Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Crackers

We do this on Christmas Day, do you?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Jazz Hands

Christmas 2006? This is what the Dugan cousins do at the Dugan Family Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Free Money

I just finished most of my Christmas shopping with free money, thanks to the GAP. Let me tell you how this works. First of all, to set the stage, a few years back we were doing some shopping at GAP and the purchases totaled enough that I decided to take advantage of the GAP credit card to get the 10% off that purchase. In addition, the card was good at Old Navy (where we do shop) and Banana Republic (where I shop and then return everything I buy when I get it home because it's just not me). Also, they told me that for every $1,000,000 (or something like that) I spend there I would get a $10 gift certificate.

A few weeks ago, Mr. D and I were shopping. They had some nice things at GAP and they had marked them down to some really nice prices which I can't tell you about because it's a secret. Normally I use the check card since it's more fun in January to not get a big Visa bill. But, for all GAP purchases I used GAP Visa (they changed the GAP card to a VISA card a while back, but I digress) because they were also giving an extra 10% off if you used your GAP card. We got some great deals and felt very shopping savvy.

Then, on Saturday (during the blizzard) we thought it would be smart to get out and go to the Mall of America. We had to get out anyway to pick up our Sam's Club Christmas cards which Mr. D ordered online on Thursday and were supposed to be ready at 1:15 that day, but when I got there the next day to pick them up they were not ready and the guy informed me that everyone (except, I guess, the Sam's Club computer) knows that at this time of year Sam's Club takes 48 hours for photo cards. But, I digress.

We were at the GAP and noted an item had been marked down $20 off the great deal price we had paid for it the previous week. I remembered that the GAP policy is to make a price adjustment with only the receipt if the price goes down within 2 weeks of your purchase. So, I opened my purse and began the arduous process of finding all my GAP receipts in the hopes of finding the one with the marked down item.

Keep in mind that I always get receipts for everything (I'm getting better about not getting them for a cup of coffee at Caribou that I've paid cash for, but, I digress). Also, I rarely take receipts out of my purse. So, I knew I had them. Sure enough, I found 3 or 4, took them to the guy at the counter with a couple of small purchases and asked him if he could check for any discounted prices.

Now, this is the amazing part. He cheerfully said, "Sure," then took my three receipts and scanned them. Amazingly enough, a credit of $28 appeared on the screen! It was enough to make my new purchases and still leave $8 on my GAP credit card without me doing a thing. The transaction didn't involve handing him my GAP card and waiting for some manager to come over and authorize the refund and me giving a blood sample. No, he scanned my receipt and immediately money was credited to my VISA. Just like that.

Then, I remembered that I had made some purchases at GAP kids and had one receipt at home (Terry had made that one). He doesn't keep his receipts in his wallet (like that Seinfeld episode), he files them at home, but I digress. I was unstoppable.

Yesterday, I took my GAP kids receipt to the store and asked them to scan it and magically another $24 appeared on my card. Then, I went to the regular GAP and handed them my receipt, they scanned it and another $20 was credited to me!

Money for nothing. I love it. We got $72, about 1/3, back.

Moral of the story: Keep your receipts. Shop at GAP.

The End.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Humility is so shy. If you begin talking about it, it leaves.
-Tim Keller

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa Claus, a Shepherd's Pouch, and the Sacred Pink Ornament

"Bah! Humbug!" These two words are instantly associated with Charles Dickens' immortal fictional anti-hero, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge was the prototype of the Grinch who stole Christmas, the paradigm of all men cynical.

We all recognize that Ebenezer Scrooge was a mean person - stingy, insensitive, selfish, and unkind. What we often miss in our understanding of his character is that he was preeminently profane. "Bah! Humbug!" was his Victorian use of profanity.

Not that any modern editor would feel the need to delete Scrooge's expletives. His language is not the standard currency of cursing. But it was profane in that Scrooge demeaned what was holy. He trampled on the sanctity of Christmas. He despised the sacred. He was cynical toward the sublime.

Christmas is a holiday, indeed the world's most joyous holiday. It is called a "holiday" because the day is holy. It is a day when businesses close, when families gather, when churches are filled, and when soldiers put down their guns for a 24-hour truce. It is a day that differs from every other day.

Every generation has its abundance of Scrooges. The church is full of them. We hear endless complaints of commercialism. We are constantly told to put Christ back into Christmas. We hear that the tradition of Santa Claus is a sacrilege. We listen to those acquainted with history murmur that Christmas isn't biblical. The Church invented Christmas to compete with the ancient Roman festival honoring the bull-god Mithras, the nay-sayers complain. Christmas? A mere capitulation to paganism.

And so we rain on Jesus' parade and assume an Olympian detachment from the joyous holiday. All this carping is but a modern dose of Scroogeism, our own sanctimonious profanation of the holy.

