Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Church Newsletter Ideas

Simplest Newsletter
I once had a church assignment where I sent a list of seldom seen sisters a message in the mail each month.  I started writing a newsletter to them.  My goal was to keep these less-active sisters connected with our church.  I wanted it to be an easy transition for them when they returned by knowing what was going on.  As a church secretary, I expanded on the idea.

This example shows you the simplest form I've used, but most of the last year I had a spotlight where I took a picture of a sister and wrote a paragraph about her (including her church assignment).  Hopefully, this helped folks old and new, get to know people. This SugarDoodle link was my inspiration: http://www.sugardoodle.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6532:relief-society-newsletter-template&catid=2650:-sp-801&Itemid=200411

I have also included regular short "articles" entitled Pursuit of Excellence which encouraged goal setting, Provident Living a preparedness feature, as well as Today's Family and a 3-Month Clip & File Food Storage Recipes.  Interspersed were really good quotes.  I put in phone numbers for the church leaders and contact people. 

For better viewing of the newsletters, click on each picture to enlarge.  (Graphics are Dazzle Daze by D.J. Inkers at www.djinkers.com). 
Spotlight and Today's Family Example

July page 2 - Clip & File Recipe Example

July page 1 - Provident Living and Pursuit of Excellence Examples

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Scrapbook Layout

Creative Memories Scrapbook Page Design and Layout Ideas, Vol. VII, p. 19

"Remember Uncle Sammy's sweet potatoes, or Aunt Phala's cocktail meatballs?"  Favorite recipes deserve a place in the scrapbook.  Our family gatherings growing up were always so memorable mostly due to the large spread of favorite dishes brought pot-luck to events such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.  

I've looked online and haven't found any better ideas for a Thanksgiving scrapbook layout where recipes are featured.  I imagine next to photos of the food and family members enjoying the food, some of the best loved recipes would be right there ready to refer to for many years to come.

Friday, November 12, 2010

True Story of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday.  Yeah, I'm a bit of a foodie, but I also love family and extended family and friends, neighbors, church members, basically anyone you can invite, joining together to give thanks to our Father in Heaven for the many blessings we receive not only at Harvest Time, but throughout the year.  The true story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is a poignant one to me.  One of the most meaningful renditions I've heard is given by Rush Limbaugh.  Every year, I enjoy tuning in and listening to him read his story of "The First Thanksgiving."  I also enjoy sharing this transcript with my family.  It really makes you stop and think, and give thanks.

RUSH: It's time for the traditional true story of Thanksgiving, as written by me in my second best seller of 2.5 million copies in hardback: See, I Told You So. "Chapter 6, Dead White Guys, or What the History Books Never Told You: The True Story of Thanksgiving -- The story of the Pilgrims begins in the early part of the seventeenth century ... The Church of England under King James I was persecuting anyone and everyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority. Those who challenged ecclesiastical authority and those who believed strongly in freedom of worship were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs. A group of separatists first fled to Holland and established a community.

"After eleven years, about forty of them agreed to make a perilous journey to the New World, where they would certainly face hardships, but could live and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible. The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example.

"And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford's detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford's own wife – died of either starvation, sickness or exposure. When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats.

"Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well. They were going to distribute it equally. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well.

"Nobody owned anything. They just had a share in it. It was a commune, folks. It was the forerunner to the communes we saw in the '60s and '70s out in California – and it was complete with organic vegetables, by the way." There's no question they were organic vegetables. "Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives. He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. That's right. Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn't work!" They nearly starved!

"It never has worked! What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild's history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future," such as that we're enduring now. "'The experience that we had in this common course and condition...'" this is Bradford. "'The experience that we had in this common course and condition tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,' Bradford wrote.

"'For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense,'" without being paid for it, "'that was thought injustice.' Why should you work for other people when you can't work for yourself?" That's what he was saying. " The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford's community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property.

"Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result? 'This had very good success,' wrote Bradford, 'for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.' ... Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s? Yes. Read the story of Joseph and Pharaoh in Genesis 41. Following Joseph's suggestion (Gen 41:34), Pharaoh reduced the tax on Egyptians to 20% during the 'seven years of plenty' and the 'Earth brought forth in heaps.' (Gen. 41:47) In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves.

"Now, this is where it gets really good, folks, if you're laboring under the misconception that I was, as I was taught in school. So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the 'Great Puritan Migration.' But this story stops when the Indians taught the newly arrived suffering-in-socialism Pilgrims how to plant corn and fish for cod. That's where the original Thanksgiving story stops, and the story basically doesn't even begin there. The real story of Thanksgiving is William Bradford giving thanks to God for the guidance and the inspiration to set up a thriving colony. The bounty was shared with the Indians." They did sit down" and they did have free-range turkey and organic vegetables, "but it was not the Indians who saved the day. It was capitalism and Scripture which saved the day," as acknowledged by George Washington in his first Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789.

November Traditions

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday...no costumes, no suitcases, no gifts, no basket grass and half-eaten marshmallow eggs, no flags to fly, no pageants to prepare.  Just friends and family bowed together before Heavenly Father.  ~Katherine Wirthlin Cannon

"Family Night"
As a family, read the books from the book list below and finish by telling the story of the Five Kernels of Corn.  For a special treat, make the Blessings Mix as a family and deliver some of the mix with the Turkey-Gram poem to a family or special person you know could use a happy surprise.

Thanksgiving Chick Lit
Sarah Morton's Day, A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl, by Kate Waters (ISBN 0590474006)
Thanksgiving Day, Gail Gibbons (0823405761)
Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit, Norman Bridwell (0590469878)

Did You Know...
Five Kernels of Corn
Many years ago during one of the early winters, the Pilgrims had very little food.  Because their corn supply was gone, each Pilgrim was given only five grains of corn to plant.  The following years they had more corn, but the Pilgrims wanted their children to always remember the sacrifices and the hardships that made the survival of their small settlement possible.  So each year when they celebrated Thanksgiving, they placed five grains of corn by each plate.  Some families still honor this tradition, so they won't forget the early days either.  

