Christmas in Art: Sister Wendy on the Art of Christmas

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Detail from a fresco in the Cataomb of Priscilla, Rome

A new addition to our Christmas book collection, Sister Wendy on the Art of Christmas is a tour through fourteen works of art that reflect the spirit of the season. Sister Wendy's insightful narrative guides the reader from Advent through the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. 

For centuries --for millennia--the whole world was in a state of advent: it was waiting. Until the Lord revealed himself to Abraham, our ancestors did not know for what or for whom they were waiting. But every thinking being knew (and still does) that our present state is not right. Injustice, violence, misery: This is not how it is meant to be, and all our instincts cry out against it. 

 Sister Wendy on the Art of Christmas

This is a perfect way to spend some time reflecting on the season while learning about the technique and meaning behind these beautiful works of art. 

Blessed are you who believed - Printable coloring page

One of the most poignant phrases in all of Scripture and one which applies not only to Mary but to each of us. 

Perfect for advent reflection and contemplation, print the free PDF coloring page here


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Advent Companions: Three Favorites and New This Year

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This beautiful advent devotional by Ann Voskamp is a treasure. The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas invites you to celebrate the lineage and majesty of Jesus through the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree. 

Beginning with Jesse, the father of David, the book retraces the lineage of humankind from Adam to the Messiah. Each day of advent has a reading, prayer, and reflection. This is a book you will want to revisit year after year. 

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas includes daily readings from the last week of November through the first week in January. This book helps my heart to prepare a way for the Lord during advent. 

Includes writings by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, Sylvia Plath, J. B. Phillips, Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster, Henri Nouwen, Bernard of Clairvaux, Kathleen Norris, Meister Eckhart, St. Thomas Aquinas, Karl Rahner, Isaac Penington, Madeleine L’Engle, Alfred Delp, Loretta Ross-Gotta, William Stringfellow, J. Heinrich Arnold, Edith Stein, Philip Britts, Jane Kenyon, John Howard Yoder, Emmy Arnold, Karl Barth, Oscar Romero, William Willimon, Johann Christoph Arnold, Gail Godwin, Leonardo Boff, G. M. Hopkins, Evelyn Underhill, Dorothy Day, Brennan Manning, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Romano Guardini, Annie Dillard, Martin Luther, St. John Chrysostom, Giovanni Papini, Dorothee Soelle, C. S. Lewis, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Philip Yancey, J. T. Clement, Thomas Merton, Eberhard Arnold, Ernesto Cardenal, T. S. Eliot, John Donne, Gian Carlo Menotti and Jürgen Moltmann.

Treasured Stories of Christmas has been a favorite for many years and it seems that each year I find a new favorite holiday tale. This is not a book of children's stories, rather a collection of classic short stories that embody the essence of the season. 

The collection includes time-honored classics by Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, and O. Henry and little known tales by Stephen Crane, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bret Harte. There are stories for children by Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Lucy Maud Montgomery as well as surprising stories from Cleveland Amory, Pearl Buck and many others. 

New this year:

These are the books I am reading for the first time this advent season.

Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and still does) by Scott Hahn

The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander

A Cozy Christmas Tradition: The Holiday Jigsaw Puzzle

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A holiday tradition that actually helps you relax? You need this in your life.

Each year, my family selects and completes a holiday-themed jigsaw puzzle. As family members come and go throughout the season, the puzzle is available at the puzzle table for anyone wishing to find a few matching pieces.

Here are some great reasons to give this tradition a try:

Jigsaw puzzles get you in the holiday spirit

Focusing on a holiday scene for an extended period helps to get in the holiday spirit. You can't feel like the holiday caught you by surprise if you have been staring at a manger scene for days.

Jigsaw puzzles are relaxing

Sitting down at the puzzle table is a great way to unwind and get your mind off of the holiday craziness. It requires your full attention so it actually gives your mind a break from other worries and activities. It's a great excuse to spend some time in front of your Christmas tree or near a window on a snowy day. Plus, it keeps everyone unplugged from technology for a time.

Jigsaw puzzles are great alone or great as a group

A puzzle works as a great solitary activity or a fun group project. Anyone can participate. Everyone may not be interested in sledding, but everyone can do a puzzle.

Ready to give it a try?

Jigsaw puzzles vary in terms of difficulty so consider the ability level of your puzzlers as well as how much time you would like to spend on the project. If you are unsure, a 500-piece puzzle is usually a good place to start. If you have younger children, or want a quick sit-down activity, try a puzzle with fewer pieces.

It can be difficult to locate Christmas-themed puzzles, particularly religious ones. Here are some we have found.

Pumpkin Pie for Everyone {a simple vegan and gluten-free recipe perfect for food sensitivities}

With more and more people developing food sensitivities or allergies, preparing a meal for a group has become a challenge. Here is a take on traditional pumpkin pie that is free of eight major food allergens including gluten, dairy, egg, and soy. 

Not only is it a breeze to prepare, it is arguably one of the best pumpkin pie recipes my family has tasted. Everyone, whether they have dietary restrictions or not, loves this easy dessert.

One caveat, you will need to plan ahead for proper refrigeration time. The canned coconut milk will need to be refrigerated overnight before preparation and the baked pie should be refrigerated at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight to set. So put the canned coconut milk in the refrigerator at least two days before you plan to serve the pie. 

It starts with the simplest of pie crusts. We love the store-bought MI-DEL graham cracker crust. It's gluten free as well as being free of eight common food allergens. Plus, a graham cracker crust is the perfect compliment to the pie filling. While it is possible to make your own crust, once we found this one we all agreed, there is no need. Keep is simple. The crust is readily available at many grocers, or may be purchased here.

A note on the filling:

I use coconut cream in this recipe although you could also use unsweetened plain almond milk. To make coconut cream, place canned coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight, or about 12 hours. You will have cream develop sooner than this, but to get the most cream from your can, refrigerate at least 12 hours. 

As the coconut milk chills, the thick cream will rise to the top of the can. Simply scoop the thick white cream off the top and save the remaining watery liquid for another use (like soup, curry, or use when making rice). Tip: if you flip the can upside down before chilling, the cream will be on the bottom of the can and you can just pour the watery liquid off. 

You will need approximately 1/3 cup of cream for this recipe. Use what you have, a little more or less won't be a problem. I generally refrigerate two cans of coconut milk at a time to be certain that I will have enough cream if you're a little short, no problem. 


MI-DEL Gluten Free Graham Style pie crust


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place all filling ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary. 

Pour filing into pie crust and bake for 60-65 minutes. Cool completely, then cover and transfer to the refrigerator to set, preferably overnight. 

Serve with coconut whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

We like Reddi-Wip non-dairy make with coconut milk (keeping it as simple as possible).

(I love the convenience of shopping online and I think you will too. The links in this post are my referral links. Read my disclosure policy here.)