Sunday, December 26, 2010

Off For The Holidays




Ahhhhh... the happy hubbub is over. We had a delightful Christmas with loved ones and hope you did too. We're offline for a few days. With new books waiting to be read, I'm looking forward to some quiet time. Here's a list of books I found under the Christmas tree....


Jan Karon's newest Father Tim Novel

We tried to start it last night before bed -- eyes were too heavy to read with any comprehension -- but today, we'll be cozying near the fireplace a while.


by Rosamund Pilcher 

Now I've got my own copy -- I've been borrowing my sister's till now. My favorite short story from this book is entitled "Home for the Day".  Although it's not a Christmas story, it's cozy and warm.


The Best Christmas Ever
with Mary Engelbreit

This is a delightful book with crafts, recipes, and gift ideas for the season -- lots of great pictures to enjoy too.

Happy Holidays!
With hugs from my heart to yours,
Brenda
xox


Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Waiting For Christmas




Miss Kitty instructed her staff to place
her chair cushion on the table --



That way she would be much more comfortable
as she waited for Christmas to arrive. 



Peering out on the frost-biting day, she finally...


found the best spot.



And while Missy tended to her post,
Mom and I happily tended ours as we worked
on our last day preparations before the arrival of Christmas Eve --

which to me is the most beautiful day of the year.


Wishing you lots of JOY...








Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fabric, Tissue Paper and Christmas Dresses



 Me and Little Sis


It's the time of year when we not unwrap precious tree ornaments from crinkly tissue paper. It's also a time when we allow the memories of Christmases past to flow back into our streams of consciousness.

Today on my group blog, I posted a short piece in which I share memories of the pretty new dresses my mom used to create for us at Christmas. Mom recalls that she grew up getting a new outfit at Christmas and she brought that tradition into her own family.  As children, it was always a JOY to arrive at the annual Christmas Eve Concert bedecked in our newest finery.

Hope you've got lots of your own special childhood memories that are just as precious to you as any family heirloom.  Here's the LINK to read the complete post.

It's almost Christmas,






Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Twas In the Moon of Wintertime...




The moon has been so beautiful these past few days.  I just love how it casts its soft light over the neighborhood, creating interesting shadows in our backyard... even in the middle of the night! 

As I took this photo early the other morning, I was reminded of that old Christmas carol, The Huron Carol. Falling in love with the piece when I first learned it in Grade 5 or 6, I have never forgotten its haunting melody and beautiful words.

Here is Gabriele Lynch to sing it...




'Twas in the Moon of winter-time
When all the birds had flown
That Mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead

Before their light the stars grew dim
And wandering hunter heard the hymn:
'Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born
in excelsis gloria.'


JOY-fully,







Sunday, December 19, 2010

Simply Sunday: Love Came Down




Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.
~ Christina Rossetti


I love this verse by well-known English poet Christina Rossetti ever since I first saw it in an long ago issue of Victoria magazine. Over the years I will often write the first and last lines on the inside of my Christmas cards -- two lines I never tire of saying or writing.

The poem was first published in 1885 and has been set to music. You can click here for the complete poem, which is all quite lovely.

On a different note, I just saw a short video on fellow blogger Sandy's blog called Christmas 2.0 - The Digital Story of Nativity. It brings the Nativity into our own modern day setting and brings a smile to my face I watch.

Wishing you a beautiful day,
Brenda





Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gift In The Mail



Something very special arrived in the mail yesterday from my very creative and talented friend, Katherine, at Sew Me Something Good.

That we are fellow Albertans is one thread that connects our hearts. We met on-line shortly after I started blogging. I keep returning to her site because I LOVE seeing what delightful thing she is working on next.

It turns out she's the crafts-woman I'd like to be, but don't really have the patience for; I'm much better at knitting together words than yarn. I am greatly content to admire and delight in seeing those beautiful projects she shares online for her readers.
 
Back to the surprise... here is what arrived in the mail via express-post:



   Wrapped in tissue and a pretty pink bow with a noted tucked inside...


A cute fabric graphic sewn to a paper card
with a lovely handwritten note...


