Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Season Kick Off Giveaway Winners

Woke up to a day that totally felt like winter this morning. We had snow yesterday and this morning I could see the crisp full moon slowly, slowly trailing off into the 'sunset'. And as dawn brought the sunrise, I could tell by looking at the pale, pale skies that it must be cold out.  And, yes, it was (-19C aka -2F) -- certainly the lowest we've seen so far this year. With such a frosty feeling outside, it seems the perfect foil for a cozy ambiance inside where we have our Seasonal Kickoff Giveaway Draw for Jacquie Lawson goodies.

Without further ado ... well, maybe a drum roll please, here are our three winners:

Gift One.  Victorian Theme e-Advent Calendar
  The Winner is Karen @ Beatrice Euphemie
Woohoo, Karen!

 Gift Two. Christmas Market e-Advent Calendar
The Winner is Sandi @ Rose Chintz Cottage
Yippee, Sandi!

Gift Three. Gift Membership to Jacquie Lawson Website
The Winner is Lynn Marie @ The Morton Street Project
Wonderful, Lynn Marie!

CONGRATULATIONS to Karen, Sandi, and Lynn Marie! You are in for a real treat. I'll be popping over to your blogs and leaving you a note for your email address -- then I'll have Jacquie Lawson website send your gift to you in time for December 1st.

Consolation Prezzie One
An E-Christmas Card by Jacquie Lawson

Now for those of you who entered the draw and didn't win, there is something special for each of you too. I'm just as tickled to send you one of Jacquie Lawson's gorgeous Christmas e-cards. Her cards are exquisite and almost as fun to receive as the advent calendar -- I'd love to choose one that I think you'll enjoy.

I'll check your blogs for your emails, but if I don't have a way of contacting you, please send me your email (see the sidebar for my e-address). Also, please note I'm not collecting anyone's emails for any mailing list -- we're friends here so it's just for personal use.

Consolation Prezzie Two
(if you haven't seen this yet)
Restoring the Joy of Christmas PDF Book

Consolation Little Prezzie Three
Restoring the Joy of Christmas Bookmark


The holiday season here on It's A Beautiful Life has now begun, and  just as I like it -- making people happy and using one of my favourite love languages -- gifts!

Have a wonderful day -- watch for your prezzies now. Send me your email if it's not online.

Happy Day with hugs,
And a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Art Show

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
~ Vincent Van Gogh

I like many of the paintings by famous Dutch post-Impressionist artist, Vincent Van Gogh. So when Hubby and I learned a Van Gogh Museum Edition Tour was coming to a city near us, we made definite plans to take it in. After all, Van Gogh is one of the world's most celebrated artists, with such famous works as Vase with Sunflowers, The Starry Night and Irises, St. Remy to his credit. Who knows when we'd get to visit the whole collection at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

So off we went one afternoon not that long ago. We arrived at the entrance where the friendly fellow at the desk engaged in a little light conversation as we inquired after tickets. He looked up at us and said to Rick, "I see you brought your daughter with you." We all chuckled, and he proceeded to ask how I got to be out of school since it was the middle of the afternoon. A little more repartee as we finally got our tickets and the info that a little tour and lecture would be happening in about an hour from then. He suggested we could do a quick tour on our own, go have tea, and then return in time for the tour/lecture as our tickets were good for the whole day. So that's what we did.

Feeling refreshed from a nice cup of tea, we arrived back at the entry of the art show, the same fellow was there. I assumed after such a cheery conversation of not that long ago, he'd certainly remember us and so we wondered if we needed to show him our tickets again. He shuffles and puts his head down, say he's not so good with faces, but he does remember my jacket ... I was wearing a lovely teal blue-green leather jacket which he said really caught his eye as he loved the colour.

Ha ... as we went inside I wasn't sure if I should be offended or not. After all that and now he says doesn't really remember faces but he remembers my jacket. Were we a teeny bit disappointed? Of course we were. I guess I was hoping I was bit more memorable than my jacket.

Yet what could we do but laugh? And I still chuckle as I think of it now. In spite of that little turn out, we enjoyed the tour very much.

Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds

Although it's a lesser known painting, I must admit one of my favourites by this artist is the one above: Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds. I love all that blue splashed across the canvas as I truly love big open landscapes where skies are filled with light and dark as storm clouds gather -- must be the prairie girl in me, I guess.

Did you know that Van Gogh began painting in his mid-twenties, and in a single decade produced more than 2,100 artworks? That makes my head spin, and I feel a moment of lament that some people are so very focused and able to accomplish so much in so little time, yet I am not one of them.

Of course, Mr. Van Gogh did say once, "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process." He had admitted himself into an asylum at some point and he dealt with dark times in his life. Apparently the verdict is still out on whether or not he actually committed suicide.  So maybe I don't want to be quite that focused.

Almond Blossom

Another painting I love is Almond Blossom. One often sees this wonderful piece reproduced on mugs, calendars, journals, and even t-shirts. I love these colours and the joyful feeling this piece gives. I also love the journal with this painting on the covers. What fun to write in. Some people have also created fabric using this pattern and so I was well pleased to find a pretty cotton t-shirt in a ShopBBC catalog.

