Sunday, December 28, 2014

Getting Ready for my Genealogy Do-Over

I see that everyone is prepping for the upcoming Genealogy Do-Over and they all look great! If you haven't heard, Thomas MacEntee announced on December 15th that he would be doing a Genealogy Do-Over. He setting aside his 20 years of research and starting from scratch and I have decided to do the same! For more information of this project see ( and be sure to join the interactive group page on Facebook at

I have decided to keep birth, marriage, land, military and death records because I don't see this information changing. I am going to clear off my desk, stock up on printer ink, box up my old research notebooks and files, set up new research notebooks and take a deep breath. I am really looking forward to this "do-over". I am trying to go to an all digital format but I just can't bring myself to go cold turkey! I like filling out family record group sheets and coordinating pedigree charts.  

One of my favorite blank forms is this family group sheet found at Ancestry Both of these forms are in a landscape format which makes it easy to attach to a file folder. The Ancestry pedigree chart does the does the numbering for me which I consider a big help.

I also like this Family Group Record that I found years ago inside one of my copies of Family Tree Magazine. I can record all the information for a family including names of the husband & wife, their parents names,occupations, religion and up to 12 children and their spouse's name, date and place of marriage. You can find this chart at this link Both charts can be downloaded in a pdf document for free.

I take the blank ones to the local copy place and I have each printed on one piece of paper and I also have them enlarged. I plan to spend tomorrow filling out family record group sheets and coordination pedigree charts. I will then place them on the front page of each notebook I use for my research of these families.

I really like the concept of a spreadsheet for a research log but I have a difficult time with them because I can't really write down immediate questions and notes that come to mind. Looking through my old research notebooks I realized I am very consistent in how I record the information I find. I am one of those people who needs to "see" what I have done and what I need to do. I also like to make notes, jot down questions and sources as I work which is why I will probably stick to a paper for now. An example of how I write my information as I go can be found at

When I started my blog, Dawning Genealogy back in June I built a tree on Ancestry to go along with it. I have made sure to document it well and it is my direct line. I see no reason to change this right now. My "do-over" also includes my children's paternal lines so I have decided to start a new tree on Ancestry for these lines as well. 

I am still debating which software I want to use. I have been playing around with free versions of Ancestral Quest, My Heritage and Roots Magic, to see if I like them over the two software programs I already own, Legacy and Family Tree Maker 2014. All of these programs have features I like and dislike but I am most comfortable with FTM 2014. For now, I will probably stick with FTM 2014 and in my spare time add information to the free versions to see which I like best.

I wish everyone good luck with their Genealogy Do-Over!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dawning Genealogy 2015 - A Genealogy Do-Over and 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

This year I started my genealogy blog, Dawning Genealogy with the intention of sharing my research with my family but what I got in return was priceless. I found a genealogy community that offers me suggestions, tips, encouragement and support. I also discovered that my family likes reading my blog.

So what are my plans for 2015? 

I am going start with a bang! I am going to follow Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over, ( which begins on January 2nd. I am setting aside all of my original research which I have been collecting since the summer of 1980. The Genealogy Do-Over is a 13 week process.  
I have taken several of Thomas's Legacy Family Tree Webinar's over the last four years or so and I have always come away with new information, new skills and knowing that I have added to my genealogy repertoire. I have no doubt that I will end this Genealogy Do-Over with a stronger foundation in genealogy.

Like any new genealogist I didn't take very good notes in the beginning, I didn't always write down source information or location. When I began putting all of this information into my tree I made a really big mistake! I put everyone into one tree. Who is everyone? Well everyone includes my children's paternal lines, my husband's maternal and paternal lines, all of my siblings spouses with all of there maternal and paternal lines, all the maternal and paternal lines of my aunts, uncles, their children and their spouses and their children. You get the idea and with that a tree with more than 94,000 people in it.

I am also accepting Amy Johnson Crow's Challenge, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks for 2015. I started my blog in June of 2014, way to late to accept Amy's challenge for 2014. When I saw her post for December 17th, ( with the challenge for 2015 I knew I wanted to participate but I just wasn't sure how I wanted to proceed. 

I knew I wanted to start with my children's paternal ancestors and hopefully end with mine. However, my post about my parents will not appear until June when they celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary. I have done several posts on individual people in my family but the only posts that were in great detail is my series on my Mormon Pioneers which I will finish up in January. I also knew that I wanted my posts to be in groups but it wasn't until this morning when I read Cathy Meder-Dempsey's plan for her 52 Ancestors, ( that I knew how I wanted to proceed. 