 The cutest little bag -- a change purse...


 stitched with me in mind!


 Not only did I find the little quilted bag,
but a fragrant handcrafted soap...


that is destined to dwell in the
dresser drawer with my pretties.


Katherine, you delighted me to the core with your thoughtful and gracious gift! What a start to Christmas!

Now, that's why I LOVE blogging -- I have 'met' so many beautiful people and my life has been enriched for it.

Wishing you beauty in your own mailbox,

Hugs,
Brenda
xox






Friday, December 17, 2010

Restoring the Joy




On my advent page, I've been talking about restoring joy during this season. Today I share a few thoughts about the need to mourn our losses before joy can come. 

Sometimes we try to be so positive and 'relentlessly happy' that we don't take the time to recognize the reason for our loss of joy. If that's been you or someone you know, you may be encouraged by reading my thoughts about it here  (apologies - this post is no longer available).


Wishing you unexpected graces and pleasures to fill your day!





Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some Wintry Favourites


"Oh the weather outside is frightful."


Today we're having a real snow day. It's stormy and blustery and cold. Brrrrr. But, wait, that means it's a perfect day to enjoy a few of my winter favourite things.


Doing things like....

Making homemade soup like Luscious Lemon Chicken Soup

Wrapping Christmas parcels with bright paper and ribbons

Letting a purring kitty cat curl up in my lap or play with the ribbons

Hunkering deep into my comfy chair by the fireplace

Reading something light and cozy

Shoveling some snow off the driveway

Experiencing that exhilarating tingle on my face, fingers, and toes

Keeping twinkle lights on ALL day ... and to heck with energy bills
Visiting my dear blogging friends
*****

All in all, it's a great day to thrill at being alive....
Wishing you some of your own winter-y favourites!

A warm hug,
Brenda
xox



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Sky




The sun gets 'lazier' by the day, rising later and setting earlier. But that's part of what I like about this time of year. For me it creates an ambiance where we want to turn on tree lights, have a fire in the fireplace, and nestle in cozy corners with good books.

Wishing you cozy... maybe even a few lazy moments in your day!







Saturday, December 11, 2010

It Smells Like Christmas



It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas,
everywhere you go...

Peppermint candy canes
Sweet marshmallows melted into hot chocolate
Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg

Wood smoke wafting in the air on a frosty evening
Crushed pine needles
Wet woolly mittens on the heat register

Sugar cookies baking in the oven
Fresh cranberries turning into to sauce
Apple cider on the stove  


Wishing you the pleasure of simple joys today!







 



Friday, December 10, 2010

Thought for the Day





"Be yourself, everyone else is taken."


That's the title of a new blog I just came across today. 
What a great quote on which to end the week.

For more of this blogger's creativity, visit Beth by clicking here.

Enjoy your day!
  




Thursday, December 09, 2010

Create Your Own Way



"Creativity is inventing, experimenting, taking risks,
breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun."
~ Mary Lou Cook


Joy often comes when we become so absorbed in creating something new that we forget about everything else. Children know how to do that well. In fact, I'm reminded of something author Brenda Ueland once said about the process of writing. The creative act of writing should not be like a mountain top experience, but rather like a child stringing beads in kindergarten -- happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.

Is there anything in this list that captivates your imagination to do something new today? And become as happily absorbed in it as a child?
 
 
 
~ paint ~ putter ~ puzzle ~
~ glue ~ sprinkle ~ bead ~
~ waltz ~ strum ~ skate ~

~ sing ~ color ~ wrap ~
~ stitch ~ compose ~ play ~
~ eat ~ sip ~ bake ~

~ ponder ~ draw ~ design ~
~ craft ~ sculpt ~ write ~
~ decorate ~ read ~ dream ~ 




Today, I'm happily puttering, baking fruitcake,
and sipping hot apple cider! And you?


Brenda
xox


Photo: morguefile.com






Wednesday, December 08, 2010

There Are Enough Readers For Everyone

In the midst of our Christmas preparations we all know our regular lives carry on as usual. And that's why I wanted to share something one of my favourite author bloggers, Jody Hedlund, said in her recent post about dealing with the green-eyed monster.

