Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Feathered Winter Choir

Remember I mentioned yesterday that my backyard was filled with birdsong? Well, this morning, with camera near at hand, I was ready for my fine-feathered friends.

It's cold and blustery today, and the birds have been at the feeders with a vengeance. For all the plummeting temperatures, they still sit on barren branches filling the air with the sweetest of songs. It was as if I were listening to a choir in a grand cathedral. The Choir of the Great Outdoors!

Here's a feather thought to ponder... if these little sparrows can sing their hearts out in the middle of winter, maybe singing would be a cheery way to help us out when we're experiencing our own midwinter doldrums.

Tunefully yours,

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Peaceful Ponderings For The New Year


With a new year almost upon us, do you ever find yourself fretting about the future? Our world certainly is tipsy-turvy, chaotic even, but when we look back into history, every age and era had its grim, dark times to get through.

Perhaps that's why I find comfort from this little meditation by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622). He lived in Europe during the divisive and chaotic times resulting from the Protestant Reformation, so he certainly knew about societal upheaval.

Today I offer it to you as my little New Year's gift with the hope and prayer it gives you courage to face this brand new year with calm and peaceful hearts.


to what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cares for you today
will take care of you tomorrow and everyday.
Either he will shield you from suffering,
or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace, then,
put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations,
and say continually: "The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart has trusted in Him and I am helped.
He is not only with me...but in me....and I in Him."

Wishing you peace and hope,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

While Sugar Plums Danced

"The children were nestled all snug in their beds while
visions of sugar plums danced in their head."

As a little girl, I loved Clement Moore's poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. There was just so much scope for the imagination in each stanza. I certainly could see the cherry nose and the belly shaking like a bowl full of cherry jelly. However, I must admit I could never quite envision a sugar plum. We didn't have such treats in our holiday traditions. Were they plums with sugar sprinkled on them? I just couldn't see that being the case. I mean, kids like me were dreaming about them; surely they'd be more exciting and exotic than that!

One day, all these years later, I finally went in search of a recipe -- what exactly was a sugar plum? Oh my, there were so many recipes; I finally settled on one a fellow blogger said had originally been in Saveur Magazine.

I gathered the ingredients. Set out the bowls of fruit and nuts and powdered sugar, not forgetting the spices. The end result was delicious and well worth the effort. Certainly worth dreamin' about.


2 cups whole almonds
(toasted in a 400 F oven for 10 minutes, cooled, then finely chopped)

1/4 cup honey
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
1 cup icing sugar (confectioner's)
Combine the honey, orange zest and spices.
Add almonds, apricots, dates and icing sugar.
Mix well. Using a teaspoon, take pieces of the mixture and roll into balls.
Then roll in extra icing sugar.

Store in single layers between wax paper in airtight containers
in the refrigerator, up to one month.
Except, they're so yummy with tea you won't have to worry about them getting stale!

Please note: In the original recipe, the icing sugar was not meant to be included in the mixture; it was meant to coat the balls, once formed. But, as I didn't read the recipe properly (oops), I added the icing sugar in with the rest of the ingredients. It didn't seem to hurt the texture as they still rolled really well, and they were still quite a toothsome delectable.


After all that, hopefully I'll have my own sugar plum dreams tonight.

Sleep sweet,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Simply Sunday: A Prayer For Families


Today I want to share this beautiful old prayer with you. I don't know about you, but I feel something special on the inside when someone else says a prayer over me. I feel nurtured and blessed. It is my wish that you will feel that special 'something' too as you read this one today.
Almighty God, our heavenly father...

Who sets the solitary in families: We commend to your continual care the homes in which your people dwell. Put far from them, we ask you, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life.

Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so rekindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectionate one to another, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (origin unknown)

With a gentle kiss atop thy head,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

With Every Christmas Card I Write

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas with every card I write..."

Yes, Virginia, I'm still writing out Christmas cards. I may be missing the postal deadlines, but since this whole tradition of writing cards and letters is about connecting with loved ones, I'm not stressing about any deadlines (mine or anyone else's)! I love the whole tradition of shopping for my selection of Christmas cards and then choosing the right style and message for the right person.

I remember the times, as a small girl, when Grandma and Mom would sit around the big table in our farm kitchen, surrounded by boxes of assorted greetings cards. They seemed to make a fuss about choosing the perfect card. Perhaps, because both the card and the words written inside were meant to convey in some small way the message of their hearts.

I never stopped to think about it until this very moment, but I guess the tradition was handed down, because I still love to fuss over choosing just the right card for the right person. And... as a child, there also was something most satisfying about watching the stack grow as envelope after envelope was addressed, licked, and stamped.

