacks like popcorn and chips if you are having an evening party on Dec 31st. Get a stack of alcoholic beverages in store if you plan to throw a bash only for adults. If your guest list includes kids, stay away from booze and restrict it all to non-alcoholic cold drinks that suit the kids. On New Year, people usually gorge on non-vegetarian food and cocktails. However, you are adviced to keep provisions for non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian dishes so that you are spared the embarrasment of having to see any of your guests leaving on an empty stomach. It is better to know their preferences beforehand, if that is possible for you. Whatever your other dishes be, it is necessary to prepare some of the traditional New Year foods (specially the ones that are thought to bring luck). Black-eyed peas, ham hocks, cabbage, rice, dried red peas, bacon, salted pork and lentil soup are some indespensable cuisines to gorge on in the run up to the big hour. If possible, a buffet should be laid out and menu should be planned according to the tastes and preferences of the guests and children. The New Year special cake should always be served at the end of the dinner.

It is important to base your bash on a particular theme. Having a party theme ensures that you make the arrangements party themeaccordingly. But above all, theme parties are the latest craze and about everyone is throwing one. So why should you lag behind, especially when the occassion under discussion is New year's Eve. You must ring in the new year with style and a theme party lets you do exactly that. Choose from popular New Year themes like "Casino Night", "Dress as a celebrity", "Garden party", "Indoor party", "Go as you like", "Cruise theme", "Retro theme", "70s Disco Theme", "Hollywood theme" or make up your own theme. You can award a prize to the best dressed person thus heating things up.

party ideasThe costumes for your New Year Party depends totally on the theme, if you have any. For a "Rock 'n Roll" theme, go for the typical glitter belt-white boot-white jacket Elvis look. Or you can try the cardboard-nose Pinocchio look if you are planning a "Dress as a cartoon character" theme, something kids will love very much. But if you prefer not to have a theme, you can fix the evergreen suits and gowns dress code or ask your guests to come as they like.

Party Games
party gamesGames have the wonderful ability to add more fun to a party. Make sure that you involve all your guests in the party games you play. Some exciting and amusing games can keep boredom at bay, make the party atmosphere more lively and fill your guests with the energy and hilarity so needed to make your New Year Bash an affair to remember. Click here for New Year Party Game Ideas.

A new site we happened across and think you should too.

Today's blog I wanted to take a moment to highlight one of my favorite online shopping experiences. If you have never had the opportunity to check out CSN stores online, you are missing out on a truly enjoyable and value added trip. CSN has over 200 online stores where you can find anything you need whether it be wall art and decor, fire places, fitness equipment, furniture, bed and bath, home improvements, baby items, you name it they have it. Their prices are reasonable and their customer service is superb. So if you get a chance this holiday season, please feel free to drop in and visit, you will not be dissapointed. This time of year we are all searching the web for bargains, value added merchandise and a host of % offs. Well look no further than the bargains come to you. Why shop all day and waste gas and time when the merchandise comes right to your door, not to mention their easy to navigate website and easy to ask customer service. Don't waste your time, here is the place to shop. Nutcracker Headquarters knows value and this is it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve is Here!!!!!!Wahoooooo Check out the info below and enjoy!!

Well Folks we've arrived at the days of days, Christmas Eve.
I hope everyone has their shopping done, loved one's called and Santa tracked. We here at Nutcracker Headquarters want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza and Feliz Navidad and hope that all your New Years dreams come true. We want to send out a special Holiday Thanks to the men and women of the armed forces and hope they come home to us safe and soon. Today we wanted to do something a bit different and place a famous and well loved holiday recipe in here for all the kids to make today. Before I post it, however kids, you and your parents check out this website link and try some of the fun games on there just for Christmas.

Now...One to the fun filled recipe you and your parents can make together on this cool winter day. Chances for snow and a White Christmas looks very good. Looks like old Winter Warlock is whipping up a good one. Here is a list of a few recipes, I always loved as a kid and I hope you will too. Here goes:::
These fun Christmas recipes aren't for the kids or the adults or the special relatives visiting. These Christmas recipes are just for Santa and his friends. From magic reindeer food for Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer and the gang, to Christmas cookies that will keep Santa going all night long, these fun Christmas recipes are a terrific way to get into the holiday spirit with the kids.

Reindeer Food

Fun Christmas Recipes - Magic Reindeer Food
Gotta give Rudolph and his friends something to sustain them during that long Christmas Eve trip, right? Magic reindeer food (also sometimes called magic reindeer dust) is the treat of choice. Kids love making this simple recipe and sprinkling the reindeer food all over the lawn to guide Santa's sleigh to their homes.
Making reindeer food for Santa's furry friends can become a tradition in your family. Start it with your children, starting at a young age, and they will forever remember that the last thing they did before going to bed on Christmas Eve was to leave something special for Santa in addition to his delivery team.
Difficulty: Moderate


Things You'll Need:

  • Oatmeal
  • Candy crystals or sprinkles
  • Cheerios
  • Carrots
  • Plastic baggies
  • Paper
  • Markers and crayons
  1. 1
    Ask for the children's ideas regarding what the reindeer might like to eat. Make a "trail mix" concoction of ingredients such as oatmeal, colored-candy crystals or sprinkles or popcorn kernels. Cheerios and crushed candy canes are other options. Add some glitter for an extra sense of magic.
  2. 2
    Have the children scoop up the mix into a plastic bag. If you're sharing with others, divide the mix up into the appropriate number of bags.
  3. 3
    Create fun, personalized labels for the reindeer food, encouraging the kids to come up with a creative name for the mix. Use a twist tie or ribbon to seal the bag shut.
  4. 4
    Write a letter or poem to Santa, letting him know what the food is, and who it is for. Use your own creativity, or search online for pre-made inspiration.
  5. 5
    Add a tag with a message to those you're giving the reindeer food to as gifts. Try the catchy jingles on the Operation Letter to Santa website.
  6. 6
    Leave the prepared mix near Santa's treats on Christmas Eve before the children go to bed. Add a few carrots for an additional snack that will power up the reindeer with energy to get home.
These fun Christmas recipes aren't for the kids or the adults or the special relatives visiting. These Christmas recipes are just for Santa and his friends. From magic reindeer food for Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer and the gang, to Christmas cookies that will keep Santa going all night long, these fun Christmas recipes are a terrific way to get into the holiday spirit with the kids.

Peppermint Hershey Kiss Cookies Recipe

Dark chocolate Hershey kisses and peppermint sugar cookie dough make a showstopping combination in this easy kiss cookie recipe. A packaged sugar cookie mix makes quick work of these holiday cookies, but you can certainly use your own homemade sugar cookie dough instead. These holiday cookies are easy to make and perfect for a holiday cookie exchange party.