I have a few thank you's I would like to give. First, thank you Thomas MacEntee for the Genealogy Do-Over, I am really looking forward to this. Second thank you Cathy Meder-Dempsey, for allowing me to follow your plan with my own twist to it. Finally, thank you Amy Johnson Crow for keeping the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge for 2015.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

In the back row from L-R are Kaitlyn, TJ, William and Jebb. In the bottom row from L-R are Walker, my son David holding his son, Easton, Bryan and Gracie.

The picture above is a picture of all of the grandchildren for my parents, Bill and Nina. Every Christmas Eve we try to take a picture of all the grandchildren who are at my parents home for that year. For the first time in several years all of the grandchildren were together last night. 

We had a fabulous lunch and everyone went to church. Then we started opening gifts which with all of the grandchildren it can get very loud and chaotic! Opening presents is done from youngest to oldest. I don't think my nephew Walker liked being dethroned as the youngest! I love watching my nieces and nephews faces light up when they unwrap a gift.

We decided to eat a late lunch with the hopes of getting the South Carolina families back home at an earlier time. We still didn't get to leave until 10:00 PM. I think next year we should try to do a brunch, then open presents, with the goal of being done with presents in time to go to church. After which, those of us who travel can be home earlier. Just a suggestion Momma! Thank you to all of my family for making the changes.

From time to time Christmas traditions need to be adjusted to accommodate our expanding families. I think it is time for David and Cassie to consider how they want their Christmas traditions to be for them and Easton. Hopefully this can be done without changing too many of the Christmas traditions that David and Cassie both grew up with. 

Easton had a great time last night with his first Christmas Eve with the Williams Family. He loved  all of the attention from his great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Of course, the wrapping and tissue papers were more fun then his presents, isn't that always the case!

Merry Christmas to all of my readers!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Wish

My Christmas wish for many years now, has been for peace not just in the world itself but here in America too. The violence of the last few years here in our own country appears to be escalating. There is one song that comes to mind when I think of peace. The song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth" written by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller in 1955. The sheet music for this song was published in 1971 by The Charles Hansen Music Company in New York. It is considered to be very popular during the Christmas season.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.


Christmas Dove of Peace image, Free Wallpaper,  found at

Let There be Peace on Earth Lyrics,
Wikipedia contributors, "Let There Be Peace on Earth (song)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed December 21, 2014).

Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Gifts

I have always believed that the size of the gift does not matter but what does matter is the thought and spirit in which the gift was bought or made that matters. 

For me wrapping Christmas gifts are fun and it really puts me in the Christmas spirit. I like to purchase really pretty paper, gift tags, ribbons, bows and tissue paper. I also like using the colors of Christmas like the solid colors of green, red, white, silver and gold. I also like paper with designs but for me it has to have something of Christmas related on it like holly leaves, poinsettias, Santa Claus, candy canes, Christmas trees and ornaments. I use bows and ribbons, especially curling ribbon! I like to use candy canes on the outside of my gifts too. Oh and I am the scotch tape "Queen"!

As a child buying those special gifts for you parents and siblings is always fun because you just know that they are going to love your gift no matter what. These days only the kids get gifts and the adults in our family do "dirty Santa" instead of individual gifts for each other which takes away some of the frustration of what to buy for those that are difficult to buy for. We also have a minimum and maximum dollar amount for the "dirty Santa" gifts. In past years there have been some great gifts with our "dirty Santa" gifts. Gifts like bottles of liquor and wine, cases of beer, Christmas decorations, kitchen stuff like waffle makers and serving pieces, gotta love the sales at Christmas!

This year we are buying gifts for our grandson too! My husband Tommy keeps trying to buy him the red ryder bb gun like the one in the movie A Christmas Story. I keep telling him that he is not old enough after all he is only nine months old!

Whether I purchase a gift or make a gift it is done with that specific person in mind. I try to pick gifts that are special, meaningful and hopefully can be used all through the year. When I make something I try to pick a project that has these same qualities as well.

When using gift cards I try to be sure that it is something that can be wrapped and unwrapped using Christmas containers that can be kept and used again. I may fill the container with candy, homemade cookies, a Russian tea mix or a hot chocolate mix. I will also use decorative bags to store food items in each container. I also use candy canes on the outside of the package too.