What really made me sit up and notice was when Jody said that there's enough readers for everyone. In my own musings about jealousy, wondering why it tends to show up in my own life, it seems to stem from the idea of lack and feeling left out (I think the root might be a poverty mindset; the idea being, if you get something, maybe there isn't enough for me too).

But there is enough for everyone, of everything we could ever need or desire... including readers for our writings. If we feel God's called us to write, you don't think He already has the readers in mind who will benefit from what we share?

Maybe our job is not to worry about the readers at this point; we just need to write. Whether it's on our blogs, in articles, teaching how-to manuals, books --whatever-- let's not try to be the writer and the publisher at the same time. One hat at a time.

Of course, maybe everyone reading this already figured this out. I do know I am grateful for this reminder today. It's freeing! Which has added something beautiful to my day.

Here's wishing you great joy and freedom,











Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fun Christmas Questions

morguefile.com


Join me in the fun of deciding which you prefer when it comes to Christmas favourites.

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider? Hot Chocolate topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings!

2. Turkey or Ham? Turkey with Mom's stuffing (lots of it).

3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree? It's a real fake one (ha ha).

4. Decorations on the outside of your house? Lights on the house, a wreath on the door, red bows on trellises.

5. Snowball fights or sleddin’? Sleddin' (although it's been a while since I've done that. Snowball fights were a menace to glasses).

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping? I used to enjoy downtown shopping -- loved the festive ambiance. Don't often go there now.

7. Favorite Christmas song? That's too hard to narrow down; it depends what grabs my heart and fancy on a particular year. Sacred: Joy to the World; Secular: Sleigh Ride would be right up there.

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies? I like them - love The Bishop's Wife, the old Bing Cosby ones (White Christmas, Going My Way, Bells of St. Mary), While You Were Sleeping, You've Got Mail. I also enjoy movies that add to the ambiance, but aren't necessarily Christmas, e.g. Anne of Green Gables.

9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
I ask you, is it ever too early? Although I do tend to get in the mood more in the autumn, rarely in spring or summer.

10. Stockings before or after presents? After presents.

11. Go to someone else’s house or they come to you? My house this year.

12. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when? I love the Christmas Story from Luke 2, King James Version (what I grew up on). I love to read and ponder, like Mary, throughout December.

13. What do you do after presents and dinner? Sit around and visit, snooze, play games, nibble.

14. What is your favorite holiday smell? The spicy smells of cinnamon and cloves; the turkey cooking on Christmas Day

15. Ice skating or walking around the mall? Walking, but I enjoy watching the skaters.

16. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day? Our family tradition until siblings started getting married (needing to go to in-laws) was to open our presents on Christmas Eve, but now we wait until Christmas Day.

17. Favorite Christmas memory? As a young child, sitting in the darkened living room on a quiet evening watching the tree lights while my mom made supper in the kitchen. I felt cozy and safe.

18. Favorite part about winter? Snow, short days and early twilights, that Christmas is in the middle of it!

19. Ever been kissed under mistletoe? Haven't put any up lately, but I think so (unless it was in my dreams).

Isn't it fun to think about Christmas... I LOVE it!


Monday, December 06, 2010

Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling

Of all the fun things! You may recall a few days ago when I posted this Christmas-y banner on my blog page, I mentioned that it was from the photo cover of an old album (yes, an LP record) that has been in our family almost five decades.

Well loved and well used, you can only imagine how well scratched it was by now too! The well-scratched part probably wasn't a result of little sis and I playing it over and over, as we'd pull it up to the top of the stacking pole, put the arm in place, flick the little switch to get the turntable going. Plop... and that album would be spinning another round of carols and festive songs.

Our favorite was probably Sleigh Ride, where we'd gallop around the living room, singing lustily along with the choir as they belted out Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring ting, tingaling..... Giddyap, giddyap, let's go to the show, we're riding in a one-horse open sleigh....

So now you can understand my GREAT delight, when after a brief Google search, I found a place online where I can actually purchase a CD version of the album. What fun!