  • 1 17.5 oz. package sugar cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 4-5 drops red food coloring
  • 18-20 dark chocolate Hershey kisses


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Dump cookie mix into a large mixing bowl. Add softened butter, egg and one tablespoon of flour.
  3. Using an electric mixer or your hands, mix until it forms a soft dough.
  4. Divide dough in half. Add peppermint extract to one half. Knead it into the dough until well-incorporated. Add a tablespoon of flour if dough is too sticky.
  5. Add red food coloring to the other half. Start with 4 drops of food coloring, and add more until you get a nice, deep pink color. Add a tablespoon or two of additional flour if the dough is too sticky.
  6. Pinch off a teaspoon of pink dough and a teaspoon of white dough. Stick together and form a ball. Important: Don't knead them together, or the dough will all turn pink. You want a nice candy cane stripe.
  7. Place balls 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned on the bottom.
  8. Remove from oven and immediately press a Hershey kiss in the middle of each cookie

Holiday rice krispy christmas trees
This Christmas rice crispy treats recipe looks impressive, but it is super simple to make. Just form the rice crispy treats into triangles, then insert a candy cane to represent the Christmas tree trunk, and decorate! Kids really enjoy making these holiday rice crispy treats, because they're easy to make. And, unlike cookies, these Christmas rice crispy treats don't have to be rolled, baked or cooled very long before the kids can eat them!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes


  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 10 oz. marshmallows or 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 6 cups crispy rice cereal
  • red and green gel icing, M&Ms, colored sugar and candy canes for decorating


  1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter and the marshmallows in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the marshmallows melt completely. Immediately stir in the crispy rice cereal. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, so that the rice crispy treats are about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick.
  3. Spray a sharp knife generously with cooking spray. Use it to cut the rice crispy treats into large triangles.
  4. Break or cut the candy canes into 3-inch pieces. Insert a candy cane into the bottom of each rice crispy treat triangle to form the trunk for the Christmas trees.
  5. Let the rice crispy treats Christmas trees cool completely before decorating with icing, candies and/or colored sugar.

Gingerbred Holiday Milk Steamer;For that cold burrrrry night

These gingerbread milk steamers are the perfect kids drink recipe for the winter holidays. Combining the flavors of gingerbread cookies and warm milk, these steamers can be prepared in minutes.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes


  • 2 cups milk (skim, 2% or whole)
  • 1 tsp. molasses
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks for garnish (optional)


  1. Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe container. Heat on high 1 to 2 minutes until milk is scalded, but not boiling.
  2. Stir. Beat with an immersion blender, frother, or just in a regular blender for 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with cinnamon sticks. Serve immediately.
One of my favorite and similar to Gingerbread, but a German original and one the Nutcrackers love!!!
Nürnberger Lebkuchen" are just one of many types of German gingerbread. They have been baked in the city of Nürnberg since 1395 by the local monks. The spices had to be imported for all Lebkuchen, so cities with strong trading partners had an advantage over small, agricultural villages when creating new types of Lebkuchen. Nürnberg also had good honey production and this gave them an edge up in commercial production of their Lebkuchen, which began in the 14th century. In 1643, the city even created the "League of Lebkuchen Bakers".
"Oblaten Lebkuchen" are baked on a thin wafer to keep the soft cookie from sticking to the cookie sheet. "Nürnberger Elisen Lebkuchen", considered the finest kind of Oblaten Lebkuchen, must have a minimum 25% nuts and less than 10% flour by weight. Sometimes, the recipe includes marzipan. These are soft, moist drop cookies.
Other types of Lebkuchen are made with a stiff dough which starts with a honey or sugar syrup and are rolled and baked. White Lebkuchen are decorated with almonds and candied orange or lemon peel. Lebkuchen is often referred to as "Pfefferkuchen".
The dough is made by creaming the butter, sugar and eggs, then alternating the sifted, dry ingredients with milk. After the last addition of milk, the dough looks like soft brownie batter.
After this, you fold in the nuts and candied lemon peel, and the dough becomes lumpy, but still soft.

Step#2 Spices!!
3 of 8

Lebkuchen Spices and Spice Mixtures for Gingerbread

Nuernberger Lebkuchen - Gingerbread Spices
Nuernberger Lebkuchen - Gingerbread Spices
Traditional Lebkuchen Spices:
  • cinnamon
  • anise seed
  • coriander
  • ginger
  • cardamom
  • cloves
  • allspice
  • mace
The mixture can also have small amounts of:
  • star anise
  • ground, black pepper
  • nutmeg
Everyone has their favorite mixture of spice for Lebkuchen. You can even buy an expensive mixture from a German grocery or deli labeled "Lebkuchen Neunerlei" (Nine-Spice).
You can also "cheat" with apple pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and cloves) or pumpkin pie spice mix (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, mace and cloves), or mix them one to one with "Chinese 5-Spice Powder" (cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves), which are found at your local grocery store.
Penzeys Spices sells all of these mixes too, plus a new "Baking Spice" mix with cinnamon, anise, allspice, mace and cardamom, which is a good mix to use on its own or with ground ginger. They also have something called "Cake Spice" with cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cloves. A listing of their retail outlets is found here, or purchase online and let them ship to you.
The point is, there is nothing magic about "Lebkuchen" spice. The ingredients are well known and can be found all over the place. There is no single way to make it. So go ahead and make your ginger cookies or honey hearts or "Pfeffernüsse with what you can find and don't worry too much. It will taste great!

My Lebkuchen spice mixture for this recipe:

  • 2 T. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground anise seed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground star anise
If you have whole spices (which have a longer shelf life), place the spices in a cleaned out coffee grinder (one that looks like a food processor inside, not a burr grinder) and grind until fine. Sift the ground spices through a fine sieve to remove large pieces and add to other ground spices. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per recipe.


Drop the Cookies onto the "Oblaten" or Parchment Paper and Smooth into Circles

Nuernberger Lebkuchen - Homemade German Gingerbread
Forming the Nuernberger Lebkuchen rounds - Homemade German Gingerbread
After folding in the nuts and candied lemon peel, the batter looks rough. Place about three tablespoons of batter on each 70 or 90 mm wafer (3 to 4 inch "Oblate") or draw 3 inch circles on parchment paper (you can use a biscuit cutter or water glass as a template) and drop the dough into the middle of the circles.
Once the tray is full, use the back of the spoon to fill out circle, slightly mounding the dough towards the center.
If you are using "Oblaten" drop the dough onto the wafer and smooth to the edges, mounding slightly in the middle.

Step #4

Baking the "Nuernberger Lebkuchen"

Nuernberger Lebkuchen - Homemade German Gingerbread
After the Nuernberger Lebkuchen come out of the oven - Homemade German Gingerbread
Bake at 375°F for 15-20 minutes. Turn down oven to 350°F if cookies are browning too much.
You will see that the cookies puff up nicely and become smoother and rounder after they are baked.
Let cool for a few minutes, then remove to a cookie or cake rack to cool.


Make the Glaze for the Lebkuchen Cookies

Nuernberger Lebkuchen - Homemade German Gingerbread
Boiling the glaze for Nuernberger Lebkuchen - Homemade German Gingerbread
While the cookies are cooling, start the glaze.
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 - 2 T. rum or liqueur
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
Place 1/2 c. sugar and 1/4 c. water in a small saucepan on the stove. Bring to a boil and boil for a few minutes. Add vanilla and liqueur or rum. Sift powdered sugar over hot sugar syrup and stir.
Use this glaze hot. If it becomes too cool, reheat. Be very careful when you are holding the cookies to not burn yourself by dripping hot glaze on your hands. You might want gloves or mitts that you can wash afterwards.


