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Earmuffs and Vacuum Cleaners
THE BEST AND WORST CHRISTMAS GIFTS I HAVE EVER RECEIVED
T he best Christmas gift I ever received was frommy father. I received it on the first Christmas after he died, 21 years ago. When I was growing up, our family wasn’t wealthy by any means, so we never expected to have a huge pile of presents under the tree. But my dad loved Christmas, and after my siblings and I moved out, and after my parents were a little more financially comfortable, his love for us and for the holiday really shined through his gifts. He loved to spoil us. When we came back home for the holidays, we would all exchange presents with one another. Dad would make us all wear these goofy matching sweaters while we opened presents on Christmas morning, and we would take pictures in them. He always loved it when we were all together, and he loved planning our family time around the holidays. No one could really step into his shoes after he died, so there was a sense of emptiness in the air as we opened our presents on Christmas morning 21 years ago.
gift I have ever received. Getting those earmuffs made it feel like my dad was still there with us. Most Christmases, my parents’house would have been filled with laughter. That year though, we all just cried. Even though his presence is missed every year, I’ve been blessed that some of his Christmas spirit has rubbed off onmy husband, Lanny—eventually. The first Christmas after Lanny and I got married, he got me the worst Christmas gift I have ever received. Before I go on, I should say this: I now appreciate Lanny’s effort that first Christmas, but when he first showedme my gift, it was hard to hide my disappointment. My and Lanny’s first Christmas as a married couple was just a week before our first anniversary. I had it inmind that he was going to get me some jewelry, or maybe a nice new dress— the kinds of gifts I had seenmy dad get for my mom. But Lanny, being the practical guy he is, bought me a brand-new vacuum cleaner. He knew the one I had was a piece of junk,
was a blue-collar guy andmy husband grew up on a farm, so the mall was their own personal hell. Nevertheless, my dad and Lanny, clad in work boots and clothes covered in dust andmotor oil, made their way through all the jewelers and dress stores they could find. During these excursions, my dad would point to certain items and say,“ That’s what you get your wife for Christmas.” Today, Lanny and I can laugh about that first Christmas. Since then, he’s givenme some of the most thoughtful gifts over the years. I’m always surprised in the best way, whatever it is. It could be something I said I wanted six months prior, but Lanny will remember it. He’ll even get me a gift from Freckles, just for fun. The way he really gets into the Christmas spirit reminds me somuch of my dad. Through the friendship he andmy husband shared, it feels like he’s still here with us.
“To this day, they are the best Christmas gift I have ever received. Getting those earmuffs made it feel like my dad was still there with us.”
There were a few gifts that Dad had bought for us before he died that year. For me, he bought a pair of beautiful mink earmuffs. It was such an indulgent gift, much like the kinds of presents that he had lavished on us in previous years. And considering howmild the North Carolina winters are, they weren’t exactly practical. Yet, to this day, they are the best Christmas
and for that reason, it was a thoughtful gift, but at the time I just thought,“You don’t get your wife a cleaning appliance for Christmas!” During those first few years of our marriage, my dad spent a lot of time at the shoppingmall with Lanny, coaching himon what to get me for Christmas. Dad
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The Joy of a Gingerbread House Everything You Didn’t Know About This Holiday Tradition
Of the many seasonal traditions that sweep our nation, few are as creative, delicious, and satisfying as building your very own gingerbread house. Whether you’re looking to create a simple table decoration or bake a tasty treat to nibble on, everyone can enjoy this holiday activity!
2,520 square feet, was built by Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas, to raise money for a local Level II trauma center. To construct the house, builders created a recipe that required 1,800 pounds of butter, 2,925 pounds of brown sugar, 7,200 eggs, 7,200 pounds of flour, 1,080 ounces of ground ginger, and a few additional ingredients.
The Origins of Gingerbread
Build Your Own!
Ginger was first cultivated in ancient China, then traded into medieval Europe. There, Europeans incorporated it into culinary traditions and used it to bake cookies into elaborate shapes and works of art, including figures of animals and people. The gingerbread house first appeared in the early 19th century in Germany. Although historians don’t know an exact date, it’s speculated that it gained popularity around the same time that “Hansel and Gretel,” the popular fairy tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm, was published.
While you don’t have to challenge yourself to beat the Guinness World Record, you can still have fun creating your very own gingerbread village. Starting your gingerbread house from scratch can be a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy. Give the kids a chance to mix the ingredients, roll out the dough, and set out plenty of candies and frostings to use, and remember to have fun! If you’re looking for unique gingerbread house ideas, take a look at 20 gingerbread house ideas at TasteofHome.com/ collection/gingerbread-houses.