Alas, they didn't have any samples of the album's music available anywhere that I could find, but should you have an interest in looking further, here's the link to:
Christmas Chorale
Performed by the Edward Carrington Chorale
Grand Award Recipient


Just hear those sleigh bells jingling....










Sunday, December 05, 2010

Simply Sunday - Music of Christmas


"And His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace..."
(from the ancient book of Isaiah)


There was a time years ago when I sang in a choir. And the most exciting time of the year was getting ready for the annual Singing Christmas Tree, a popular event in our region that had spanned a couple of decades by the time I'd joined.

Our music director always knew how to create a pleasing, stirring combination of well-loved carols alongside modern pieces composed in honor of the Christ Child.

One such 20th century piece composed by Rodger Strader came from a Christmas musical entitled King of Love. "It's beautiful words, music and narration combined with the glorious orchestral arrangements by Bob Krogstad have made this a timeless Christmas classic."

From that musical, I forever fell in love with the piece entitled Wonderful Name. We'd sung it many times, yet it always touched me at the core. From the first words, "Mary was the first to hear it, name from heaven above..." to the last note, I'd have such an anticipation. It felt like I wanted to burst with love, with joy, with exuberant praise.

I didn't think of it at the time, but people have honored this Name for centuries and there I was, having my opportunity to join my voice to theirs. You can well imagine, then, my great delight to discover the song online.

On this second Sunday of Advent, I offer it to you as my gift, with the hope that you will also experience its beauty. I give you Wonderful Name.

Happy Day,
Brenda









Saturday, December 04, 2010

Advent 2010: Restoring the Joy



I am all excited as the Christmas season approaches this year!

But I do realize that sometimes it's harder to get in the Christmas spirit, especially when Life seems to load us down with problems and circumstances that hardly bear thinking about. And if the demands on our time, energy and pocketbooks are already heavy, at this time of year with all its expectations, it weighs even heavier.

As my dear mom used to say when one more thing would go wrong, "Sometimes it's enough to take the joy right out of living!"

So... if your life is feeling as heavy as a fruitcake and your joy seems as far flung as the star of Bethlehem, I invite you to stop by HERE every day this month as I'll be sharing a few thoughts and tips that I find helpful in restoring my own joy when it gets a bit thin on top.

It will be a little like opening a new window on an advent calendar. And of course, it's my hope that when you 'open' that window you'll find something that puts a lightness in your step, a twinkle in your eye, and the  joy back in your heart.


Wishing you J-O-Y to your world!

Hugs,
Brenda
xox







Friday, December 03, 2010

Three Beautiful Things





I met three new 'kindred  spirit' bloggers who have added another touch of beauty and grace to my life. When I happened to find their sites, I got the feeling that these individuals are also glimps-ers of heaven in unexpected places.  Let me introduce you:


ONE. Claire at Three Beautiful Things blogs because every day she wants to record three things that have given her pleasure.  To be aware of that which gives you pleasure, you'd have to be paying attention to them, wouldn't you, instead of the 'ikky' ones?  I like her focus.
TWO. Stephen at Grow Mercy shares his thoughts in one posting that the way we answer our doors can be a glimpse of the way we deal with the world.  As I thought about it, I saw, that even in answering my door, I have discovered another small gesture by which  I can live my life more beautifully, more grace-filled.
THREE. Mary at Green Paper delights her readers with some of the prettiest vintage imagery and then offers some of it free for people to use in their artwork.  I had so much fun browsing through her delightful site -- a real treasure trove.

Wishing you a beautiful day!




Wednesday, December 01, 2010

December 1st...




It's the first of December and here are a few first thoughts as we start the season in earnest:
 
The day started out... with skies all pearly gray, Miss Kitty curled in a ball beside me, and me savoring a cup of freshly brewed coffee and toasted fruit bread topped with cheddar cheese.

The banner at the top... is one of my favorite pictures of Christmas. It's the record album cover of our family's first Christmas album (back from the early sixties). As a young child, I loved looking at that picture and daydreaming as I listened to the singers warble tunes and words of old carols not yet familiar. (Postscript: If the banner is no longer there, click here for a look.