Glaze your Lebkuchen Cookies

Nuernberger Lebkuchen - Homemade German Gingerbread
Glazing Nuernberger Lebkuchen with a pastry brush - Homemade German Gingerbread
Using a pastry brush, brush warm glaze over warm cookies. Let dry completely.
You do not have to glaze the back of the cookies if they are baked on "Oblaten" but I recommend glazing the backs of parchment baked cookies to keep them moist longer. In that case, you will need a double batch of glaze.
Use this glaze hot to warm. If it becomes too cool, reheat. Be very careful when you are holding the cookies to not burn yourself by dripping hot glaze on your hands. You might want gloves or mitts that you can wash afterwards.

Dry glazed cookies for a day or so (to dry the glaze so it stays a bit crunchy) then store in an airtight container or freeze.
Step#7 The best part Eat and enjoy with the family!!!!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How can we improve?

I think in this section of blog I want the readers to tell us here are Santa's Nutcracker Headquarters what they would like to see in this blog? More stories, more info, you tell us so we can make each year better.
First off I want everyone to at least check out this great site for Nutcracker collectors and enthusiasts.

Now before continuing with my Christmas Story for tonight, I wanted to share a bit of humor that I heard the o

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Many Memories

Good Morning everyone! Today here in Sparta, Tn we have over 7 inches of snow! Wow, just in time for Christmas. Of course on our cattle farm it is a bit messy, but still.... I love the sweet white fluffy stuff just as much as I did when I was a kid. On this blog, I really want people to post comments. Letting us know here at Nutcracker Headquarters some of their favorite Snow filled memories. It can be from childhood, when you were younger, or even now. I know one of my favorite was when I was 6. We lived way back in the wood, surrounded by large pointy head mountains. Every Christmas me and my brother would take off to the cattle pasture, where these 2 large hills offered many hours of sled time for us both. The thrill of whoosing down the slops and slaming into the drifts below. Of course the climb back up in all those clothes wasn't too much fun. But still, I look back and see them as some of the greatest adventures of my life. Better yet with the first snowflake I could always bet on school closings. Snuggling down on the couch, with cheetos and Sesame street, or the electric company. Followed up by the Disney channel and my favorite cartoons. Well whatever your memories may be, we all have them, so let's bring joy to others by sharing some of them. God Bless.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How the Trees kept Christmas

How the Trees Kept Christmas
A Christmas Story
One Christmas Eve the trees in a wood were very unhappy. They wished very much to keep Christmas, but they did not know how to do so.
"We look so brown," said one.
"And so bare," said another.
"If we only had our pretty green summer dresses," said a third, "then we should be decorated and could keep Christmas."
"Hush, children, hush!" whispered North Wind in quite a gentle voice for such a rough fellow. "Make haste and go to sleep."
"Hush! children, hush!" softly murmured a sleepy little bird. He was roosting on one of the branches of the unhappy trees.
So the trees dropped off to sleep, one by one, while a little star twinkled peacefully overhead.
But while they slept something happened. And when the trees awoke they found that someone, perhaps North Wind, had, during the night, cast over each of them a lovely soft cloak of spotless feathery white.
"How beautiful we are!" said the trees. "Now we can keep our Christmas!"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Christmas Doll

Before I continue with my Christmas story, I want to share a great craft website where you can get alot of neat and truly easy Christmas crafts. It's check it out.

This Christmas will be especially important to me, for my dad, just received news that he needed a Prostate Biospy to determine if he has cancer or not. I have faith that the Lord will have other things to say about it, and will give him a good report. For as I have stated many times, Nothing is impossible through God. Still if anyone reads this blog spot, keep him in your prayers. Tonight's story is one that I treasured since childhood and one I have enjoyed from year to year. It is a story I want you to take to heart..

A Touching Christmas Story

I hurried into the local department store to grab some last minute Christmas gifts. I looked at all the people and grumbled to myself. I would
be in here forever and I just had so much to do. Christmas was beginning to become such a drag. I kinda wished that I could just sleep through Christmas. But I hurried the best I could through all the people to the toy department. Once again I kind of mumbled to myself at the prices of all these toys. And wondered if the grandkids would even play with them.
I found myself in the doll aisle. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a little boy about 5 holding a lovely doll. He kept touching her hair and he held her so gently. I could not seem to help myself. I just kept looking over at the little boy and wondered who the doll was for. I watched him turn to a woman and he called his aunt by name and said, "Are you sure I don't have enough money" She replied a bit impatiently, "You know that you don't have enough money for it. The aunt told the little boy not to go anywhere that she had to go get some other things and would be back in a few minutes. And then she left the aisle. The boy continued to hold the doll.
After a bit I asked the boy who the doll was for. He said, "It is the doll my sister wanted so badly for Christmas. She just knew that Santa would
bring it." I told him that maybe Santa was going to bring it. He said "No, Santa can't go where my sister is...I have to give the doll to my Momma to take to her". I asked him where his sister was.
He looked at me with the saddest eyes and said "She has gone to be with Jesus". My Daddy says that Momma is going to have to go be with her. My heart nearly stopped beating. Then the boy looked at me again and said, "I told my Daddy to tell Momma not to go yet. I told him to tell her to wait till I got back from the store". Then he asked me if I wanted to see his picture. I told him I would love to. He pulled out some pictures he'd had taken at the front of the store. He said "I want my Momma to take this with her so she don't ever forget me." "I love my Momma so very much and I wish she did not have to leave me". "But Daddy says she will need to be with my sister."
I saw that the little boy had lowered his head and had grown so very quiet. While he was not looking I reached into my purse and pulled out a handfull of bills. I asked the little boy, "Shall we count that money one more time?" He grew excited and said "Yes, I just know it has to be enough". So I slipped my money in with his and we began to count it.
Of course it was plenty for the doll. He softly said, "Thank you Jesus for giving me enough money." Then the boy said "I just asked Jesus to give me enough money to buy this doll so Momma can take it with her to give to my sister." "And he heard my prayer". "I wanted to ask him for enough to buy my Momma a white rose, but I didn't ask him, but he gave me enough to buy the doll and a rose for my Momma." "She loves white roses so very very much".
In a few minutes the aunt came back and I wheeled my cart away. I could not keep from thinking about the little boy as I finished my shopping in a totally different spirit than when I had started. And I kept remembering a story I had seen in the newspaper several days earlier about a drunk driver hitting a car and killing a little girl and the Mother was in serious condition. The family was deciding on rather to remove the life support. Now surely this little boy did not belong with that story.
Two days later I read in the paper where the family had disconnected the life support and the young woman had died. I could not forget the little boy and just kept wondering if the two were somehow connected. Later that day, I could not help myself and I went out and bought some white roses and took them to the funeral home where the young woman was. And there she was holding a lovely white rose, the beautiful doll, and the picture of the little boy in the store.
I left there in tears, my life changed forever. The love that little boy had for his little sister and his mother was overwhelming. And in a split second a drunk driver had ripped the life of that little boy to pieces. "We make a living by what we get; We make a life by what we give."