I have received many gifts over the years and I have several that fall into the category of "best" gift ever. One year my parents gave me umbrella for Christmas and when I opened it there was money hanging from rods in the umbrella. That really was a great gift! Another great gift I received was from Christmas 1967. I was really sick that Chrismas with bronchitis so my Mom gave me one of my gifts a little early. She had made my sister and I our very own Raggedy Ann dolls. They were really pretty too. Another gift that falls into the "best" gift ever category our the handbags my Mom made all of us girls a few years back. She made for all of us girls a Vera Bradley type bag with a matching cosmetic bag. 

In more recent years she commissioned my Aunt Barbara to make each of us girls a vanity tray set. The set included the tray, a hand mirror and 3 small boxes. Each had a different flower motif and mine has my favorite flower, Morning Glories on it.

The picture to the left is just the tray. The color of the tray, boxes and hand mirror all are in a light gray-green color.

Here is the tray with only the boxes on it. The largest box is oval in shape and I keep necklaces and bracelets in it. The middle box is heart shaped. I keep small earrings in it. The smallest box is diamond shaped and I keep my rings there.

As you can see each of the boxes has the Morning Glory flowers on them as well.

Here is the complete set. As you can the hand mirror also has the Morning Glory flowers on it too.

I love this gift because my Mom choose the gift and because it is made by my Aunt Barbara, two women that I am very happy to have in my life.

Remember, it is not the amount of money spent on a gift but the amount of love in which the gift is chosen and given. 


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Stories

Which Christmas story to choose from? To be honest I can't because I love them all. So I am just going to list my favorite stories (not in any particular order) and why I remember them.

As a child growing up I remember my Mom and Dad reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore. They would read this to us on Christmas Eve before we went to bed. We would gather altogether on the couch vying to be close enough to help turn the pages. "Twas the Night Before Christmas is the story of how a man hears Santa and his reindeer flying in his sleigh towards his home while he is preparing to go to bed on Christmas Eve. After opening our family gifts on Christmas Eve my Mom would sit on the couch with my boys and read this book to them before I could take them home. It has now become a family tradition.

Another favorite Christmas story for me is "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr Suess. It also happens to be my husband's all time favorite Christmas show along with "The Christmas Story" movie. It doesn't matter who old or young you are everyone loves the Grinch! 

Originally published in 1957, the story of the Grinch who lives in a cave above the town of Whoville. He is tired of the  Who's joyous Christmas celebrations and decides to stop Christmas from happening. He does this by disguising himself as Santa Claus and goes to Whoville and steals all the Christmas trees, ornaments and presents. 

As I understand it, Dr. Suess wrote this book because of the commercialism of Christmas which is true today as well.

Next on my list is "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry. I read this book in high school as part of study on the works of O. Henry, a pen name for William Sydney Porter, a native North Carolinian. 

"The Gift of the Magi" is a short story. Originally published in The New York Sunday World on December 10, 1905 and was originally titled "Gifts of the Magi". In 1906, O. Henry published a short story collection titled, Four Million and the title was changed to "The Gift of the Magi".  

It is a story about a couple who make personal sacrifices in order to buy each other a Christmas gift. For me the moral of this story is that love is truly a priceless gift.

These are a few of my favorite Christmas stories. When I searched for "magical Christmas stories" I found this list of "20 Magical Christmas Stories" at  Of the 20 books listed I have only read three. I also found a list of "20 Famous Christmas Stories" at 
I now have a list of books to buy and I am looking forward to starting a tradition of reading these Christmas stories to our sweet little grandson, Easton.


"20 Famous Christmas Stories" at

"20 Magical Christmas Stories" at
Image of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore,

Image of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess,

Image of "The Gift of the Maji" by O. Henry,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

I had originally planned to talk about the Christmas nativity scene and what it means to me and to share photos of my beautiful Christmas nativity scene made by my Aunt Barbara. However, as I went to the New Testament looking at both Matthew and Luke for a scripture to post regarding the birth of Jesus, I discovered that in both the Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:26-38 had passages with the genealogy of Jesus Christ. In reading both passages I discovered that Luke's passage also included a portion of Matthew's and I have decided to post Mathew's passage. I am using the New International Version (NIV) Bible because it is a more modern translation.

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 

3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, 

Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 

4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 

5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,

6 and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife, 

7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 

8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehosaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, 

9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exhile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 

14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akin the father of Elihud, 

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

From Matthew Chapter 1, Verses 1-17, The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.