The past few weeks our mailbox has been happily stuffed with greetings coming from loved ones far and wide, and by this time tomorrow, my own greetings will be winging their way back to them with hugs and love and wishes for a Happy Christmas.

With life so busy it's tempting to let go of the Christmas card tradition. But as the days draw closer to this special time of year, I realize I don't want to miss the opportunity to touch base with friends and family... to say, I think of you and cherish the memories of our encounters, to say I'm still here and I'm glad you are too!

(Hum-m-m-m) "...with every Christmas card I write..."

Dreamily yours,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Savouring Life's Moments

Miss Kitty and I have been reading Jan Karon's Christmas novel Shepherds Abiding these past few days. An earnest reader could finish it in a few short hours, but I'm savouring it. I didn't want to speed through the pages as though I were flying around the world on Santa's sleigh come Christmas Eve. By the way,  the word savour means 'to enjoy and appreciate slowly; to enjoy (a pleasure) for as long as possible'.

In the Shepherds book, Father Tim is working on a time and labour intensive project. It's his wife's Christmas present, and as time is fleeting, at one point he ponders if he should choose a larger tool to just get the job done sooner. He thinks about it and decides, no, he wants to give it his best effort, his deepest concentration, no matter how long it takes. He did not want to blast through an experience without savouring it or reflecting upon what he was doing.

Over the years I've been learning to slow down so that I, too, can savour my experiences more fully. I used to be so impatient to get to the end of a project, hardly noticing the process. That is, until I met and married Rick, who is genius at slowing the process of any project he's working on ... willing to spend the time and effort, and enjoy the prep work, and each step along the way. Watching him in action has helped me to slow down and enjoy the journey along the way.

As the days skate by, it's easy to feel rushed off our feet as we prepare for the holiday season. But instead of mindlessly rushing through my 'to do' list, I do try to slow down and pay attention. I want to enjoy the time I spend making sugar plums and figgy pudding. I want to savour my time as I finish wrapping up my gifts. I want to linger over lunch with a special friend (even if we only have an hour, to live in the moment for all it's worth).

So... are you savouring? Enjoying? Appreciating?

Sending hugs with joy,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There's a Song in the Air

I've been listening to Christmas carols at my house today. I've had fun singing along as I go about my activities. I've been dreaming of a white Christmas, singing joy to the world and sleigh bells ring, and imagining the kids' version of while shepherds wash their socks by night all seated on the ground and Hark the Hairy Angels Sing.

Miss Kitty's been contentedly stretched out in front of the fireplace, since not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. And as I sit here and write, visions of sugar plums dance in my head. (I plan on making some tomorrow, I'll let you know how they turn out.)

Earlier this afternoon, I went out to do a couple of errands and shop for one gift. When I came out of the shop with my parcel, the wintry twilight had fallen all around, and the modern parking lot was magically transformed into a Currier and Ives Christmas card. It made me feel quite magical myself! It was a wonderful moment, because sometimes I have wished I could live in one of those idyllic winter scenes found on greeting cards.

Now we're all snuggled in for the night, enjoying the ambiance of cozy lights and furry slippers. No wonder I feel songs bubbling up from within!

Wishing you magical tunes for your heart and hearth,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In the Glow of Candlelight

Sarah at Pink of Perfection jotted down ten creative ways to enjoy the holiday season that have 'nothing to do with buying presents'. One idea she shared is to have an evening filled with candlelight. Which reminds me of one such evening that happened not too long ago.

My sister had invited a houseful of friends for a Christmas party. Prior to their arrival, the power went out. With no electricity to light a dark winter's evening and no oven to finish baking the goodies, what does a person do....cancel? Here is how my sister turned this unexpected event into something quite memorable: 
"The Bee's were the first to arrive, followed shortly by the Emm’s who carried a small Coleman lantern in hand since the power in our street had moments before also gone out. We were sure hoping it would not be long till the power came on for -27C for the night would be mighty cold.

One by one our guests arrived, and I ran around lighting candles (Brenda, that candelabra you gave me once looked absolutely gorgeous). The kids found flashlights, neighbours phoned the electric company, and we all laughed at the unexpected turn of events. Well, the power remained off for about two hours. My son and the other young guys enjoyed the fire in the fireplace; my daughter and the other girls ran from the basement, to the living room, to her room with the flashlights.

The adults gathered, where else, in the kitchen. I had a Christmas puzzle spread out on the table. A few people worked on that by candle and lamp light, but mostly we sat around, visited, and laughed. Thankfully, most of the food was prepared – lots of cold stuff, and the glazed meatballs and bean dip kept warm on the stove.