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Birth of a Nutcracker Doll

Good Evening Folks, Tonight I wanted to share something that many may or may not know. It is a break from the Christmas stories to tell a much older tale. One of the actual creation process of a nutcracker doll. Who better to describe the process that the Steinbach family. So here is the step by step process of creating these beautiful collectables. Tomorrow night we will resume with a favorite Christmas tale of my own, so tune in.
The wood that is used grows on the distant hills in Germany. The timber that is used is both the tall, slim trees whose crowns tower high and mighty and the stout, knotty varieties. Many decades pass to make the trunks tall and thick before they are used. Then the tractors drag them to the lumberyard. At last they are shaped into the beloved nutcrackers.
The hands of the old experienced craftsmen guide the work piece to the high speed-milling cutter. Many machines are needed to produce such wonderfully detailed parts. Precision machines are used to make slots and curves. Special planes are used to straighten and thicken boards. It is during the shaping process that dovetailing form milling and drilling is preformed. As all this occurs the shaped pieces begin to be glued together under pressure in carpenters vices and are prepared for further processing.
Hand- Turning:
Hand- Turning is an ancient craft that is second nature to the craftsmen at Steinbach. It is a truly fascinating event to watch as just in one turn of the hand a wooden nutcracker begins to form. It takes long practice and persistent application to form all of those nice, cleanly cut parts. All of the parts are done by hand meaning there are no jigs or patterns. It is almost second nature to these highly gifted craftsmen.
Automatic Lathes:
Automatic Lathes are complicated pieces of machinery that the technicians are quite skilled in. These machines allow mass output of turned parts that flow out of the delivery end. Piece by piece they drop into a receiving box and pass through the receiving drums. But don’t be fooled this process is not as simple as it sounds. They require a wide experience and knowledge to service and adjust the modern automatic wood turning machines.
Polishing and Drilling:
At the factory power drills and polishing wheels are constantly humming as the shaped pieces pass from hand to hand. It is here that the nutcrackers are glued and pegged together. They all take shape under the expert hands of one of the trained polishers. There are so many tiny parts here that it not only takes precision but also a natural gift.
Priming and Spraying:
Priming and Spraying is a special process on which the quality greatly depends on the output. Only the most experienced craftsmen do this work. This process gives the products a smooth white grounding by repeating a procedure of dipping and spraying alternated with drying.
Have you ever wondered how Steinbach’s work seems so alive? Well it is the detailed, rich work done by the turners and woodcarvers that gives the nutcrackers the finishing touch.
The painting department is the home of vibrant colors and of great artists. All of the painting is done freehand making every brush stroke count. Painting is a long process because each color must dry before the next layer can be applied.
The next and last step in making a wooden nutcracker is the shipping of the nutcrackers. The shipping clerks have their work cut out for them as they deal with the multitude of forms and documents. The packers are well trained to make sure each of the products completes their journey in wonderful condition.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Children of Wales Christmas

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows - eternal, ever since Wednesday - that we never heard Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor's polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder.
"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, "A fine Christmas!" and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.

"Call the fire brigade," cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong.
"There won't be there," said Mr. Prothero, "it's Christmas."
There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting.
"Do something," he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke - I think we missed Mr. Prothero - and ran out of the house to the telephone box.
"Let's call the police as well," Jim said. "And the ambulance." "And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires."

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim's Aunt, Miss. Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, "Would you like anything to read?"

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

"Were there postmen then, too?"
"With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells."
"You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?"
"I mean that the bells the children could hear were inside them."
"I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells."
"There were church bells, too."
"Inside them?"
"No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged town, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence."

"Get back to the postmen"
"They were just ordinary postmen, found of walking and dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on the doors with blue knuckles ...."
"Ours has got a black knocker...."
"And then they stood on the white Welcome mat in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making ghosts with their breath, and jogged from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out."
"And then the presents?"
"And then the Presents, after the Christmas box. And the cold postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on fishmonger's slabs.
"He wagged his bag like a frozen camel's hump, dizzily turned the corner on one foot, and, by God, he was gone."

"Get back to the Presents."
"There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us. And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles' pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why."

"Go on the Useless Presents."
"Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast under the balloons."

"Were there Uncles like in our house?"
"There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas morning, with dog-disturbing whistle and sugar fags, I would scour the swatched town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out. Men and women wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles their stiff black jarring feathers against the irreligious snow. Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in their fur-abouts watched the fires; and the high-heaped fire spat, all ready for the chestnuts and the mulling pokers. Some few large men sat in the front parlors, without their collars, Uncles almost certainly, trying their new cigars, holding them out judiciously at arms' length, returning them to their mouths, coughing, then holding them out again as though waiting for the explosion; and some few small aunts, not wanted in the kitchen, nor anywhere else for that matter, sat on the very edge of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to break, like faded cups and saucers."

Not many those mornings trod the piling streets: an old man always, fawn-bowlered, yellow-gloved and, at this time of year, with spats of snow, would take his constitutional to the white bowling green and back, as he would take it wet or fire on Christmas Day or Doomsday; sometimes two hale young men, with big pipes blazing, no overcoats and wind blown scarfs, would trudge, unspeaking, down to the forlorn sea, to work up an appetite, to blow away the fumes, who knows, to walk into the waves until nothing of them was left but the two furling smoke clouds of their inextinguishable briars. Then I would be slap-dashing home, the gravy smell of the dinners of others, the bird smell, the brandy, the pudding and mince, coiling up to my nostrils, when out of a snow-clogged side lane would come a boy the spit of myself, with a pink-tipped cigarette and the violet past of a black eye, cocky as a bullfinch, leering all to himself.

I hated him on sight and sound, and would be about to put my dog whistle to my lips and blow him off the face of Christmas when suddenly he, with a violet wink, put his whistle to his lips and blew so stridently, so high, so exquisitely loud, that gobbling faces, their cheeks bulged with goose, would press against their tinsled windows, the whole length of the white echoing street. For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens. Auntie Bessie, who had already been frightened, twice, by a clock-work mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and had some elderberry wine. The dog was sick. Auntie Dosie had to have three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush. I would blow up balloons to see how big they would blow up to; and, when they burst, which they all did, the Uncles jumped and rumbled. In the rich and heavy afternoon, the Uncles breathing like dolphins and the snow descending, I would sit among festoons and Chinese lanterns and nibble dates and try to make a model man-o'-war, following the Instructions for Little Engineers, and produce what might be mistaken for a sea-going tramcar.

Or I would go out, my bright new boots squeaking, into the white world, on to the seaward hill, to call on Jim and Dan and Jack and to pad through the still streets, leaving huge footprints on the hidden pavements.
"I bet people will think there's been hippos."
"What would you do if you saw a hippo coming down our street?"
"I'd go like this, bang! I'd throw him over the railings and roll him down the hill and then I'd tickle him under the ear and he'd wag his tail."
"What would you do if you saw two hippos?"