I was able to download this free Genealogy Chart of Jesus Christ from the website, Amazing Bible Timeline with World History ( The chart depicts the lineage of Jesus Christ using both Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:26-38 and shows the individual lineage of Joseph and Mary.
There is a little known fact that one of the reasons why the search term "genealogy" spikes around Christmas is because so many people are looking up the Genealogy of Jesus. Thank you Thomas MacEntee for sharing that little fact with me as I did not know this.
Amazing Bible Timeline with World History
Amazing Bible Timeline with World History

Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Tree Decorations

Every year since the mid to late 1970's my Aunt Barbara has been sending my family her very special Christmas ornaments. Aunt Barbara makes the most beautiful porcelain Christmas ornaments. She makes them in her home and lovingly paints each one and personalize's each with our names and the year we received the ornament.

In the pictures above are some of the beautiful bells I have received through the years. As you can see in the pictures some of the bells are glazed and some are not, they all have a gold cord, which I call her signature. All of them have different pictures on the front and back and all of them have either "Dawn" or "Dawn and Tommy" written on them and all of them have a date. 

Bells are not the only ornaments that my Aunt Barbara makes, take a look at these exquisite icicle ornaments that she has made too.

On the left are the Wisemen and on the right are the Angels. All of them with her signature gold cord's for hanging. The Wisemen carrying their gifts of gold, franincense and myrrh in their golden urns and boxes. The details in their facial features and their turbans are beautiful. The Angel icicle on the left is glazed but the other two are not. They have their golden halo's, their hands together in prayer. With the Wisemen, what should have been their robes flows into the icicle formation. With the Angels their robes cascade down into the icicle formation.

In the picture above are some of the other beautiful ornaments that my Aunt Barbara has made through the years for me and my children. All of them with her signature gold cord and her exquisite details in each piece. My tree decorations are mostly these cherished and lovingly made ornaments. The rest of my ornaments were either made by my children or ones I have picked because they compliment the ornaments my Aunt Barbara has made for me through the years. 

Thank you Aunt Barbara, for all of the beautiful and exquisite ornaments on my Christmas tree! I love you!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Santa Claus Christmas Decorations

Growing up Christmas decorations were a big deal in our house. My Mom decorated every space available and still does. During the year her hutch in the dining room holds tea cups and tea pots that belonged to her both of her grandmother's. At Christmas they come down and the spaces are filled with smaller nativity scenes, special ornaments hang from the knobs of the higher draws, and other smaller decorations of the season.

I believe the most treasured of the Christmas decorations in my Mom's possession is the Santa Claus that was hand painted by my grandfather, George K. Rueff. He painted Santa in 1941 for my Mom. On the back is the story of the painting, the date and it is signed by my grandfather. My Mom was four years old when Grandpa made this Santa.

 My Mom started all of us girls a Santa Claus collection of our very own about 20 years ago, maybe longer. I have probably 20 to 30 different Santa's. They are all different too. Some are musical, some light up, and some are ceramic while others are porcelain. They all hold memories of Christmases past and I look forward to the day when I can share their stories with our grandson, Easton. There are way to many to photograph so I picked just a couple to share.

This is my very first Santa Claus. I have had him for as long as I can remember. He is at least as old as I am and I am 52 years old. He lights up too! His right knee has melted from the light bulb that was originally used. A couple of years ago my husband Tommy put a small strand of LED white Christmas lights in him so that the plastic no longer gets hot as it once did. They just don't make Christmas decorations like this anymore. Hopefully this Santa light will last several more years so that I can pass him on to Easton.

The two tall Santa's represent a good portion of my collection. The Santa on the left to me represents an image of perhaps a Victorian era Santa. I also have some that remind more of St. Nicholas or perhaps Father Christmas with his mitered hat and incense burner.

The small one in the middle is glazed ceramic. It is a music box and plays "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". When the music is playing it rocks.

The Santa on the far right is more like a late 20th century Santa. He has over his right shoulder a bag of gifts that are wrapped.

Tomorrow I will share some of my favorite Christmas Ornaments.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Cookies

As children, my siblings and I would help my Mom with the baking of our Christmas cookies. We would make pfeffernussee "Rocks" cookies, lebkuchen cookies, springerle cookies, fennel cake cookies with lemon icing, sugar cookies, applesauce cookies, oatmeal cookies, cut-out cookies, peanut butter cookies, spritzer cookies and chocolate chip cookies just to name a few.

We all have our own favorites and when my Mom was baking that particular cookie, it was our time one on one with her. With five children getting one on one time with Mom was always special. We all helped with the cut-our cookies and the decorating of all of the cookies. We would also hand her the ingredients when she asked for them.

I am sharing two recipes today. The first one is our family recipe for Pfeffernusse cookies. When my children were little, they started calling this cookie, "rocks" and the name stuck. Both my son David and my husband Tommy consider them their personal favorites. The recipe is below.