And, so that's what happened on the way to the art show and while we were at the art show. A lovely afternoon enjoying the beauty and creativity of one special man. By the way, I read a book with some of his published letters and it was a fascinating read. I loved the peek inside this man, whose life and art has touched many ... I'm grateful for what he shared with the world in his short life.

Wishing you all a beautiful rest of the day,

Linking up with Judith on Mosaic Monday

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Five with Free Stuff and Giveaways

Hope you brought your mug of hot something with you, as today we've got a few things on the go here on our blog.   

Hubby asked me yesterday morning if I would look up the recipe for the fruitcake we're baking this year. He suggested that he measure out the fruit and nuts and get them ready while I went off to meet a friend for lunch. As you might imagine, it didn't take me more than a nano-second to nod my assent. Oh yes, please, that would be lovely. 

Today, I went out to buy a couple of new loaf pans for the baking of the Christmas cake, and by the time I got home, hubby was already measuring and mixing the rest of the ingredients to make the batter. So I quickly cut up the parchment to line the new pans and in no time those loaves were baking in the oven.

Oh my, and then the fragrance began to waft up and out of that oven ... swirling around our noses in lemony, fruity, vanilla-y enticement. Two hours later the cakes were done and cooling in the pans. I must admit I was sorely tempted to follow my mom's example when it comes to sampling fruitcake. Her favourite way is to slice off the crust, skip right over the aging process, and eat it while still warm from the oven.

Below is the recipe for Light Fruit Cake -- we call it Marie's fruitcake as it's her recipe, a friend of my sister. The recipe has been a part of our family tradition now for years.

  1. a little Christmas fruit cake baking with recipe

Marie’s Light Fruitcake

3 cups light raisins
2 cups mixed glazed fruit (one tub)
6 slices candied pineapple, chopped
1/3 cup chopped orange peel
1/3 cup chopped lemon peel
1 cup green glazed cherries
1 cup red glazed cherries
1 ½ cups whole blanched almonds
1 ½ cups pecan halves
1 cup flour

1 lb butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
10 eggs
rind of one lemon
juice of one lemon
2 tsp almond flavoring
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Prepare 3 loaf pans – line with 2 alternating layers of parchment paper and grease. Mix all fruit and nuts with one cup flour.

Cream butter with sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in flavorings and lemon rind and juice. Combine flour, salt and baking powder. Add to creamed mixture, stir well. Mix in fruit and mix well. Divide batter between 3 pans.

Bake at 275 F for 2 – 2 ½ hours, or until toothpick comes clean. Cool in pans. When cool, remove loaves from pans and brush with brandy. Wrap in plastic. Ripen for 2-3 weeks, brushing 3 more times with brandy, and then may be frozen.

 2. free Christmas advent pdf book

Last December I offered a little blogging Advent series on restoring the joy of Christmas. This year I've turned the blog posts into a PDF book so that you can download it and even print it off if you want. Just so you know, the book isn't quite the same as the posts -- text has been adjusted, new graphics have been included, and of course, the format and layout are different.

A new blogging friend, JoAnn, was excited to find the series on the advent blog recently -- she was looking forward to reading it during December. And, another long-time reader, after casting her kind editor's eye over the pdf format, remarked that even though she'd read the blog last year, she found it was new and fresh again.

So, I'm excited to offer Restoring the Joy of Christmas as a little gift this year. I hope you enjoy the thoughts I share and that it indeed adds a joyful addition to your Christmas preparations.

  3. free restoring your joy of Christmas bookmark

To go along with the book, I created a bookmark that you can download and print off onto card stock. Punch a hole at the top and thread a ribbon or cord through it and, voila, you have a cute bookmark for your Christmas reading pile. Is that pile by your bedside or by your reading chair in a cozy corner?

4. enter the giveaway contest for Jacquie Lawson Goodies
December is not that far off anymore, and often people who celebrate Christmas use advent calendars as a delightful way to count down the day until Christmas Day.

That's why it's so much fun to have this giveaway contest in which we are giving away two Jacquie Lawson e-advent calendars: one Victorian Theme and one Christmas Market Theme. Each calendar unveils something new from Dec 1 to 25 -- games, puzzles, delightful animation, and music. You can check out more about these calendars by clicking here.

Last year, I sent one of these advent calendars to a dear friend; she told me how much fun both she and her granddaughter had doing all the puzzles, making snowflakes, and watching for the day's surprise when a new window opened. My friend was pretty excited to see a new one pop into her inbox just a few days ago.

Gift One.  Victorian Theme e-Advent Calendar
 (works on PC, MAC, or iPad)

Gift Two. Christmas Market e-Advent Calendar
(works on PC and Mac only)

Gift Three. Gift Membership to Jacquie Lawson Website

Those of you who have ever received a Jacquie Lawson e-card will understand just how delightful it is to have a membership to her website full of e-cards. A membership to gives you access to all of Jacquie's gorgeous e-cards for a whole year. Talk about surprising all your family and friends with exquisite e-cards for events like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and just because times. To see the kinds of cards available for yourself, click here.