Iron-flanked and bellowing he-hippos clanked and battered through the scudding snow toward us as we passed Mr. Daniel's house.
"Let's post Mr. Daniel a snow-ball through his letter box."
"Let's write things in the snow."
"Let's write, 'Mr. Daniel looks like a spaniel' all over his lawn."
Or we walked on the white shore. "Can the fishes see it's snowing?"

The silent one-clouded heavens drifted on to the sea. Now we were snow-blind travelers lost on the north hills, and vast dewlapped dogs, with flasks round their necks, ambled and shambled up to us, baying "Excelsior." We returned home through the poor streets where only a few children fumbled with bare red fingers in the wheel-rutted snow and cat-called after us, their voices fading away, as we trudged uphill, into the cries of the dock birds and the hooting of ships out in the whirling bay. And then, at tea the recovered Uncles would be jolly; and the ice cake loomed in the center of the table like a marble grave. Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year.

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. Ghosts whooed like owls in the long nights when I dared not look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn't the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets. At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house. "What shall we give them? Hark the Herald?"
"No," Jack said, "Good King Wencelas. I'll count three." One, two three, and we began to sing, our voices high and seemingly distant in the snow-felted darkness round the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. We stood close together, near the dark door. Good King Wencelas looked out On the Feast of Stephen ... And then a small, dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry, eggshell voice from the other side of the door: a small dry voice through the keyhole. And when we stopped running we were outside our house; the front room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-gulping gas; everything was good again and shone over the town.
"Perhaps it was a ghost," Jim said. "
Perhaps it was trolls," Dan said, who was always reading.
"Let's go in and see if there's any jelly left," Jack said. And we did that.

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang "Cherry Ripe," and another uncle sang "Drake's Drum." It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The SnowDrop Christmas Story

Tonight I wanted to continue through Christmas the Stories, I grew up hearing. This one is a great story to cuddle up with the kids and a hot cup of cocoa and listen:
Here goes;

It was winter-time; the air was cold, the wind was sharp, but within the closed doors it was warm and comfortable, and within the closed door lay the flower; it lay in the bulb under the snow-covered earth.

One day rain fell. The drops penetrated through the snowy covering down into the earth, and touched the flower-bulb, and talked of the bright world above. Soon the Sunbeam pierced its way through the snow to the root, and within the root there was a stirring.

"Come in," said the flower.

"I cannot," said the Sunbeam. "I am not strong enough to unlock the door! When the summer comes I shall be strong!"

"When will it be summer?" asked the Flower, and she repeated this question each time a new sunbeam made its way down to her. But the summer was yet far distant. The snow still lay upon the ground, and there was a coat of ice on the water every night.

"What a long time it takes! what a long time it takes!" said the Flower. "I feel a stirring and striving within me; I must stretch myself, I must unlock the door, I must get out, and must nod a good morning to the summer, and what a happy time that will be!"

And the Flower stirred and stretched itself within the thin rind which the water had softened from without, and the snow and the earth had warmed, and the Sunbeam had knocked at; and it shot forth under the snow with a greenish-white blossom on a green stalk, with narrow thick leaves, which seemed to want to protect it. The snow was cold, but was pierced by the Sunbeam, therefore it was easy to get through it, and now the Sunbeam came with greater strength than before.

"Welcome, welcome!" sang and sounded every ray, and the Flower lifted itself up over the snow into the brighter world. The Sunbeams caressed and kissed it, so that it opened altogether, white as snow, and ornamented with green stripes. It bent its head in joy and humility.

"Beautiful Flower!" said the Sunbeams, "how graceful and delicate you are! You are the first, you are the only one! You are our love! You are the bell that rings out for summer, beautiful summer, over country and town. All the snow will melt; the cold winds will be driven away; we shall rule; all will become green, and then you will have companions, syringas, laburnums, and roses; but you are the first, so graceful, so delicate!"

That was a great pleasure. It seemed as if the air were singing and sounding, as if rays of light were piercing through the leaves and the stalks of the Flower. There it stood, so delicate and so easily broken, and yet so strong in its young beauty; it stood there in its white dress with the green stripes, and made a summer. But there was a long time yet to the summer-time. Clouds hid the sun, and bleak winds were blowing.

"You have come too early," said Wind and Weather. "We have still the power, and you shall feel it, and give it up to us. You should have stayed quietly at home and not have run out to make a display of yourself. Your time is not come yet!"

It was a cutting cold! The days which now come brought not a single sunbeam. It was weather that might break such a little Flower in two with cold. But the Flower had more strength than she herself knew of. She was strong in joy and in faith in the summer, which would be sure to come, which had been announced by her deep longing and confirmed by the warm sunlight; and so she remained standing in confidence in the snow in her white garment, bending her head even while the snow-flakes fell thick and heavy, and the icy winds swept over her.

"You'll break!" they said, "and fade, and fade! What did you want out here? Why did you let yourself be tempted? The Sunbeam only made game of you. Now you have what you deserve, you summer gauk." "Summer gauk!" she repeated in the cold morning hour.

"O summer gauk!" cried some children rejoicingly; "yonder stands one- how beautiful, how beautiful! The first one, the only one!"

These words did the Flower so much good, they seemed to her like warm sunbeams. In her joy the Flower did not even feel when it was broken off. It lay in a child's hand, and was kissed by a child's mouth, and carried into a warm room, and looked on by gentle eyes, and put into water. How strengthening, how invigorating! The Flower thought she had suddenly come upon the summer.

The daughter of the house, a beautiful little girl, was confirmed, and she had a friend who was confirmed, too. He was studying for an examination for an appointment. "He shall be my summer gauk," she said; and she took the delicate Flower and laid it in a piece of scented paper, on which verses were written, beginning with summer gauk and ending with summer gauk. "My friend, be a winter gauk." She had twitted him with the summer. Yes, all this was in the verses, and the paper was folded up like a letter, and the Flower was folded in the letter, too. It was dark around her, dark as in those days when she lay hidden in the bulb. The Flower went forth on her journey, and lay in the post-bag, and was pressed and crushed, which was not at all pleasant; but that soon came to an end.
The journey was over; the letter was opened, and read by the dear friend. How pleased he was! He kissed the letter, and it was laid, with its enclosure of verses, in a box, in which there were many beautiful verses, but all of them without flowers; she was the first, the only one, as the Sunbeams had called her; and it was a pleasant thing to think of that.

She had time enough, moreover, to think about it; she thought of it while the summer passed away, and the long winter went by, and the summer came again, before she appeared once more. But now the young man was not pleased at all. He took hold of the letter very roughly, and threw the verses away, so that the Flower fell on the ground. Flat and faded she certainly was, but why should she be thrown on the ground? Still, it was better to be here than in the fire, where the verses and the paper were being burnt to ashes. What had happened? What happens so often:- the Flower had made a gauk of him, that was a jest; the girl had made a fool of him, that was no jest, she had, during the summer, chosen another friend.

