It’s dark, but you don’t see the whole picture

Public Doman: NASA 2003Today is the winter solstice here in Maine. The shortest day of the year.

For those not inclined to see the glass half-full, it’s also the darkest day of the year.

But in the Southern Hemisphere, in places like New Zealand, today is the longest day of the year. The day with the most sunlight.

I love that! It helps me remember that even if things look really dark for me, I’m simply not seeing the whole picture.

And as my wife reminded me, the winter solstice has always been celebrating that the light does return. The darkness doesn’t triumph.

No wonder the Church chose to celebrate Christmas on the winter solstice. The Light will return to triumph over darkness.

May you experience that Light this Christmas. And may you have a hope-filled 2011.

Our favorite version of the Christmas story

Every Christmas morning, before open gifts, we pause to eat fresh scones and biscotti while listening to the Christmas story.

Our favorite is The Nativity by Julie Vivas. We got it years ago from one of my best friends from college and his wife. The text is the King James, poetic if a bit archaic. (My 9 year old son read it today. He kept saying, “Huh? They did what?” 🙂 )

But the images. What images! Angels with bulky boots and huge, colorful wings. The faces of sheer awe, wonder, and delight. Wow!

This book definitely reminds us of what Christmas is really about and who the real gift of Christmas is.

Elf Warmer Ale – The Latest Brew from Pitman Brewing

Thanks to Elizabeth, Tina, Carl, Rich, Frank, Sean, and Larry, I had a lot of name suggestions for this brew!

  • Holiday Scotch-hops
  • Elf Warmer Ale
  • What Ales You?
  • Wintah’s Best Ale
  • Frikin Good Ale
  • Saint Marc’s Maine Ale
  • Santas Stout
  • Holiday Hammeredtime!
  • Colossal Wassail?
  • Immanu – Ale?
  • Manger Ale?
  • Yule Tied Ale? (labeled with a picture of Santa in a bow tie…)
  • Mull of Kintyre
  • Mull Tipple

I decided to go with “Elf Warmer Ale.”

It’s all bottled and the labels are made. (I had fun with the Should be “officially” ready in 2 weeks…but I’m enjoying some of the fruit of my labor right now. 🙂

Top 10 Christmas CD’s: at least in our home!

Here’s a list of the top 10 (or so) in our house. Well…my top 10 anyway! 🙂

Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law turned us on to this set of CDs last year. We love it! This is a set we could do end on end, day after day. (And I normally can’t stand CDs being played over and over…and over!)

The Dawn of Grace by Sixpence None The Richer
Each year we buy a new Christmas CD. This is our 2008 acquisition. What a great buy! I love their versions of “Riu Riu Chiu” and “Carol of the Bells.”

Bing Crosby’s Christmas Classics
It’s Bing. Need I say more?

Drummer Boy
I picked this up back in ’95. I love their version of “Drummer Boy”!

Holiday Pops
I’m a big fan of the Boston Pops and Keith Lockhart. They are excellent musicians that know how to have fun. A great combination in a Christmas CD.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: A Crooner Christmas
A CD full of great crooners! Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr., Carmen McRae, Bobby Darin, and Andy Williams.

All winter our kids mimic Sammy Davis Jr’s “Baby you’ll freeeeze out there!!” from his duet with Carmen McRae’s on the title track!

December: 20th Anniversary Edition by George Winston
My high school roommate introduced me to George Winston’s December. Winston is amazing. And it’s sort of palate cleansing to have no lyrics every once and a while.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Celebration
In so many ways, Christmas doesn’t feel right without Mannheim Steamroller in the air. These 18 tracks get constant air time in our house! (As does Christmas in the Aire.)

The Christmas Cowboy by Gene Autry
Not sure how this got into our mix but now it’s family staple. Lots of Santa and reindeer classics. But his rendition of “One Solitary Life” is particularly moving.

Handel’s Young Messiah: Got this back in 1990 and still like the modern but faithful renditions of Handel’s Messiah.

There are many more in our Christmas CD tray. Like Starbucks Winterludes: Cool Holiday Notes, possibly Starbucks’ first attempt at a Christmas CD. Apparently they had a hard time figuring out how to make this multi-cultural. So in the midst of Christmas music, you here two songs from Fiddler on the Roof: “Sunrise, Sunset” & “If I Were a Rich Man”! We love those songs, they just crack us up coming after “Winter Wonderland” and “Santa Baby”! 🙂

What’s on your ipod this time of the year?

Adding to the brew supplies

megapotThe kids “bought” me a Nut Brown Ale kit from for Christmas.

Today I used some gift money to get this very cool brew kettle from Northern Brewer, a wort chiller, a special burner, and some yeast.

The start of my next batch is only a week or two away. And now I’ll have even better equipment!

Merry Christmas to me!

What Did You GIVE This Christmas? Week 4

It’s hard to believe the four weeks of Advent are coming to a close!

This week we’re collecting Paper Products: paper towels and all things paper.

You’ll probably never know how much this impacts the homeless shelter. I’m loving how it’s shaping my Christmas preparation too! I like getting, but there’s something really powerful about giving.

I’m so glad we have cool people like think of initiatives like this (and organize it without me!)! 🙂

What Did You GIVE This Christmas? Week 3

What fun we’re having with the “What did you GIVE this Christmas?”!

This week we’re collecting detergents: laundry, fabric softener, and the like.

Like last week, when you’re picking up stuff for your laundry, why not pick up an extra for the shelter?