Christmas at the Appel’s

Christmas at the Appel household is always a special time. Laughter and hugs abound as we try to fit five families into one living room, but before we bow our heads to pray (and then eat!) we have a tradition. We read from a passage in the Bible, and listen to a few stories about the incredible workings of the Lord in our family. This quote is from the book Beppe put together, a precious thought to remember during this season.

“Who can describe the love, joy, and feeling of fulfillment that comes with a first born? Our Lord came in to the world that way. Such a humble beginning on earth for the Prince of Peace. It is a great mystery, and it changed the world. How can we ever be thankful enough for His unchanging love and mercy for us, His children?”

-Audrey Appel

Then, after our devotions, we sing!

 

Not going to lie, we have a pretty solid chorus of clear, strong voices complete with various harmonies. However, what stands out even more is the passion behind these voices. Voices reflecting lives broken, but pulled together again by the grace of God. Whole families who have had their trials, but are together for this day, because we are celebrating the birth of our Savior, and no squabble tops that. Hearts open in praise, because they can’t, and won’t, be held back.

I know Pake is singing his heart out in heaven, joining his rich baritone voice with his brothers and sisters in continuous praise to our Lord. But I also like to think maybe he takes a little break to peer into our living room full of family, and listen. The lessons he taught along with Beppe, continue to be taught by their sons and daughters, and someday will hopefully be taught by their grandchildren. A legacy of unchanging love and mercy never to be forgotten, and a Lord who deserves our highest praise.

Chris, Tyler, Shelby

Merry Christmas everyone! May you find your song, whatever it may be, and sing your heart out this Christmas season. Thank you for reading along 🙂

 

Stories from Beppe: Christmas Treats

Christmas time brings about some of the most delicious treats, reserved specifically for the holidays. The fall kicks off with Pumpkin flavored everything while the holiday season ushers in a festive selection of eggnog, candy canes, and star shaped cookies. We joyfully plunge into decor and gifting with anticipation of the big day, while trying to keep our calm weaving through the madness that is the mall.

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These classic sugar cookies are sold in our baked goods case! Can you guess our secret ingredient?

Let me, or rather Beppe, take you back to a simpler time. At the young age of 7, Beppe’s first Christmas away from home was spent with some local relatives. She has fond memories of her first Christmas tree and the treats that made the day special.

During Christmas vacation, I went to stay with some relatives about 8 miles away from where we lived. My uncle and aunt had one son and one daughter, both much older than I. Never in all the times I spent with them through the years did I ever feel unwelcome. It was in their home I saw a Christmas tree for the first time. The little tree was just a small artificial one, but oh, the wonder of it! I helped my cousin decorate it with glittering balls, real candles, and a little angel on the top!

In the Netherlands, we celebrated First Christmas Day and Second Christmas Day. First Christmas Day, (the 25th of December) was like any other Sunday except the pastor preached from the book of Luke or on the prophesies of Jesus’ birth. On Second Christmas Day, (the 26th) we attended church again, but this time the choir sang. Then in the afternoon service, the Sunday school children recited some Bible verses and we each got a cup of hot chocolate. We as Sunday school children also received a book and an orange. I too, got an orange. When we arrived home, my aunt cut a little hole in the top of the orange into which she put a little sugar. I could spoon the delicious juice into my mouth, what a treat!

Do you have a favorite treat? Some little thing to transport you back to a simpler time? For Beppe, it is a little orange with a spoon full of sugar. For me, it’s a pretty tin can filled with flavored (and somewhat stale) popcorn. This was the traditional Christmas tree decorating snack in our farmhouse. Even in my new home, I can’t help but grab a tin while holiday shopping! I hope you find that simple pleasure this Christmas season, and I hope even more you find the time to enjoy it!

Marshmallows

 

 

Stories from Beppe: The first Nor’Easter

Around our county, we periodically have these snowstorms which are combined with a bitter wind strong enough to blow a child over. This wind is infamously known as a “Nor’easter”, named for the direction it comes from. Now obviously this is not the story of the first North East wind of all time. Rather, it is the story of the first legendary storm my grandparents, Jack and Audrey Appel, experienced on our farm! As told by the matriarch of our family, our Beppe!