The second recipe I am sharing is my own favorite Fennel Cakes. It is a recipe that my Mom found in the Miami Herald in the late 1960's or early 1970's. When I make them I use both the fennel and anise seeds combined.

If you decide to try them, I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does.

Copyright © Dawn M Kogutkiewicz 2014, All rights reserved.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Prelude to Christmas Cookies

I was searching for images of Christmas cookies and discovered little gem about Christmas cookies on I thought it would make a great prelude to sharing my memories and recipes of Christmas cookies tomorrow. It was posted by Edna Wakeham and you find it at

Copyright © Dawn M Kogutkiewicz 2014, All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas at Church

As a family we really did not participate in any Christmas programs, that would come later after my family moved from Florida to North Carolina. I believe that this is most likely because while we lived in Florida my siblings and I went to Catholic school at St. Bartholomew's Catholic Church (more about that in a later post).

We would go to Christmas Eve Mass at  St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Miramar, Florida. I remember the big Nativity scene that the Church would put up outside on the lawn. This Nativity, was huge to me! The manager was similar to what a manger should be with the walls, small windows and thatched like roof. All the people were done lifelike with so much detail to them. I remember the cradle would remain empty until Christmas day when the baby Jesus would then be placed in it.

Copyright © Dawn M Kogutkiewicz 2014, All rights reserved.

In the far left picture is Joseph kneeling and behind him wrapped in blue is a shepherd. In the top middle is the back of the manger. In the bottom middle is one of the wise men. The far right is of me and my sister with our Dad. As you can see there is either an ox or cow against the far manger wall and the angel. 

This is the one memory of Christmas at church that is foremost in my mind as little girl.

We belonged to Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church (OLG) once we moved to Greensboro, NC. My favorite Christmas memory of OLG is the Christmas music. I love listening to Christmas music at OLG. They have this magnicifent organ, known as The Jublilee Organ which was designed by Detlef Kleuker and has 2,226 pipes. It is called The Jubilee Organ because it was dedicated on the church's 25th anniversary. I remember when this organ was built, it seemed like it took forever to be installed! Below is a picture of this beautiful instrument.

This photo is courtesy of Brian Mullins Photography, Apex, North Carolina

Then there is the Children's Mass at OLG which began in the late 1970's. I know that my sister Susie was an angel in the Children's Mass one year. Then my children began participating in the Children's mass in the mid-1980's. David was always the drummer boy. When he aged out of the Christmas pagent he would then serve as an altar boy for the Children's Mass.

These are my favorite memories of Christmas at church.

Copyright © Dawn M Kogutkiewicz 2014, All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Traditions

The "Williams Family" Christmas, is done on Christmas Eve. We would attend Christmas Eve Mass but before leaving the house Momma puts her wonderful manicotti in the oven. We would come home from church to the wonderful smells of manicotti, eat and then do the dishes, while the grandchildren tell everyone to hurry up! Once all of this is done then we exchange our gifts to each other.

As we have gotten older, my siblings and I have married and had families of our own we have not really changed this tradition. Up until 2009, we all lived within a few miles of each other with the exception of my sister Patty who lived in Maryland. In the fall of 2009, my husband and I moved to South Carolina. That year we drove home and then drove back to South Carolina after everything was over. 

As the grandchildren became involved in the children's Christmas Eve Mass we still didn't have to change our tradition because the only thing that changed was the time of children's Mass which was at 5:00 PM rather than 7:00PM. My own children participated in the children's mass as have my nieces and nephews. My son David, was the little drummer boy for many years. When David out grew participating in the Children Christmas Eve Mass he began serving as an altar boy for this Mass.

This year we are changing up our tradition. Since our grandson, Easton will be attending his first "Williams Family" Christmas Eve this year we have decided to do lunch rather than dinner, then presents and then everyone goes off to Christmas Eve Mass this way, if Easton isn't too tired they can join the rest of the family at children's Mass. For those of us who are driving two hours or more will get home at reasonable hour and still be able to play "Santa" without being too tired!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Crafts

In the late summer of 1973 we were living in Centerville, Ohio while my Dad was going to school for NCR. We would be there until the spring of 1974. We were a family of seven traveling to Ohio from southern Florida in a station wagon and very little room even with roof top carrier. 

As the holidays drew closer we went out and bought our Christmas tree, lights, and ornaments. My Mom picked up a paint by numbers wooden Christmas ornaments kit for us to paint and then put on our tree. The photo above is similar to the one we had and gives you an idea what was included in the kit.  Most kits contain about 30 ornaments. We may have done more than one kit, especially since there were only 30 ornaments but I am not sure. I believe that year we made our own garland that year. I believe that our garland that year was either made from popcorn or chains of red and green construction paper.