Three gifts = three winners

Giveaway Contest Guidelines

1. There will be three draws, and everyone who leaves a wee comment in this post's comment box is eligible for all three draws. (If you see this on Facebook, you can leave a comment on my Facebook page.)

2. If you want your name added a second time for each draw (ie, a second chance to win), include a comment about what you do to restore your joy of Christmas when you need it.

3. You are welcome to share the contest on your own blog. If you let me know, I'll add your name a third time.
4. Contest closes Wednesday, November 25 at 10:00 am MST (to give time for contest winners to get their calendars before Dec 1). Draw will be shortly after that.

5. What else to make Five on Friday and wrap up?

How about a quote? I like this one by Edith Sitwell: “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” 

The evening shadows draw in close so early now. I was out in the town around 2:30 this afternoon and already it felt like a person should be heading home for cozying up beside the fireside. The sun was low in the sky. Oh my. But then it is late-ish November. We forget it's that late in the year when we haven't had the usual cold and snow to remind us.

Today I'm grateful for twinkle lights, the fireplace, hot toddies, and warm cozy covers to snuggle under when I crawl into bed in a few minutes. Oh yes, and a hubby who doesn't mind if I put my cold feet on his.

Wishing you a cozy and beautiful Friday,


Today I'm linking to Five on Friday

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Slowly Shifting Seasons With Giveaways

We had a couple skiffs of snow a few weeks ago -- it was just enough to tease us that winter was coming. Ever since, however, we've had little sign of snow or cold temperatures. Which we're enjoying of course. There was talk of El Nino this winter -- I think we're having some of that right now. Many days are overcast in usual November foggy-like fashion, and afternoons that grow dark early remind us that we're further along in the season than the weather indicates.

Everyone can identify with a fragrant garden, with beauty of sunset, with the quiet of nature, with a warm and cozy cottage. ~ Thomas Kincade

So, I've decided ... it might not be snowing or cold on the outside, but I'm starting to think cozy, warm thoughts on the inside, with lots of twinkle lights everywhere. Today here on our blog we begin the slow shifting away from autumn to winter themes too.

And, here's a heads up that we're hosting a couple of GIVEAWAYS on Friday ... treats to start the weekend and the season off right. On Friday, we'll unveil all.

In the meantime, I hope you've got good things to enjoy and eat, and lovely people to make a fuss over today.

Sending you hugs,

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Monday After The Friday Before

Greg Ortega

 GO. BE. LOVE. The world needs you.
~ Susan Branch

It's Monday morning. Had some difficulty this past weekend wondering what to post. I had other plans and ideas, but somehow it all seemed too ordinary, almost trivial, in light of the horrifying events that took place in Paris just a few days ago.

We watched the news and kept an eye on our Facebook feeds as people around the world shared their responses in light of these tragic losses. So many thoughtful articles and posts.

When we aren't the ones actually involved in the tragedy in someway, we sometimes don't know how to respond to such news. We can feel the sadness and the grief, but our lives carry on. On Saturday morning, I got up and found refuge in my kitchen, pulling out ingredients to make homemade stock that would later become a comforting leek vegetable chicken soup. There's a kind of consolation in doing something ordinary and peaceful when one's mind swirls with images and emotions of such a horrible magnitude.

It was interesting to read one Facebook comment from a woman and her family living in France not so far away from Paris. Their plans had been to go to some of the local Christmas markets on the weekend. Should they still go ... or not? In the end they went. Quiet, subdued, reeling with the reality of the horror fresh in their minds, they went, keeping faith with those who were also there, carrying on with normal life in some small measure, taking comfort in the seasonal displays, buying an ornament or two, even enjoying the antics of some silly dog.

Louis Pellissier

Yesterday, Rick and I went to a lovely coffee spot in town. I caught sight of a local newspaper with photos of the Eiffel Tower. As I sat waiting for Rick to bring our coffee to the table, I looked around. People sitting in corners, some reading, some tapping away on their iPads, others sitting in little groups quietly enjoying each other's company. It seemed quieter and more subdued than sometimes.

And, the thought ran through my mind, we're sitting in this place inhaling the fragrance of fresh ground coffee, listening to the chatter and buzz of coffee grinders ... people had been doing this very thing in Paris just a few days earlier before their world exploded. And lives ended.

There are a thousand thoughts we can think at a time like this. I didn't feel fear in this, but I did note that our lives together with people we love should not be taken for granted. The chances of something like this happening to me personally may be slim, but living in a world fraught with hatred makes us all vulnerable.

So we sip our hot chocolate and nibble away on our cinnamon croissant. We think of these dear people.

We also remember well known words by Mother Teresa ... Every act of love is a work of peace no matter how small. We can't help the people in Paris personally. But, in response, we draw nearer those we do know and love; we hold hands, and we demonstrate little acts of kindness to people we know and folks we don't. Sending out love, not fear or hatred or despair. For where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.

I share a bit of poetry I saw on Facebook ...

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the
whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

by Warsan Shire

Our hearts go out to those whose lives are forever changed, wherever they are in the world.

Wishing you peace...