Ice Sliding Long 94-95
This time of year always “encouraged” the grownups to find creative ways to entertain us!

“We had moved to Whatcom County in the year 1967. Once in a while we would hear people mention the northeaster, but we had no clue really what they were talking about. Our first winter was a mild one, but the next winter (of ’68) made a lasting impression.

One week after the Christmas vacation, the wind started to blow and didn’t stop for two weeks. Jack worked long, long days to keep the farm and dairy cows going in such freezing conditions. Our driveway was so full of snow it was impossible for even the snow plow to get through. The milk truck could drive across the neighbor’s field, so we were grateful the milk would not have to be dumped. The hired help couldn’t come because the snow had drifted across the roads, making them impassable. A neighbor from across the road showed up to help out, were we ever grateful to him!

We were ill prepared and everything froze. The generator didn’t work right away, and by the time it did it was too late. The worst of it was the cows couldn’t drink. After the milking Jack would herd them to the creek where a small stream still trickled. A few of the cows, to our great horror, walked up to the iced over pond instead. The ice cracked as the cows skittered around, but  it held.

Our children were cooped up the house, and there were two children living next door with their mother, so of course they had to come over to play! Because it was too cold upstairs, we brought the mattresses down on which they could sleep. The boys built forts with them during the day and had a great time.

A few times the boys and girls (7 total, all under the age of 10) got into each other’s hair, even though I had separated them in different parts of the house. One of the doors had a mirror on it and the kids slammed the door so hard it shattered into a thousand pieces. That’s when I broke down. However, the struggles were soon forgotten when the wind stopped after two weeks of howling in our snowed filled world. After the children went back to school, all the broken water pipes were fixed and our life returned to normal.

In the meantime, Jack had lost ten pounds and now we too could talk about the northeaster from experience.”

-Audrey Appel

Stories from Beppe: The Little Smeerlap

With Thanksgiving come and gone, it is now officially Christmas season! The brisk weather ushers in a time where we may blast carols without being chided, wear obnoxiously bright green and red everything, and throw glitter around like no one’s business. The hustle and bustle of this time of year may be the source of a little stress for some, but deep down we love preparing for and spending this special day celebrating our Lord’s birth with our family and friends. For the month of December, I will be sharing stories close to our family’s heart, stories told to us by our Beppe. These have been the cause of much laughter at our family gatherings but also a source of wisdom, lessons to be learned, and fond memories. Please, grab a cup of coffee, some delicious, flaky banket, and come into our home! You may feel a little cozy squeezed between Aunt Elaine’s laughter, Uncle Gerald’s soft spoken stories, and who knows how many grand kids at your feet. We welcome you!

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We sell these as a fundraiser for a local school!

 

Growing up, we would often spend time with our Pake and Beppe while dad was working and mom ran errands. There have been tales of the grand children being stuck there because a “Nor’easter” blew in and stranded us there for the night. Eventually someone would plow a tractor down the road to pick us up, but we were always more than happy to stay with them until then! Here is a story told by Beppe of one winter when she and Pake took seven grandchildren for a whole week. The Richard in this story is my younger brother, whom has always been a little rascal… still is sometimes!
Katherine

“I often had them sit around the table, playing with play dough. One time, little Richard (this would be Richard Jr., my younger brother) who was four years old, got tired of it and started to throw play dough balls. Pake felt he had to put a stop to that immediately. He said “Quit that, you little smeerlap.” Richard responded promptly, “you’re a little smeerlap yourself.” Smeerlap, translated freely, means “dirty rascal”. It was so funny and Pake loved it, but I told him “Don’t tell Rich and Ann tonight!” When they got tired of the play dough I would send them down to the basement to play. One time, when they went down I heard excited screaming. The basement was flooded! They had already taken their socks off and were ready to wade in the water! So, upstairs again we go!”

Audrey Appel

I can’t imagine trying to entertain all of us, but I do remember playing with play dough quite often! I specifically remember making birds, complete with a nest and little eggs! We also made snakes, but I don’t like those as well 😉

richard
Look at his little angel face!