Next morning the sun shone in upon the little flattened Snowdrop, that looked as if it had been painted upon the floor. The servant girl, who was sweeping out the room, picked it up, and laid it in one of the books which were upon the table, in the belief that it must have fallen out while the room was being arranged. Again the flower lay among verses- printed verses- and they are better than written ones- at least, more money has been spent upon them.

And after this years went by. The book stood upon the book-shelf, and then it was taken up and somebody read out of it. It was a good book; verses and songs by the old Danish poet, Ambrosius Stub, which are well worth reading. The man who was now reading the book turned over a page.

"Why, there's a flower!" he said; "a snowdrop, a summer gauk, a poet gauk! That flower must have been put in there with a meaning! Poor Ambrosius Stub! he was a summer fool too, a poet fool; he came too early, before his time, and therefore he had to taste the sharp winds, and wander about as a guest from one noble landed proprietor to another, like a flower in a glass of water, a flower in rhymed verses! Summer fool, winter fool, fun and folly- but the first, the only, the fresh young Danish poet of those days. Yes, thou shalt remain as a token in the book, thou little snowdrop: thou hast been put there with a meaning."

And so the Snowdrop was put back into the book, and felt equally honored and pleased to know that it was a token in the glorious book of songs, and that he who was the first to sing and to write had been also a snowdrop, had been a summer gauk, and had been looked upon in the winter-time as a fool. The Flower understood this, in her way, as we interpret everything in our way. That is the story of the Snowdrop.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Update from Santa and a Special Story for all from his desk

Alright, we here at Nutcracker Headquarters wanted to check in with everyone to ensure they have written their letters to
 Santa's letters have emphasized the world to understand true love and faith in each other and a higher power. Those things will get you through the toughest times of our lives. With that being said, Santa wanted me to pass down these stories. I hope that they will bring you comort and a bit of happiness. Share them with your children, your loved ones. Also don't forget to check out the videos and links on the site. We have updated it to give children and the children at heart a place to escape for a while and just have fun!!!. So here we go. Enjoy: We will post one story a day up until Christmas, with added info, of course. We feel it's more important that we share these wonderful bits of history with you and your family.

Abram Woodhouse was late, and he knew it. But even so, as the daylight faded he climbed the path up Castleberg hill on the north edge of Settle. From the hilltop, on a bright clear day, he could see from Settle southwest to Pendle Hill, where George Fox had his vision of a great people to be gathered; and to the westward rose the whitewashed limestone crags of Pen-y-Ghent. He wanted to look down and see the village all lit up.

But the sun was down and a cold winter fog was rolling in dark and low over the slopes of the Yorkshire Dales. By the time Abram reached the top, huffing and puffing, snow had begun to fall, and about all he could see were the tops of some leafless trees and the mist made by his rapid breathing.

He stopped there for a moment to catch his breath. Looking north, he couldn't see the sheep he knew were out there on the rock-strewn hillsides, huddling against the cold under their thick, matted coats of fleece. Peering over the rocky ledge down toward the village, he thought he could make out a faint flicker here and there, but it could have been just his imagination.

Too bad, he thought. He had hoped to see Settle sparkling in the dark like the queen's necklace on a black velvet cushion, with candles in practically every window. Every window, that is, but the ones in the Woodhouse bakery and pastry Shop, and at their house on Lancaster Street.

The Bakery! The thought reminded Abram that he was late. He snatched up his pie basket and scrambled quickly down the path, back to the village and a long evening's work.

Christmas Eve, so called by the world's people, was always a frantically busy time at the bakery. While the Woodhouse family, being Quakers, did not observe Christmas as a special day, almost all their customers did. That meant orders for dozens more pies than usual, plus hundreds of tarts and ginger cakes, and scores of extra loaves of their rich, thick bread.

So all the week before, the whole Woodhouse family were in the shop almost round the clock, mixing dough, sprinkling sugar and cinnamon, spooning out the cherry preserves, and tending the fire under the big brick ovens.

Abram did all of this, and more: he was often sent out with a basket full of pies or tarts for delivery to the better customers: beef and mincemeat pies to old Tilbury at the Golden Lion Pub beyond the square; or down the cobbles of South Street, through the narrow passage of the Ginnett and past the sturdy old Meetinghouse, with scones for the Blackburns and buns for the widow Kilburn. Sometimes he crossed the river Ribble to Giggleswick, where the vicar doted on Mother's ginger cakes.

This evening he had been sent to the pub, where Tilbury wanted three more pies for his last round of customers, and it was from there that he had turned to climb the hill.

Abram wouldn't have thought of it, especially in the cold, except for the candles--two in a window in every house and shop.

"What are they for, this time?'' he had asked Father that morning.

"It's a double illumination,'' Father said, "for victories past and victories prayed for. George Cockburn's troops burning Washington, DC is the victory past, and Wellington beating Napoleon before the end of 1815 is what they're praying for.''

"That's a fine thing to pray for, in what's supposed to be a Christian country'' his grandmother had snorted. Laying down her rolling pin, Gran had wiped sweat from her brow. "All it means is more dead soldiers, penniless widows and hungry orphans, from Paris to New York. Love thine enemies, indeed. A terrible, sinful waste.''

She sighed and picked up her rolling pin. With swift, expert strokes she flattened a thick lump of dough into delicate pie crusts.

"In Philadelphia,'' she went on, hefting the rolling pin for emphasis, "there were dozens of pitiful beggars, one-legged and one-eyed, left over from their glorious revolution, twenty- five years later. Saw 'em with my own eyes, y'know. No need for it, I say. War is a sin, I say. And not just I, but the blessed--''

The bell over the door had tinkled just then, and Mrs. Lamb entered, seeking some bread. Gran had stopped in midsentence at its jingle. This was Quaker talk, and not for customers' ears, especially not this year.

But such talk had always interested Abram; and he never tired of hearing about Gran's travels in the ministry to America. It seemed as if she had seen everything there, from William Penn's great Quaker city to the terrible slavemarkets of Baltimore and Richmond. And she had gone there all alone, back in 1805.

To be sure, a woman traveling all that way unaccompanied had been somewhat irregular, even for Friends. But when Sarah Haygarth, who was to go with her, came down with smallpox a week before their ship sailed, Gran told the elders straight out that she still felt called to go. They had given her a traveling certificate, she insisted, and she was not going to return it until it had the signatures of Friends in America on it.

And that had been that. Gran was not someone to be trifled with. Not then, and not now.

In fact, it was Gran's gruffness which was about to come in very handy for Abram. Hurrying around a corner of the square, he ran smack into a larger boy running the other direction, looking back as he came.

Abram, his broadbrimmed hat and his basket all went sprawling. The larger boy recoiled, then seemed to recognize Abram. "Bloody Quaker!'' he shouted, and kicked Abram as he tried to regain his footing. "Cowards, all of you! Bet you'd like to see Napoleon and Andy Jackson killing British soldiers, wouldn't ya?''

Abram dodged the next kick and managed to get up. "Who's thee?'' he asked, backing away. "What does thee want?''