These ornaments still hang on my parent's Christmas tree today. I have already started a list of pictures I need to take when we go home for Christmas Eve this year. I will add these ornaments to the list.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Shopping

It is not the size of the gift that matters but the thought and spirit in which the gift was bought and given that matters.

When I was a kid growing up Christmas shopping was fun especially once I got my driver's license. Having my driver's license I could go and meet up with my friends and we did our Christmas shopping together at the local mall. There was lots of fun, lunch or dinner maybe and hitting nearly every store in the mall.

As a daughter, buying gifts for my parents growing up was always fun. I enjoyed picking out just the right present for each of them. Now though they tell us that they really don't need anything. However, we choose to give them something for Christmas anyway. This could include a bottle of their favorite bourbon or wine, a gift card to restaurant they might not normally go to, manicures for Mom, or an Amazon gift card for Dad and his Kindle.

As a sister, buying gifts for my siblings growing up was always fun! Making sure that they didn't find what I bought for them and that I got it wrapped as quickly as possible just in case. As we all got married we continued to buy each other and our spouses gifts for Christmas. However, after awhile we changed our routine. 

The first change we tried started with the eldest sibling and we would rotate who got who. However after a couple of Christmases we realized that this didn't work to well because we didn't keep track from the previous year and it became confusing. Then we moved to buying for each couple but again after a few years we decided that really wasn't working to well either. So now we do a "Dirty Santa" gifts. The rules are simple, you must buy one gift for a girl and one gift for a guy and our limit is $25.00.

As a parent, Christmas shopping for my children was tricky to say the least! This was because we didn't have a lot of space which meant I didn't have a lot of room or places to hide the "Santa" presents. When they were really small before they started going to school I would hide their gifts (still in their store bags) on the top shelf of any of the closets in our home. Another issue was that as a single parent I didn't always have the money to buy all the gifts they wanted. Fortunately, my parents and siblings helped a lot in that department.

As an Aunt, when my nieces and nephews were small buying gifts for them was relatively easy and carefree. The ages of my nieces and nephews range from 6 years old to 21 years old. They all have video consoles and games and it boggles my mind to even try to figure out which video game to purchase! There was also the constant emails, phone calls or texts to my siblings to be sure that they didn't already have a particular game. 

This is how the tradition of giving gift cards to my nieces and nephews began. To be honest they all love gift cards. While it does take out the fun of paying back my siblings for all the toys they gave my children that made extremely loud noises, I would much rather they be happy and not have to deal with returning gifts. I also don't just hand them a gift card either. I put them in a decorative Christmas box or tin. I add little things like their favorite candies or candies only available during the Christmas season. I haven't decided yet what will fill their decorative containers this year.

Last year we gave most of them movie gift cards and for the three youngest that could be 2 movies and trip to the concession stand. We have given in the past gift cards for their favorite restaurants, Target gift cards, Michael's gift cards. When my oldest nephew was dating in high school we gave him and his girlfriend a duo gift card, one got the restaurant gift card and the other got the movie gift card.

This year we have our sweet grandson Easton to buy gifts for and it could be a challenge as this adorable little boy has four sets of grandparents and one set of great grandparents too. I have already made a few purchases for him. I still have a few more to go.

I will also follow in my Mom's footsteps and continue a tradition she started with my children. Every year my Mom has purchased a special Christmas ornament for her grandchildren. She chooses something that has to do with something in their lives for that particular year or perhaps a sport they are or were involved in. Mom then uses an indelible marker to write the year on the ornament and if there is enough space she may put that it is from her and Dad.

As I have written this I have noticed that my style of shopping has changed. Is it because times have changed from when I was growing up in the 1960's & 1970's? Is it because of the advancement in technology with computer games, video consoles and games that are cramping my budget? Or am I following along with the trend I didn't really think about before now? Hopefully by next Christmas I will have found the answers and will perhaps try something altogether different.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Lights

One of the things my family did growing up was to drive around and look at all the outdoor Christmas lights displayed in our neighborhood. We also went to other neighborhoods in my hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Just two blocks from my parents home was the home of the Mr. Jack True, Sr also known as the Chapman Street Santa. Mr. True decorated his home and yard with Christmas lights, and all manner of lighted Christmas figures. He had Santa, his sleigh and reindeer across the front part roof for all to see. There is an old telephone poll on which he posted a sign that read, "Santa Claus will arrive in December (insert dates for that year). Santa has gone to feed the reindeer, will be back at 8:00 PM". Mr. True would dress up as Santa Claus, standing at his front gate handing out candy canes and wave to all the cars that would drive by to see his home.