One dish I was really looking forward to serving (well, actually eating as many as I could) was the good old water chestnuts soaked in soy sauce and rolled in bacon. Well, no oven, so no bacon rolls. Except, I noticed later in the evening there was one bacon roll sitting on an otherwise empty plate. I laughed to Hubby and the other men who were gathered around the other food in the dining room about this – one fellow spoke up, “Oh, I tried those – they were good! I ate two!” See, in a dark room lit cozily by candlelight and warmed by the laughter of good friends, even raw bacon can taste delicious! We even got to enjoy a chocolate fondue once the little tea light melted all the chocolate.

It was a WONDERFUL evening, despite not going quite as planned, and I think a party none of us will ever forget. Everyone left saying what a wonderful time they had, and that is what throwing a party is all about!"

Have yourself a very cozy evening...
maybe even light a candle or two!


Monday, December 15, 2008

You Know It's Christmas When...

"Cash in Advance. No refunds EVER!"

You know it's Christmas when... people start bringing out the fruitcake. Sometimes fruitcake gets a lot of bad press, but for me and Rick, a generous slab of rich homemade fruitcake paired with a fragrant cup of Earl Grey tea is a perfect way to enjoy an afternoon break around Christmas time.

Heather, a long time good friend and a member of the Birthday Club to which I belong, gave us a porcelain fruitcake bakery for Christmas one year. It's a long standing joke about how she despises fruitcake -- it being an awful addition to any self-respecting buffet table in her view -- so we love to share fruitcake jokes and hunt for zany fruitcake cards for us to giggle over.

I don't know if it's clear enough, but if you squint really hard, you may see the sign in the very first picture. Notice what it says about shopping at this particular fruitcake bakery: "Cash in advance. No Refunds EVER!"

Fretta's Fruitcake Company, North Pole Series, Department 56

Now, I would be most interested in your feelings about fruitcake. Is it an integral part of your larder or is fruitcake banned from your Christmas celebrations?

Curiously yours,

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Christmas Prayer

A Christmas Prayer
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Loving Father,
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift
and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing
which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning
make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus' sake.

With my own heartfelt amen,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Charlie Brown Christmas Puzzle

A few years ago I started a new tradition. Of course, I didn't know it would become a tradition at the time. I've started collecting Christmas-themed jigsaw puzzles, and each Advent I spend the season putting one together. The puzzle pieces sit on a table in the family room opposite where the tree is lit up. As I'm about my business on any given day, whenever I pass through the room, I stop and put a few pieces in place.

The very first puzzle I bought was "A Peanuts Christmas" by Springbok. Funny that, because as a child I never really cared for the Charlie Brown Christmas special. We'd watch it every year, but I'd generally feel sad for Charlie Brown, who seemed so alone with his pathetic little tree.

Years later I was reminded of something I had forgotten about that show! The story doesn't end with Charlie staying sad. Do you remember the part when Charlie Brown asks so poignantly, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

Linus, so sweetly and confidently, takes center stage and begins to recite those old familiar words -- the account taken from the beautiful old King James rendition. "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them...." (click here for more by Linus)

For me, that's Christmas. I do all the decorating, baking, partying, singing, wrapping presents, eating and visiting as a joyous celebration to honour the Child, Emmanuel, God with Us. Linus, thanks for the sweet reminder of what Christmas is about for me.

Wishing you thoughts for great joy,

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

You Know You're A Real Cat Lover When...

Miss Kitty's favourite lookout perch on the step
(when she's not sitting on my computer chair)

A friend just sent me an excerpt from an e-newsletter she receives from, in which it shared an article You Know You're A Real Cat Love When. I found these three quite humorous. You know  you're a real cat lover when...
You've been known to use a flea comb on your own hair in a pinch.
You steer people away from a certain chair with the words, "Sorry, that's Fluffy's".
You discourage visitors from helping themselves to your peanut butter because Muffin sticks her paw in there to help herself. (Miss Kitty likes unsalted butter and has been known to help herself if the butter dish is uncovered.)

And, here is my own proof.  You know you're a real cat lover when...
You choose to sit perched on the very edge of your computer chair until your behind is numb, because you don't want to disturb Kitty while she's having her nap.

Here's to a purr-fectly meow-velous day!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Snowflakes And The Christmas Spirit

 A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky--unbidden--
and seems like a thing of wonder. ~ Susan Orlean

Monday morning ... and though it's gray and overcast, there's a cozy feeling in the air as snowflakes, soft like fluffy goose down, float from the skies. Oh the joy and the bliss of newly falling snow. It's as Andy Goldsworthy once said, snow provokes responses that reaches right back to childhood. I feel a giggle of joy on the inside. Snow and Christmas -- in my child's eye -- always go together.