At Christmas, I like to... attend at least one concert where I can hear some of the beautiful carols and music of the season. Sometimes it's Handel's Messiah or Bach's Christmas Oratorio, and sometimes it's a community concert.

My favourite character in the Nativity story is... Mary. I have often marveled at her great courage to say to the angel, Gabriel, after he'd told her she would become the mother of Jesus, "Be it unto me according to your word." Such trust and, as I say, courage.

One favourite Christmas memory... It's just days before Christmas; the air outside is frostier than an A&W Root Beer mug, and inside the welcome breath of warm air rises from the old coal furnace.

Mom is making supper in the kitchen. Otherwise it's quiet in our little farmhouse and, for the moment, this little girl is sitting perfectly content in the peaceful ambiance of our front room. Feeling safe and cozy, the world looks beautiful from where I sit in the very center of the couch -- gazing at the ribbons of tinsel shimmering in the glow of a single strand of round sugar-glass tree lights.

In this contemplative mood... I think about the pictures I've been studying on holiday greeting cards -- artists' renditions of little towns of Bethlehem with midnight skies and light streaming from tiny earthen windows. I muse about the shepherds who were the first to hear angels heralding good tidings. And, of course, I wonder about the Baby Jesus and envision him asleep in a manger where cows and sheep eat.

It turns out that all these years later, I still love to sit perfectly still in the cozy darkness of night with just those little tree lights twinkling... ponderin', dreamin', and delightin' in all the wonder of this time of year.
 


Let the countdown begin in earnest...



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Love Winter Sunrises


Look who's getting up
Stretching fiery colors across the eastern sky...



With promises of a beautiful day.



"Watching the clock is not the same as watching a sunrise"
~ Sophia Bedford Pierce


I just started a new book from the library entitled Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day. I enjoyed author Diane Ackerman when she used to post publish articles in the classic Victoria magazine. Now I have the delight of reading one of her books.

"In an eye-opening sequence of personal meditations through the cycle of seasons, celebrated storyteller-poet-naturalist Diane Ackerman awakens us to the world at dawn, bring into stunning focus a time of day that many of us literally and metaphorically sleep through." (inside front cover)

"Ackerman's essays awaken us to a fresh awareness, saying: Pay attention, these ordinary sights are marvelous." ~ Publisher's Weekly


Yes, I want to pay attention and see with fresh awareness the beauty of these ordinary sights!

Wishing you a beautiful day!
Brenda
xox


Photos:  © Brenda C Leyland 2010 



Saturday, November 27, 2010

Good Morning Merry Sunshine




We dusted off an essay I wrote for my mom a few years. I found it when I was clearing out a file of writings. It made me smile to remember that decades-old nickname, so I though I'd share it with you today.

Wishing you a pleasant day,
Brenda



“GOOD MORNING, MERRY SUNSHINE!”

That phrase echoes down through the decades of my life, still spilling warmth and light into my soul. It’s a phrase I haven’t thought of in years, but when it wiggled its way out from some dusty memory bank I stopped to take notice. For with those little words came such a sweet flood of happy and warm feelings.

For a fleeting moment I was back in the old farm kitchen. I must have only been five or six at the time. I have a recollection of padding my sleepy-eyed self down the little hallway into the sun flooded kitchen, where Mommy was probably making breakfast. She stopped whatever she was doing to welcome me into the day by her cheery, “Good morning, Merry Sunshine.”

I don’t recall if Mom used that little nickname on a regular basis, or just that one time, but even after all these years, just remembering it again makes me feel all warm and cozy. Her words, spoken so long ago, poured out something precious – like costly ointment -- over me. They are a reminder that Mom’s love for me over my lifetime has been like sunshine…always warming, always cheering, always brightening.

Words a mother speaks over her children can echo over a lifetime. The use of nicknames, whether pretty, cute, funny or gently teasing of a special personality trait, when spoken with love and kindness, can give a child a sense of belonging and of being well loved. That’s exactly what “Merry Sunshine” did for me all those years ago.

* * *