More recently in my old neighborhood people started hanging lighted chicken wire balls from the trees in their yard. They look like Christmas ornaments are hanging from the trees. You can find do-it-yourself instructions and pictures at The Chicken Chick Blog,

Over in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, about 30 to 40 drive from Greensboro you can go to Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights. The Festival of Lights is a special treat where you and your family can drive along and experience the lights and sounds of the Christmas season. There are at least 80 displays along the route. At the half way point there is the Holiday Gift Village where you can get out of your car and walk around. There are refreshments available for purchase, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus and the opportunity to visit local artisans and purchase their wares. You can also make reservations for tractor pulled hayrides or horse drawn carriage rides too. The drive through the Festival of Lights can take as long as two hours especially on the weekends. Of course, there is a fee per vehicle and the price varies depending on the day you go.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Music

My memories of Christmas music are of songs that are beautiful and traditional. Songs like
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman", "Angels We Have Heard on High", "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful". Songs I have heard and sung a million times over.

When I think of Christmas music from my childhood, I remember that you actually had to pull a vinyl record out of its sleeve, put it on the stereo turntable, locking it in place, watching it drop and then the needle gently moving over to start the first track. Yes, I know I just dated myself but that's okay.

As I sit here writing this post I remember listening to Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Robert Goulet, Perry Como and Mitch Miller. Listening to the music and singing along as my family decorated our tree. I remember listening to the music when us kids would help my Mom when we baked Christmas cookies.

When I think of Christmas music I remember as a teenager, growing up in North Carolina and going with my friends to sing this wonderful music as we went caroling from house to house in our neighborhood. I remember Christmas choral concerts from school as well.
Robert Goulet's versions of "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Do You Hear What Hear" are two of my favorite songs. Then there are Burl Ive's songs from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. The only version of the "Christmas Song" I truly love is by Nat King Cole.

I remember certain record album covers, so I went looking to see if I could find them on the internet. We had the Firestone Christmas Favorites Series, Time Life Treasury of Christmas, the Grant's department stores collection of A Very Merry Christmas. I don't remember if we had each volume but I know we had a few. We had Mitch Miller's Holiday Sing Along, The First Christmas Record for Children which was put out by Goodyear. Of course we did have Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer too.

I went home to visit my parents the week before Thanksgiving and one of my cousins posted a video by the a cappella group Pentatonix. The video is for the song, "Mary, Did You Know". Momma and I played the video and absolutely loved this version of the song. So while we were out shopping on that Friday we both bought the CD. A new Christmas music memory to treasure with my Momma. Thank you to my cousin Luann Hoback Wood for posting the video! If you haven't seen the video, you can go to

Now that this piece is done I am going to fix myself a cup of spicy cinnamon tea, listen to some beautiful Christmas music and get a jump start on upcoming ACCM posts as well as a few others. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Cards

I love Christmas cards, both sending and receiving them but first a little history about my penmanship.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am very particular when it comes to my handwriting. In large part I blame it all on my roots, my Catholic school roots that is. When I was growing up and learning to write in cursive (eons ago) the nuns at my Catholic school insisted that each student have a roll of wax paper. We would tear a piece of wax paper from the roll and turn to the specific page in our cursive writing book. We then began to practice going of the ABC's until it was perfect. Once our teacher approved, then and only then, could we write on the actual page of our cursive writing book. 

So now onto Christmas cards...

I love Christmas cards! It is one of my favorite Christmas holiday things to do. I start by addressing each envelope. If I make a mistake or don't like the way the pen writes or some other aspect I will get a new envelope and do it over. Depending on who the card is going to I may write a note to the family or friend the card is going to. I would include photographs of my sons and I in cards that were going to my grandfather, aunts and uncles and other close friends. As a single mother raising two boys I could not afford to send out cards to everyone and so I kept my list very small.

I like my cards to have the words "Merry Christmas" either on the front of the card or inside the card and if I can find a card that does both even better. I look for traditional Christmas cards. Ones with Santa Claus, a Nativity scene, a snowman or with a beautiful Christmas scene. 

I like to use fancy pens such as silver or gold pens to address the envelopes, I might use a felt tip pen, calligraphy pen or a ball point pen to write on the inside of the card. I also use a decorative Christmas seal on the back of the envelope that matches the color ink I use because I hate licking envelopes! While I prefer to hand write our return address, I learned early on that by the time I have written "The Kogutkiewicz's" 15 or 20 times, I get hand cramps. So I now use decorative return address labels designed for Christmas that I can print from my computer. 