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix
Bugles corn snacks
candy corn
dried or candy fruits
peanuts or sunflower seeds
Combine desired amount of Bugles, pretzels, candy corn, dried or candy fruit, and peanuts or sunflower seeds and place into a snack baggie.  Attach the following:  Bugles corn snacks- a cornucopia, Pretzels- arms folded in prayer.  Candy corn- the five kernels of corn each of the pilgrims were allotted per day during their first winter because food was so scarce, Dried or candy fruits- Thanksgiving is the celebration of the harvest, Peanuts or sunflower seeds- seeds represent the potential of a bounteous harvest for the next season if they are planted and well-tended.

Deliver goodies anonymously to your friends with this cute poem.

Turkey trot, Turkey run, Time to have Thanksgiving fun!
Turkey right, Turkey left, Placed some treats upon your step.
Turkey sandwich, Turkey ham, Gobble up this Turkey-Gram!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Company's Coming: Organization

Just because you have four chairs, six plates, and three cups is no reason why you can't invite twelve to dinner. ~Alice May Brock

About a month ahead of my holiday celebration, I write a list of everything on my menu including snacks and appetizers.  I prepare what I can in advance. I take my list every time I go to the store so I can buy a little at a time.

Next I survey the furniture situation such as chairs for seating.  I just bought a couple of charming, smallish, sturdy chairs from an antique shop for $10 each!  That was for less than the nearby "thrift" shop was selling miscellaneous chairs.  They are perfect for a tight fit in my small dining room, and I have future plans to use one in a corner of a daughter's room and the other to hold a stack of pretty towels in my bathroom--so they serve double duty.  (Coming from a large extended family, I also learned that it is okay to use the piano bench and dressing table stools for seating as well--just tuck them on the side of the table that won't show up in photographs).  I have an enclosed front porch that will serve as overflow for my living room.  Investing in a nice patio set pays off during times like these.  I'll throw a few extra cushions and pillows as well as warm throws.  If it's chilly, I can heat up the porch with a small space heater I use for camping.

I've also been doing major house cleaning which I usually do every spring and fall.  This helps me get ready for the holidays.  Not only did I find a ton of stuff inside to take to the Jimmy Hale Mission thrift store, but outside as well!  I did part of my holiday baking all day Saturday, had a daughter make a huge pot of chili, and kept the menfolk well-fed as they cleaned up the clutter in the shed and around the house removing a boat, a 24-ft. above-ground pool, and leftover construction materials!

This is a good time to have a honey-do list prepared so my honey knows exactly what needs doing.  Some repairs require professionals like the Whirlpool repairman I've got to call tomorrow to fix the weird sound in the dishwasher and the ice maker in the fridge that's gone kaput.  If your husband isn't so handy around the house, ask friends if they know someone who is, that does this professionally.

I want to enjoy my Thanksgiving and I'm not real fond of turkey (I'm a chicken gal), so I plan on ordering a turkey.  Bojangles does a fried turkey, and the local BBQ joint has smoked turkeys.  The deli my eldest works at makes huge pans of dressing with chicken meat.  Turkey and dressing are the two things I really stress over.  Mrs. Smith's will take care of desserts, served with Cool Whip. I love Knorr turkey or chicken gravy.  I have a recipe that adds herbs to this packet and it is the best, easiest, no-fail gravy!

"Tastes Like Boston Market" Gravy
1 (1.2-oz.) pkg. Knorr Roasted Turkey Gravy Mix
1/2 t. chopped fresh sage
1/2 t. chopped fresh thyme
1/4 t. pepper
Prepare gravy mix according to pkg. directions, stirring in 1/2 t. chopped fresh sage, 1/2 t. chopped fresh thyme, and 1/4 t. pepper before bringing to a boil.  Proceed as directed on the package.  Yield:  1-1/4 cups.

I've recently discovered Stone Mountain canned vegetables, and the peas are way better than Le Seur and way cheaper too!  A tradition from my own growing up is the brown and serve rolls and plenty of jellied cranberry sauce--what could be easier?  And if I'm feeling up to it, I'll make some candied yams and a vinegar slaw that's to-die-for.  Mashed potatoes and green casseroles are stand bys as well.

For a small gathering, I plan on using real dishes so I've had to made sure I have enough silverware, cups, plates, etc.  The day before is a good time to plan on doing some light cleaning and dusting in places where guests gather and in the bathroom.  I recently spruced up the bathroom with new rugs, a shower curtain, and pretty towels.
For entertaining, we'll have the video game system ready in one of the bedrooms, and fun DVDs to watch.  I also like to keep some autumn inspired magazines and small books around.  My favorite autumn book is by the artist Susan Branch.

Festive background music, scented candles, something cool to drink (or cocoa in a crock pot if it's really cold), and a few light snacks such as homemade Snack Mix are perfect for guests as they filter in. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

5 Tips for Better Holiday Photos

Sometimes it is hard to even remember to take pictures at holiday parties, especially if they are fun! But the scrapbook just would not be the same without quality shots that capture great memories. Keep these tips in mind when the camera comes out and there will be plenty of excellent photos to choose from:
  1. Outside pictures do well in mid-morning or mid-afternoon when shadows are the softest. 
  2. The people you’re photographing should fill most of the view finder. 
  3. Keep shots uncluttered, and watch for objects that might appear to be growing you of your subjects’ heads. 
  4. Go for action shots. 
  5. For toddlers and babies, use toys to divert their attention.


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