Friday, December 14, 2018

Day 14. O Christmas Tree


"... freshly cut Christmas trees smelling
of stars and snow and pine resin -- inhale deeply
and fill your soul with wintry night ...”

~ John Geddes, A Familiar Rain 

I felt a sense of adventure when I woke early this morning. Hubby and I are going to get our Christmas tree this afternoon. Because we live in the city, if we're getting a real tree for Christmas, we usually buy one from the temporary tree lots or grocers. But Hubby declared he wanted a tree that was really fresh, that hadn't been cut two months ago -- he wanted the true fresh fragrance wafting through the house like when he was a kid. I was secretly thrilled. Me too! Can almost smell it -- all earthy, piney, and oh so pungent with its sap fresh and sticky.

We'll head out into the countryside to a local family-owned tree farm where they offer landscaping trees in summer and u-cut evergreens in December. I think Rick is excited about bringing along his saw for this somewhat woodsy adventure. I wish we had a couple of those red lumberjack shirts for photo-ops -- you bet, I'm not leaving home without my camera.


Just thinking about it makes so many childhood memories float up. I can remember coming home from school, just days before Christmas, to find the freshly hewed spruce tree propped near the back step. Oh goody, Dad had been out. There it sat waiting, just like us, for the big day. If we weren't already antsy with excitement, well, it just made the anticipation soar off the charts. We begged Mom to let us bring it in. But she always wanted to wait as long as possible, to keep the needles fresh. I could hardly stand it for joy -- it felt like the top of my head would blow off.

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.
In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.

~ Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

It's true, when you are five or six or seven, every tree seems thirty feet tall, but in truth, looking at some old family photos, our trees weren't those towering specimens at all. All green and prickly, smelling of pungent spruce resin -- I didn't like how my fingers stuck together when drops got on my hands -- they were sometimes a little scraggly, somewhat sparse on branches, even a bit crooked, but in our eyes they were practically perfect.

The day finally arrived, usually December 20th or 21st, when Mom would give the okay. Dad would drag the frozen tree into the porch where it thawed out, the snow on its branches melting into puddles on the floor. Which meant that the next day when we got home from school, it would be proudly sitting in its wooden stand. A prince of a tree in its honoured place in the corner of the living room, where Dad had secured it with clear fishing line to the door jam -- cats and kids being prone to examining tree branches rather closely.

"You can tell a lot about a person by the way
they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage,
and tangled Christmas tree lights.

~ Maya Angelou


When we were old enough, we kids would haul down the decoration boxes from the upstairs crawl space. First, there came the task of untangling tree lights -- not a job for the kids, thankfully. I felt too impatient for that slow process. It was the pretty ornaments nestled in their boxes with the cellophane windows in the lids that I waited for.

Chains made from coloured construction paper and tinsel garlands were added. Placing the ornaments was a very studied business as we pondered which branch they should go on for the best effect. Delicate glass balls would hang alongside the proud display of glittering handmade Christmas cards done in school art class. The very last thing to go up was the tinsel, we being firmly instructed not to throw clumps of tinsel on the branches, but to carefully drape it strand by strand until the tree became a glimmering tower of awesomeness.

At last came the moment when the overhead lights were turned off, a record would be set to spin out carols, and we'd all stand back in awe of our handiwork. It was beautiful, all lit up and sparkling. And with that, we were ready for Christmas. Life couldn't feel any more perfect than in that moment. With so much to still look forward to and so few cares of the world intruding on our little family, at least for a few days, we felt safe and happy as we snuggled against the storms of winter and life.

Here's a YouTube link to

by Classical vocal ensemble VOCES8

circa 1964, Little Sis and Me

* * *

It's getting closer. The anticipation is rising.
Here's wishing you a beautiful day.


If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you can get in touch by email.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Day 13. Wonky Donkey

photo: caroline herandez |

My ideas are frozen
The words really stuck
Maybe it's all from the baking
My mind's turned to mush

One little thought
from a YouTube I viewed
Could be the wee gift
you're seeking and need

For the kid with a funny streak
and sweet giggles besides
Check this out -- Wonky Donkey
Even Grannies have cried

I dare you to listen and not be tickled too
Click here for the storybook
You'll be hooked out the gazoo

* * *

Happy Thursday!


If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you can contact me directly by email.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Day 12. Lemon Loaves and Being Neighbourly

I am on a mission. A few days ago, I stocked up on bags of fresh lemons, pounds of sweet butter, and a few dozen eggs. I am going to bake lemon loaves for my neighbours this Christmas. It's not something I do regularly, hardly at all. I might make muffins and take a few to a neighbour, but not often. But this year, I wanted to give a little something to more than just my two next door neighbours on either side of us.