Sure, Christmas is a time of commerce. The department stores are decorated to the hilt, the ad pages of the newspapers swell in size, and we tick off the number of shopping days left until Christmas. But why all the commerce? The high degree of commerce at Christmas is driven by one thing: the buying of gifts for others. To present our friends and families with gifts is not an ugly, ignoble vice. It incarnates the amorphous "spirit of Christmas." The tradition rests ultimately on the supreme gift God has given the world.
Thus begins a great article (great, of course, meaning one I agree with!) written by R. C. Sproul about Christmas.
Now, don't get me wrong, I like John Piper, but after reading the Sproul article, I read this by JP. A dead branch, shepherd's pouches filled with tape? Well, I guess if it works for them, it works for me. But, I like the tree, and the ceremonious hanging of the sacred pink ornament, and I still believe in Santa.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Christmas Survey (from Nikki's blog)

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Paper and lots and lots of wired ribbon.
2. Real tree or Artificial? Real. Frasier fir. Purchased at Cobblestone Gardens (formerly Cal's) for way too much money.
3. When do you put up the tree? Around the 8th of December
4. When do you take the tree down? About the 8th of January
5. Do you like eggnog? Yes. I also like fruitcake, but no one asked.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? The Roy Rogers cap gun and holster (I used to LOVE to watch Bonanza with my dad). That, and the 2 weeks in Hawaii in 1973.
7. Hardest person to buy for? Hmmmm, don't know.
8. Easiest person to buy for? Will, he loves everything.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, handmade by my dad. Set up under the watchful supervision of Chris every year. Will likes to slide the shepherds down the roof.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, and usually with the "religious" stamp.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? There is no such thing as a bad Christmas present.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? It’s a Wonderful Life, Charlie Brown Christmas Special, A Christmas Story, Elf, Home Alone, While You Were Sleeping, You've Got Mail (counts because Christmas occurs during it), Bells of St. Mary's to name a few. This year we've already watched A Christmas Story, Elf, Home Alone (always watch that one on Thanksgiving evening to kick off the Christmas movie watching month).
13 When do you start shopping for Christmas? Black Friday (but we go to Starbuck's for coffee on Thanksgiving morning at 8:30 to pick up the paper with all the adds and coupons).
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? That would be wrong.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Christmas Cookies and anything made by my mom.
16. Lights on the tree? Yes, including the old 1950's big bulbs with the metallic star reflectors.
17. Favorite Christmas song? I Heard the Bells with All is Well by MWS a close second.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay in town.
19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner & Blitzen, but do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all...Rudolph...
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star purchased at Pottery Barn at the Galleria when it used to be a tiny store next to Williams Sonoma.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Family on Christmas Eve; Santa on Christmas morning.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Not enough time to do everything.
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Eclectic.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Prime rib and the Christmas jello.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Everyone together and happy.

Now it's your turn. Copy the questions, erase my answers and add your own.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Things On a Platter

Continuing my comments about the MWS Christmas Concert, I thought I'd show you a couple of "things on a platter" from that delightful evening. First of all, we went to Cossetta's before the concert for chicken marsala on a platter. Note the Buckler "near" beer (we were going to a "Christian" concert, after all).
Nothing on a platter here, but Melinda Doolittle has a beautiful voice. Apparently, the X-cel Center is struggling, I'm thinking maybe they didn't pay their light bill, because they forgot to turn the stage lights on most of the night. Note here "the star" is singing backup in the dark. Sometimes, as you will see in a minute, the only light on was a spotlight on the piano! I happen to like Christa Black who is the backup singer right behind Melinda. She also plays the violin and guitar at MWS concerts, but not this time.
Another shot from our front row seats. Lots of leg room! It was great!
Right in front of us, all night was this guy. He played all sorts of interesting and ancient fife-bagpipe-recorder type instruments. Here is my favorite instrument. I have no idea what it is, but it sounded lovely. I'm sure someone (Barb J?) will know what it is (if they can see it, this was as light as the stage got!)
Finally, that MWS fellow plays the piano. A lot. When he did, this is what we saw. Mr. D referred to the pose as MWS on a platter. And thus ends our concert memories (since I forgot to take photos of our desserts at Cafe Latte--on a platter, of course).

Sunday, December 07, 2008

MWS Christmas

Mr. D took me to the Michael W. Smith concert tonight. Okay, so I bought the tickets before I asked him if he wanted to go, but he agreed to come with. Isn't he the best? I was able to secure two seats in the front row at the X-cel Center. The best way to get front row seats is to join the fan club. So, I did.Michael (and everyone else) pretty much sang right to us. Interestingly enough, in this shot you will see not only Michael, but Diane Kogle. We ran into her this morning at Starbuck's and next thing we knew, she was walking out onstage with her cello. There's Michael and right behind him is Diane.
Here is Diane as she is walking off stage after the concert.
As we were leaving, George Huff was also leaving. We had been having a discussion about what year George was on American Idol and LeeAnne (who we always see at every MWS concert because she and Debbie Smith were roommates at college) decided to run over and ask him. He was very nice. Kept telling everyone thank you for coming and Merry Christmas! It was year three, in case you were wondering.
After that, it was off to Cafe Latte for dessert. Yum-O! Thanks for taking me, Mr. D and thanks for letting me join the fan club. Do you think Bobby Sherman will be in town any time soon?