Tidings of Joy

There are some who find it difficult to celebrate Christmas in the desert. The lack of snow, constant sunshine and cactus tax their childhood visions of sugarplums and pines. So is this a Christmas post or just coincidental? I invite debate. It began months ago. In my desire to engage locally,  I was exploring an opportunity called Donors Choose. Their focus is education – something our family believes can be an essential determinative in quality of life.

Christmas on a Desert Hike

Donorschoose.org operates in the U.S. but there are other sites such as Kiva.org that have an extended reach. The site allows me to select the state and the type of project that I’m interested in funding with a microgrant. My combination? Arizona and gardens. I was immediately connected to two projects both in high needs areas where an elementary teacher wanted to set up a garden for her students. One was in an effort to show where food comes from. The second was in an effort to help a group of second graders heal after the loss of a classmate. Donorschoose.org is a great interactive tool because it allows me to correspond with these teachers and each of them to post photos and notes for me and the other donors. I’ve seen how their gardens grow.

I doubt that this was planned for the holiday season but this week a package arrived from Donors Choose. Inside were letters – letters to Agrigirl from the students in one of those schools thanking me for the opportunity to have their garden. They had drawn pictures of their garden boxes and I was delighted to get them.

Letters from "my" Class

In our home, we celebrate Christmas even in the desert. Yesterday was the fourth Sunday of Advent. The story we received was that of the angel Gabriel, sent by God to a city named Nazareth to visit Mary. Having found Mary, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.

What a lovely package of letters I received!









Perfect Christmas Salad
Torn from an ancient copy of San Francisco Focus in the 80s.
Serves 6


  • 3 large bunches of watercress
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup safflower oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 or 3 red pears (apples will do if you must)
  • 8 oz Maytag blue cheese crumbled


  1. Discard the large watercress stems and wash the leaves in cold water. Refrigerate to chill.
  2. Place pine nuts in a small skillet over low heat and stir constantly for five minutes until roasted. Remove from pan.
  3. Combine oils, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk and set aside.
  4. Just before serving, core the pears and slice thinly.
  5. Combine the pear with the chilled water cress and pine nuts.
  6. Toss with the vinagrette and arrange salad on individual plates.
  7. Top with crumbled blue cheese.

Merry Christmas and may you enjoy a blessed holiday season wherever you celebrate! May you see the holiday in everything.

Leave a comment


  1. meanlittleboy

     /  December 20, 2011

    great article..Merry Christmas From the MLB 2011

  2. From the longest, most detailed, to the shortest, but most emotional and supportive, letters have such power to them, don’t they?
    Love that you received these letters, Tammy, about how the gardens are growing. It’s always great to see reactions from projects, organizations, etc. one helps in funding.

  3. How FUN! Getting letters from young children is smile inducing. And the recipe sounds tasty . . . blue cheese and pears pair perfectly.

    • The letters are great – especially with the synchronicity of the Christmas story and the salad is really good.

  4. Enjoyed your blog today! Very thoughtful and kind. So appropriate to a true celebration of Christmas. Thank you!

  5. Linda

     /  December 20, 2011

    This is beautiful and touching- thank you for sharing!

  6. What great websites and projects. And a splendid Christmas shrub (?), as well!

  7. Merry Christmas, Tammy! What a wonderful thing for you to do AND for you to be rewarded so kindly with those letters! Warms the soul, indeed. Shows us that children don’t need all the material things that today’s society deems they ‘must have’. They simply want to be educated and cared for, given a chance to grow. You’ve given them a wonderful gift and they responded in kind. 🙂

    BTW…salad sounds delish! 🙂

    • I’ve been making this salad for years and it is so yummy. You should try it. The letters are awesome too.

  8. Thank you for sharing the beauty of Christmas in the desert. The whole idea of donorschoose and you choosing to use that to bless those children and teachers. . .wow. It made my Christmas more wonderful hearing about it. And as always, you give us a wonderful recipe too. happy sigh. Thank you!

  9. Lovely–and if it makes you feel better, we don’t even have snow in most of Wisconsin now.

  10. Mery Christmas, Tammy xxx

  11. Many blessings to your loved ones and you, Tammy.

  12. I just got goose bumps- the moment I read that letter. It has so much positive energy, so much vibe. We don’t get snow in India either, but I’d love to do what you are doing. This is Christmas. Giving joy to others.

    God bless you.

  13. How’s this for synchronicity: I was reading an article about synchronicity before turning to this, your latest blog post.

    I love this story for so many reasons, not least of which the way you found to give gifts to the community at large. What a fabulous organization to learn about. Thanks!

  14. In my eyes, this is absolutely a Christmas post, because it’s message reflects the idea and spirit of Christmas very well.

    Have a wonderful Christmas with you family and friends, Tammy! Happy holidays! 😀

  15. Wishing you Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year ahead. May this moment of wondrous event in the annal of mankind serves you with joyful experiences. God bless.

  16. Happy Christmas, love your inspiring blog!

  17. What a fantastic project, Tammy, and how lovely to receive those beautiful letters from young appreciative hearts!

    Happy Christmas to you and yours!

  18. Christmas is in our hearts. No matter what kind of tree we have, or how much less or more decors that we adorn, it’s the love and joy that we feel and share that makes it the most beautiful holiday. I love the tree. I remember making a tree from a bark covered with white paper. I thought it was an amazing.
    Merry Christmas. Wishing you and your family the gift of love, joy and peace today and everyday.

  19. Beautiful and inspiring letters and drawings from your class. Reminds us why Christmas is a time to be merry and bright.

  20. I hope you celebrated a lovely Christams with your family & this salad is a real winner because I made it! Yummie! 🙂

    • Thanks for trying it Sophie and for letting me know. It’s our favorite although I didn’t make it this year.

  21. Great holiday post!
    I actually wish i was in the desert right now! I’d be celebrating for sure!

  22. Actually, a desert Christmas is what makes sense to me, being Australian and having grown up with summer Christmases 🙂 Although, come to think of it, we still cook and eat food more appropriate for Winter, sooo…. now I’m all confused. 😛 Merry Christmas!

  23. Belated Merry Christmas to you all, Tammy! Know what you mean about celebrating in the sunshine without a snowflake in sight 😀

  24. Tammy,

    My Tall & Handsome as I call him (my DH) is a native of New Mexico and spent many Christmases in the high desert. He would find nothing whatsoever out of place in this photo representing Christmas. In fact it might make him a tad homesick, although he is quite accustom to the South because he spent his younger formative years here. He loves them both.

    I love the letters from your little “angels” Jesus and Gabriela. What perfect timing, but of course there is no better timing than God’s.

    Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year.

  25. What a yummy looking salad, and what a great reminder of what makes this season so special.

  26. Shawna

     /  January 5, 2012

    I made the Watercress salad for a Christmas Eve dinner we were invited to with friends while making extra to share with our family on Christmas Day. While a bit tedious to pull the leaf of stem of roughly 10 bunches, it was wonderful and one could tell all the love that went into making. 🙂
    Thanks for the recipe and Happy New Year!

    • That is a bit tedious but I really think it’s worth it. I love the cress and pear combination. Pomengranate seeds would also be festive in place of the pear.


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