As a writer, I am generally ensconced at my desk inside my house -- where I sit right now looking out my window over the pre-dawn navy skies. It's not that I don't care about my neighbours, it's that I get caught up in my world of words, and days can go by and I haven't seen much of anybody. I might catch sight of someone when I'm out for my walk or as I drive by on my way to do errands. We might smile and wave at each other, but for the most part, I don't even know their names. Rick knows them more than I do, as people often stop and chat when he's working in the front garden in the summertime. 

But this year, what with all the disasters and terrible things that have been going on in our upside-down world, and for the most part there being nothing I can really do to help heal the world at large, I have had a heart longing, a tug to reach out and touch a few souls closer to home. Not for my sake or because I'm lonely, but because I want these people with whom I share this neighbourhood to know that someone does notices that they live on this street even if she doesn't do much more than offer a wave and a smile. For I am glad they do live on this street, even if I don't know their names. It's a nice, peaceful neighbourhood, and we know it's the people who live in it that make it so. I don't have to know them personally to recognize that.

But wouldn't it also be nice to know them personally, to know their names and the names of their kids and kitties. And, that's when the idea to bake lemon loaves for these nearby residents came to mind. Christmas is often a time when people can do things like this and not feel so weird about turning up out of the blue. So I dug out my recipe, lined up my ingredients, greased and floured the pans, and set to work. As soon as I got three loaves baked and cooled, I wrapped them up, carefully put them in a carry all bag, and started off down the street. People were surprised to answer the door and see me, a virtual stranger, standing on their doorstep with a cellophane, ribbon-wrapped loaf and Christmas card in my hand.

The task is not yet complete. I've delivered six loaves so far and I'm off shortly to start baking another batch for today's deliveries. I might get on such a roll that I'll go all the way up and down my street ... well, maybe not this year anymore. One thing for sure, I'm calling on the neighbours -- I have no idea who they are -- who have the orange kitty, a friendly puss, who comes to visit us often during the summer. We've watched from which house she saunters, so we know that at least.

I'll probably say, "Hello my name is Brenda and I live at #27. Your beautiful orange kitty often comes to visit us and so we wanted to give her family this package as a thank you for her friendly face in the neighbourhood."

* * *

The kitchen smells so wonderful these days. Not the usual spicy smells of Christmas, but rather that aroma of zesty, buttery goodness that tantalizes my nose. It's a recipe I've had for decades now -- after this week it will be properly tested and tried -- and I am happy to share it with you today.

Glazed Lemon Loaf
Makes one large loaf, two smaller loaves, or one bundt pan cake

Preheat oven to 350F
Grease and flour the baking pan(s) called into service

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon essence
zest from 1 large lemon (or two small)

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk


Cream butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time.
Stir in vanilla, lemon essence, and lemon zest.
Mix flour and baking powder in a separate bowl.
Add these dry ingredients alternately with milk to the wet ingredients.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan(s)

For one large loaf, bake for 55 minutes, until golden
and tester comes out clean from the center.
For two smaller loaves, bake for 45 minutes.
For bundt pan cake, bake 45 - 55 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto wire rack.
Brush with lemon glaze while loaf is still warm.

Lemon Glaze

3 tsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/2 cup icing sugar or castor sugar (finely ground sugar)

Mix ingredients into a slightly runny paste.

* * *

"Eat a slice with tea and enjoy without guilt."

* * *
"Cakes have gotten a bad rap. People equate virtue with turning down dessert. There is always one person at the table who holds up her hand when I serve the cake. No, really, I couldn’t, she says, and then gives her flat stomach a conspiratorial little pat. Everyone who is pressing a fork into that first tender layer looks at the person who declined the plate, and they all think, That person is better than I am. That person has discipline. But that isn’t a person with discipline, that is a person who has completely lost touch with joy.
A slice of cake never made anybody fat. You don’t eat the whole cake. You don’t eat a cake every day of your life. You take the cake when it is offered because the cake is delicious. You have a slice of cake and what it reminds you of is someplace that’s safe, uncomplicated, without stress. A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what’s served on the happiest days of your life.”
~ Jeanne Ray, Eat Cake

I think this Jeanne Ray is a smart lady with her very sensible thoughts on eating cake. I shall remember her fine words when we have a slice of lemon loaf later on.

* * *

And so I'm off to bake. It's a beautiful, mild day in the neighbourhood.

I wish you a wonderful day whatever you're up to today.


PS. I forgot to say that I'm guest posting at InScribe
today -- a short piece called Longing At Christmas.

If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you can reach me directly by email