"I want all traitors and Quakers out of England!'' the boy cried. He threw a rock at Abram, which missed. "Go to Philadelphia, or someplace where your sort is welcome. We hate cowards and traitors, and we hate you!''

The boy raised his fists and stepped menacingly toward Abram, who was backed up against the wall of a house. There's no place to run, he thought, so I may as well stand my ground. "Who's thee calling a coward?'' he said, and raised his fists.

But then a hooded figure carrying a long stick loomed around the corner. "Here, now, what's this?'' a voice said curtly.

Abram recognized Gran's commanding, husky tones. But the other boy, eyeing her staff cautiously, edged away from him, right up under a window in which two candles were burning. In their glow Abram got a good look at him: curly red hair and a freckled face, with one front tooth missing. His chin was wrapped in a gray muffler; his coat was ragged and patched.

"Go along now,'' Gran commanded him. She tapped her staff significantly on the stone walk.

The boy turned and ran. "Bloody Quakers!'' he spat again over his shoulder. "All your windows will be broken tonight! You'll see!''

Gran watched him disappear around a corner, and then said, more quietly, "Is thee hurt, lad?'' Abram shook his head, and picked up his basket and hat. He

was a little ashamed that she had discovered him preparing to fight. One leg ached where it had been kicked. But it would get better.

"Well, then,'' Gran said, "let's get on to 'shop now. Thy father was worryin' about thee.''

Abram limped a little as they walked through the square and he explained about his detour up the hill. Gran understood that; Castleberg was one of her favorite places too. But Abram was bothered by the boy's words. "Gran,'' he said anxiously, "hadn't we better tell Father, so he can get the shutters closed? We don't want anymore broken windows.''

Gran nodded. "We'll tell him,'' she said. "But I've a feeling we may be a bit too late.''

And so they were. At the shop, Father was sweeping up shards of glass from the walk in front. Behind him, inside the shop, mother and his sister Sarah were brushing off the display shelf. No one seemed very upset. Abram was not much surprised either; after all, they were used to it, in a way. The nights of illumination were called to celebrate British battle victories. If your window didn't have a candle in it on such nights, you risked having it broken by ragamuffins.

Even so, the elders of Settle Meeting had made it clear: the Quaker Peace Testimony forbade joining in illuminations or any other celebrations of carnal warfare, come what may. And the Woodhouse family kept to the testimony as best they could.

"Did thee see who did it?'' Abram asked.

"Caught a glimpse of him running off,'' Father said. "Redheaded lad. Ragged. No one I knew.''

Of course, thought Abram. The boy who kicked me! Anger flashed over him. Next time I see him, he told himself grimly, I will thrash him good, Peace Testimony or no.

Mother was shaking her head at Gran. "Well,'' she said, "I expect it's a good thing we've a standing order with Cobbold's glaziers. They'll be here day after tomorrow with a new window. I think we Friends have been keeping Cobbold in business through this war.''

"How many does this make?'' Gran asked. "Five times, or is it six?''

"Six,'' Father answered through the empty window frame. "It's been a long war.'' He clumped the big shutters closed over the opening and came through the door to bolt them from inside. "We'll just have to leave them shut til Barney gets here.'' He surveyed the shop and his family. "I think that's about cleaned up,'' he said. "So we better get back to work, eh?''

Mother nodded, and put away the brooms. Then she and Sarah returned to their tarts. Abram was sent to bring in a big sack of flour, then feed the fire and stoke it with air from the bellows, to be ready for Gran's next batch of pies. Well-stoked, the oven fire kept them all warm despite the broken window.

Coming back from the wood bin with another armload of logs, he heard Gran whispering to Mother. "Did thee notice, Martha, there was a black bow on the candles in Margaret Newhouse's window? It must be her boy Jack. He was off to New Orleans with the Yorkshire dragoons.''

Mother shook her head. "The poor lad.'' she murmured. "God have mercy on his soul.''

"And hers, too,'' Gran added, more loudly. "What'll she do now, I wonder, with four other children and her husband gone too?'' Then more softly, almost to herself, she said, "another one for my pie list, I reckon.''

Abram added the logs to the fire, and pumped the bellows. Then he wrapped up some orders for delivery that night. The vicar was laying in a double batch of ginger cakes, to get him through the holiday. Abram put the parcel on the counter by the back door, next to a stack of pies.

The pile of goodies made him feel envious of the lavish worldly celebrations of which they were to be part. Candy, gifts, parties, bright decorations--he had seen all these, if only for moments at a time, when making his deliveries.

Of course, the holiday would not go completely unnoticed by the Woodhouse family. The shop would be closed--there was no business that day anyway--and they always had a big dinner, with special desserts. Then father would read the Nativity story from his big old Bible, wire spectacles balanced shakily on his nose. But that would be about all. "For Friends,'' Gran had explained to him and his sister long ago, "Christ lives within, y'know, and Christmas should be every day.''

Abram could see her point, but he still yearned for some of the gaiety and gifts other households had. For that matter, it seemed that Gran herself did not keep entirely to this stern plain testimony. For each year since he had been old enough to work in the shop, Abram had noticed her preparing special parcels of pies and tarts and bread, which she set aside from the other orders. And when he awoke on Christmas morning, she was always gone, never appearing until almost dinnertime, then coming in red-faced from the chill. She never explained where she had been; but next day at the shop, the special parcels would be gone.

Staring at the stack of well-wrapped pies, Abram suddenly understood where Gran had been all those Christmas mornings: Her parcels must be meant for some of the poor families of Settle. And as soon as he realized this, he felt a strong urge, almost a need, to join her on her rounds tomorrow. He turned toward her, bent over a counter flecked with flour.

Listening to his request, Gran looked up thoughfully from the dough she was kneading. "If thee really wants to, Abram, thee may come,'' she said quietly. "But think about it awhile before thee decides. I start well before dawn, and thee needn't spoil thy rest on a quiet morning. Tell me before thee turns in tonight.''

Abram nodded, but he already knew what he would say. If he had to get up early, he would just go to bed sooner, that's all.

It did not turn out to be quite that simple, though. The Woodhouse home was built of solid stone, and all its windows were covered by strong shutters, pulled tight against rocks and bricks on nights of illumination. Even so, Abram was jerked awake twice by the sound of bottles crashing against the outer wall, accompanied by muffled curses.

After the second time, he lay awake, blinking in the darkness, for a long time. He remembered the redheaded boy, wondered if it was him, and felt again his anger at the attacks. He wasn't sure, when he heard Gran's quiet knock at his door, whether he had been back to sleep at all.

She saw him yawning, and whispered, "Thee still needn't come. Stay and go back to bed.'' He shook his head, and shrugged his way into his warmest clothes.

Heavily muffled, they slipped out into the darkness of Lancaster Street, each carrying a large basket laden with their treasure. Gran led the way, and even using her walking staff, she seemed to glide down the streets, sure-footed, as if hardly touching the ground. Abram, more than half a century younger, was hard-pressed to keep up with her.