For me, these little touches make our Christmas cards a little more special. I can only hope that the person who is receiving our card feels the same. The fancy pens and the seals is a tradition I started a few years ago.

Growing up my Mom would put the Christmas cards she received on one of the interior doors to display them. She has also used a decorative Christmas basket. I remember coming home from school and asking, "where are today's Christmas cards Momma?". I loved looking at the return address first, then reading the card. For me the cards were a way for me to feel closer to my maternal grandparents, all my aunts, uncles and cousins who lived out of state.

I stand my cards up on our book shelves if they are regular cards and if they are the picture cards they immediately go on my refrigerator door this way they can be seen by anyone who walks into our home. I leave them on the refrigerator all year and when the new ones arrive, I take them down and put them in a photo box. At some point in time I will put them in a scrapbook. I also jot down a few notes or remarks on the back for future use.

I do like receiving the Christmas card photos that are very poplar right now. It allows me to see a special moments in the lives of my family and friends. For instance my brother, Billy and his wife would send out photo cards when their children were small with all of them decked out in their red NC State Wolfpack shirts, sweaters or sweatshirts. 

Above is an example of some of the photo cards we received last year at Christmas.

The top left corner is a photo card from our Parrot Head friends, Tim and Ann. She incorporated pictures of her family throughout 2013 for everyone to see. Notice the palm tree and the ocean on the card. Just right for any Parrot Head sending out photo cards! 

In the top right corner is the photo card from my sister in law, Lisa and her family. I love how Lisa included her little fur baby's name with the rest of the family. 

In the bottom left is the photo card from my sister, Susie and her family. My sister Susie used her picture of my niece and nephews with Santa Claus and then incorporated each of children separately. 

The photo card in the bottom middle is from our friend Jeannie and her family. I love how she incorporated the wedding pictures of her son and daughter with their new spouses. It allowed Jeannie to share the newest members of her family with everyone.

In the far right bottom corner is the photo card from my sister Kathy and her family. They are all decked out in the Carolina Panthers shirts, showing their Panther pride! Kathy sent two different cards last year using the same picture. The second photo card was a 2014 calendar. I love how she included her fur baby's name in with the family names too.

I love all of the cards I receive each year. It gives me the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends I don't see as often as I would like and hopefully my cards to them do the same for each of them.

Copyright © Dawn M. Kogutkiewicz 2014


Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Tree Memories

As a child growing up we had real Christmas trees but now my Christmas tree is artificial because I am allergic to all kinds of Christmas trees. They make me itch from head to toe and break out in hives, then there is the sneezing and wheezing none of which is a lot of fun!

My whole family went to purchase our Christmas tree. I am the eldest of five children, so it was a big production to say the least and you can be sure that it was never easy to narrow down our choices. Every tree had to be inspected by all of us and could not have any "empty" spots. In Florida, our tree was always in front of the sliding glass doors to our patio and in North Carolina our tree is always in front of the living room windows so that it could be enjoyed by all.

I remember the old, beautiful glass ornaments we had, the colored lights, garland and tinsel. The Christmas tree lights we had were kind of narrow at the top like a Christmas tree and rounder at the base. I remember pulling out strings of lights, plugging them in to see if they still worked or needed to be replaced. As we got older those bulbs got harder and harder to replace so now I believe that everyone uses the little mini lights or the LED lights these days.

These days my tree is full of handcrafted ornaments made by my Aunt, Barbara Rueff and sand dollar ornaments made by my Aunt, Bonnie Elbert. There are also ornaments made by my children, ones I have received as gifts or collected myself including my one set of ruby, Waterford crystal ornaments. I will leave the descriptions and pictures of these for another post.

This year as I put up my tree with it's clear white lights and my beautiful handcrafted ornaments lovingly made by my Aunts and/or collected for me by my friends, family or myself I will reflect on the memories of Christmas trees long ago and the not so distant past. I wonder if David remembers the Christmas where he and his brother Kenny convinced me to keep our Christmas tree until April of the following year? They watered that tree at least every other day and I finally told them it had to go!  I look forward to making new Christmas tree memories in the years to come with my family.

Now it's time for my son, David and his family to start their own traditions. Yesterday, they bought Easton's very first Christmas tree but it is more than just Easton's first tree, it is also the very first Christmas tree for their new home.

Easton's 1st Christmas tree, 2014