The Largest Gingerbread House
In 2013, the world record for the largest gingerbread house in the world was broken. The house, topping out at 21 feet and covering
A Quick and Easy Diagnosis Of Your Readiness to Buy a Home
My favorite thing about being an ophthalmologist, or eye surgeon, is that most of the time, I can correctly diagnose my patient’s condition and find a way to treat them within the hour. In lots of other medical professions, that process is much more tenuous. When I went to medical school, I had no interest in any medical field having to do with eyes. I thought I was going to be a pediatrician or a gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in diseases in the digestive system). But when I got the chance to shadow an eye surgeon, I found I loved the clear, straightforward nature of ophthalmology. I also loved that I could work with patients from all different age groups. Earlier this year, I performed a surgery on a child and that child’s great-grandparent. Not many medical professionals can claim to have done that! I love being able to quickly and confidently help lots of different people — and I think that was at least part of the reason I appreciated working with Jamie Harrington. When my wife and I were looking
for a new home not too long ago, we contacted our real estate agent, Chris. Chris then introduced us to Jamie as the go-to resource when applying for a mortgage. Jamie made the whole mortgage application process unbelievably easy for us. I think a lot of people are filled with dread when thinking about all the paperwork they’ll have to do, but Jamie’s software made everything simple. At the same time, the cashback we received through the Homes for Heroes program helped us out a lot. When it comes to evaluating your readiness to buy a home, the arduous process can make it seem like getting your results takes forever. But I’m glad there are people like Jamie, and programs like Homes for Heroes, that value expediency, efficiency, and the homebuyer’s peace of mind.
-Dr. Brian Adair
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Light Up the Night WHY DO WE HANG CHRISTMAS LIGHTS?
The first string of twinkling lights illuminating your neighbor’s house is always a telltale sign of the upcoming seasonal festivities. Christmas lights are a holiday staple, but have you ever wondered where this beloved tradition started? The tradition of hanging lights on the tree originally started with candles. Because this posed an immense fire hazard, Edward Hibberd Johnson, a close friend of Thomas Edison and vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company, vowed to find a better way to decorate Christmas trees with light. In December 1882, three years after Edison’s invention of the lightbulb in November 1879, Johnson hand-wired 80 red, white, and blue lightbulbs together and wound them around a Christmas tree in his parlor window. A passing reporter saw the spectacle and declared in the Detroit Post and Tribune, “One can hardly imagine anything prettier.” Johnson continued this tradition, increasing the number of lights each year and eventually putting them up outside. But because electricity was still a new concept, many years passed before the fad took off for regular Americans. In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge began the tradition of lighting the National Christmas Tree, which spurred the idea of selling stringed lights commercially. By the 1930s, families everywhere were buying boxes of bulbs by the dozen. Today, an estimated 150 million Christmas lights are sold in America each year, decorating 80 million homes and consuming 6% of the nation’s electricity every December. Whether you’ll be putting up your own lights or appreciating the most impressive light displays in your neighborhood or town, let the glow fill you with joy this season. Just don’t leave them up until February!
“Jamie is very dedicated to helping folks get into their new homes! She stays on top of things from the moment the home mortgage process gets underway to the closing date. We are very grateful to Jamie and her team for being amazing to work with during the purchase of our home. We highly recommend Jamie and her team!”
– Ashley Cummins, PA
Pictured: Ashely and her husband Shea
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The Best andWorst Christmas Gifts I Have Ever Received
Building Your Own Gingerbread House
Jamie and H4H: Making Applying for a Mortgage Quick and Easy
Homes for Heroes The History Behind Christmas Lights
Peyo the Therapy Horse
MEET A DIFFERENT KIND OF THERAPY ANIMAL
Horses have been loyal and useful companions to humans for centuries. But unbeknownst to many who fear these long-legged, 1,000-plus-pound mammals, horses are also naturally intuitive and extremely sensitive to the moods of people around them. These traits make them excellent therapy animals for those with autism, cerebral palsy, chronic illnesses, and PTSD, among many more. In fact, there are dedicated horse-riding camps geared toward chronically ill children and adults all over the world. However, riding horses isn’t the only way to benefit from equine therapy; horses are also fantastic comfort animals that can relieve anxiety and promote a positive environment for bedridden patients — as long as the doorway is big enough. Meet Peyo, the 14-year-old “love stallion” from Dijon, France, who is cheering up chronically ill patients one nuzzle at a time. This accomplished
to hospitals and nursing homes, bringing joy with every clop of his hooves.
when they traveled to shows and competitions together, Bouchakour noticed the horse was drawn to the injured and disabled and would instantly calm at their touch. “It is one of the most pure, honest, and sweet things,” Bouchakour says. “They like each other very much without asking for anything else.”
Patients suffering from all manner of ailments blossom when Peyo comes to visit, laughing and smiling while being nudged by his soft nose. He seems to have a keen sense for patients who are truly suffering, and though his handler is always nearby, Peyo often chooses which rooms to enter of his own volition. Having a horse in a hospital room may not sound very sanitary, but Peyo goes through a strict grooming regimen to be deemed hygienic enough to be around patients. His hooves are greased, his mane and tail are braided, and his entire body is rubbed down with antibacterial lotion before being covered by a blanket. Before Peyo became a therapy horse, he was almost put up for sale by Bouchakour, who had a hard time wrangling Peyo’s fiery personality. But, over time,
artistic dressage competitor accompanies his owner, Hassen Bouchakour, on visits
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