The work was simple enough. On High Street Gran stopped at a doorway, and leaned a parcel against it at an angle, so it would stay put. She worked as silently as a thief. Around the next corner, another doorway. By the time they had worked their way to Tilbury Close, around the corner from the shop, their baskets were almost empty. Producing a key from her heavy skirts, Gran let them into the bakery, where in the dim glow from the banked coals beneath the oven Abram could make out another stack of parcels beside the door.

As they loaded up, Abram whispered a question that had been nagging at his mind: "Gran, how does thee know where to go?''

She shrugged, and whispered back. "Women know,'' she said. "The Women's Meeting keeps track, we hear things in the shop. And,'' she paused significantly, "I just remember which windows have black ribbons. Come along now.'' She pulled the door shut behind them.

There were some windows where candles still burned, flickering in low misshapen stumps of wax, but mostly Settle was dark. As they crossed the empty square, with its row of shops in the Shambles, Abram glanced up and saw that the sky had cleared. He could make out a sprinkle of stars between the dark shapes of the buildings.

They were headed up the steep side streets beyond the square now, where the houses were smaller and becoming shabby. It seemed that Gran was laying parcels more often here, and soon their baskets were almost empty again. Then she stopped by an alley, and gestured to Abram.

"Here,'' she said, handing him a big parcel, "thee can take this one. Past the third house on the left there's a gate, and a tiny cottage set back a few yards. Step quietly now.''

Abram eagerly took the parcel, and she followed him down the alley. He found the gate, but stumbled on a cobblestone as he reached for it. The gate creaked as he pushed it back. He couldn't see the cottage at first, then spotted a glow. Moving toward it, he tripped over a milkpail and almost lost his balance as the metal rolled and clattered.

Frightened at the noise, Abram straightened up and took a few more paces toward the cottage. He was almost at the door, stooping to lay the parcel, when it was jerked open abruptly.

"Who's there?'' a frightened voice demanded. A figure stood in the doorway holding a lantern in one hand and a club raised in the other.

At the rush of light and sound, Abram stumbled backward, and tripped again over the milk pail, which had rolled up behind him. Losing his balance, he flailed his arms out to keep from falling, flinging away his heavy parcel. The figure in the doorway, equally startled, reflexively dropped the club and caught the package one-handed.

Thoroughly rattled now, Abram rolled to his feet and darted to the gate. There he glanced back toward the cottage, then started to run again--right into Gran's muffled form.

She caught hold of him and held him a moment, until he got over his panic. As he clung to her he suddenly realized she was stifling giggles.

"My heavens, lad,'' she said, "don't thee remember what the saviour said? 'When thou givest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand is doing.' I'm afraid thee needs some practice in that, Abram. Come along now.''

Back out of the alley, Gran turned away from the village, up the steep street again, then plunged suddenly through a low gate onto what Abram knew was the path up the side of Castleberg. "Is there someone up here too?'' he whispered, but she shook her head and kept climbing. She knew this path as well as the rest of the town, even in the dark, and kept ahead of him despite her age.

At the crest of the hill she stepped to the ledge where the village lay visible below. The predawn air was clear now. Settle's few remaining lights blinked up at them, and a glimmer wavered on the slow current of the Ribble.

The night sky was a much more impressive display, moonless and glittering with stars from horizon to horizon. Behind him Abram heard the faint baaing of sheep, somewhere on the dales. It was cold up here, but beautiful. He realized that he had hardly felt the cold til now.

Gran broke into his thoughts. "Did thee recognize anyone at the cottage, Abram?'' she asked.

He thought back. It all happened so fast. But wait--in the lamplight, just for a split-second, he thought he had seen a face--he drew in his breath sharply. "Gran!'' he exclaimed. "It was the boy who kicked me. His hair, his tooth--they were the same.''

He felt rather than saw her nod. "Aye,'' she said, "and he recognized thee, too. But what about the cottage, now? Did thee notice anything about it, lad?''

He thought back again. There hadn't been much light until the door opened, just a glow from--from what? Then he knew: "Candles,'' he said. "In the window.''

"Aye,'' she said again. "And did thee see what was on the candlestick?''

He frowned in thought, then shook his head.

"A black ribbon,'' she said quietly. "It's his father. Killed in Flanders two months ago.''

He considered this in silence, watching his breath turn into mist and starting to shiver, until Gran said, "We'd best get back. There's still a dozen more stops to make yet. The war has been long, lad, and in the world's eyes Christmas is short. Though I think thee knows better.''

He followed her quietly down the path, through the empty streets and across the square, toward the shuttered shop. The candles will be burning again tonight, Abram thought, and the redheaded lad might be out too, looking to throw his rocks.

But perhaps not. Abram realized that his anger at the boy was gone. If he met him again, he wouldn't feel a need to fight. And he could hope that, if the lad had recognized him at the cottage, maybe some of his anger would begin to cool, too. Maybe they could have peace on earth, at least between the two of them, here in Settle, at least for now.

The elders of Settle Meeting wouldn't let him put a candle in the window even for that small victory, he thought. But when the tapers were lit at home for dinner, he would remember. That would be his Quaker illumination for this Christmas. It might not be much as the world measured such things. But it would do.

Santa Clause. We have recieved a large amount of input and feel there are far more nice children today, than naughty...Soooooo. That being said. I feel Santa's letters to us here at the Nutcracker Village are well founded and confident that his sleigh will be extra heavy this year with presents for the children. With the terrible economy and the loss of so many jobs,  people must pull together as a family and realize what actually is important in their lives. Each other. We must all remember what it was like for our grandparent,s and great grandparents who faced so much worse than we.Let us dig deeper inside ourselves and find a piece of happiness, hold it tightly and remember.
A Candle In the Window:A Frontier Christmas

Saturday, December 4, 2010

losing Your job, the Christmas Ryme:

Losing your job at xmas - Christmas downsizing

Today's global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps. Effective immediately, the following economy measures are to take place in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" subsidiary:

The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree never turned out to be the cash crop forecasted. It will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance.

The two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective. In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are therefore eliminated.

The three French hens will remain intact. After all, everyone loves the French.

The four calling birds were replaced by an automated voice mail system, with a call waiting option. An analysis is underway to determine who the birds have been calling, how often and how long they talked.

The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could have negative implications for institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals as well as a mix of T-Bills and high technology stocks appear to be in order.

The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day is an example of the decline in productivity. Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that from now on every goose it gets will be a good one.

The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. Their function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are on order. The current swans will be retrained to learn some new strokes and therefore enhance their outplacement.

As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the workforce is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring or a-mulching.

Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number. This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps.

Ten Lords-a-leaping is overkill. The high cost of Lords plus the expense of international air travel prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work congressmen. While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant because we expect an oversupply of unemployed congressmen this year.

Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big. A substitution with a string quartet, a cut back on new music and no uniforms will produce savings which will drop right down to the bottom line.

We can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and other expenses. Though incomplete, studies indicate that stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient. If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved.

Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorney's association seeking expansion to include the legal profession ("thirteen lawyers-a-suing"), action is pending.

Lastly, it is not beyond consideration that deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to stay competitive. Should that happen, the Board will request management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the right number.