My feet hit the floor running this morning. I woke up hap-happy, even though I have a pile of things to do today. For today, it's all fun, yes, even the chores, as I'm starting to feel the curling warmth of the Christmas spirit gently fall around me, as I see those snowflakes falling on in the garden outside.

Whatever you're up to, cherish your day,

Friday, December 05, 2008

Festive Friday Fill-Ins

Today I'm joining bloggers at Friday Fill-Ins. Our host starts the sentences and we finish them with our own responses. To join in the fun, click here for the questions.

1. Snow covers my neighborhood like powdered sugar on Turkish Delight.

2. I'm looking forward to reading Jan Karon's "Shepherds Abiding" this weekend.

3. Cafe Haven is the best place to get the awesome-est latte ever!

4. One of my favorite old TV shows is the old holiday variety specials when famous people sang Christmas carols and songs.

5. I'm done with trying to figure out everyone's expectations and trying to meet them.

6. The most enjoyable thing around the holidays is the wonderful mix of happy social times with people and the quiet, reflective times alone or with God.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to snuggly time with my hubby and my kitty cat, tomorrow my plans include an outing with new friends to a ladies Christmas Brunch, and Sunday, I want to attend the Alberta Baroque Ensemble's Christmas Concert with my hubby!

No matter how busy you get today, remember to grab any wonder-filled moments that come your way with both hands!

Joy! Joy!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sugar Plum Dreamin'

Imagination is a wonderful gift. How else would the children in The Night Before Christmas have had visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads? No doubt you can probably reach back into your own childhood and remember your own wild and beautiful imagination.

Oh, to have such vivid imaginations even now that we're grown up. Maybe now we don't dream about sugar plums, but we all carry secret wishes and dreams that desperately need the gift of our imagination. We need to let go of the old messages to 'stop daydreaming' and allow the eyes of our heart to even just think about what we'd like. Walt Disney apparently first said it, 'If you can dream it, you can do it.' He also went on to say, 'Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.'

So while your kids dream about 'sugar plum' ipods and the latest video games this Christmas, why not dream and imagine your own sugar plum visions for yourself. What do you want? If folks like Walt Disney can dream a dream and do it, it's possible for us too.

Now, if you're wondering what sugar plums really look like, check out the recipe here.

Happy Sugar Plum Dreamin'

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Joy of Advent Calendars

Did you like Advent calendars as a child? Does your child 'inside' still enjoys opening new windows every morning in December?

If so, you might be interested in an advent calendar designed by a fellow blogger, Violet, over at Promptings. She is sharing with her readers a new 'window' each day this month until Christmas.

Only 22 more sleeps,

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Reduce Stress This Holiday Season


It's the time of year when things get busier than usual. Suddenly we feel overwhelmed and the fun ebbs away like the tide. Why not stop for a moment and breathe deeply. Do once, twice, three times.

Now read these tips and see if these won't help:

1. First, ask yourself if everything on your To-Do list is really necessary to make your holiday merry and bright. Keep what's important and rule out what might just be excess and clutter for you. For example, I really enjoying writing and sending greeting cards and letters to keep in touch with people, so I make time for this tradition. But I know lots of people find it a huge burden. If it's just a chore -- and your heart's not in it -- who says it has to stay a part of your holiday tradition! Do the things that make your heart sing and rejoice.

2. Schedule a date with a good friend you don't see often. Visit a local site, like a greenhouse, that's all gussied up, festive and fragrant with blossoms and balsam. Browse through their Christmas display and relax over a steaming latte in a cozy setting.

3. Treat your body like a queen. One way is to stay away from foods that make you feel heavy and uncomfortable. Of course, we all want to enjoy the rich foods that come out only at Christmas time, but I'm learning to temper that with eating things that don't make me feel sluggish afterward. For instance, we go through boxes of mandarin oranges at this time of year. They are a treat, they have lots of vitamin C, and yet they don't make me feel heavy when I've eaten them.

4. Carve out mini rests for yourself during the day. And I do mean mini -- just 60 seconds can make a difference. I'm always surprised at how long a minute actually feels when I stop doing and just 'be' awhile. For me, the key is to focus on relaxing and not think about what I'll do when I start moving again.

Here's hoping these ideas reduce the stress so that you can enjoy these days more.

Cheerily yours,

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thinking About Gift Giving

It's the first of December ... and for those of us who love Christmas, we can gleefully start our holiday preparations in earnest, which includes focusing our attention more closely on the gifts we want to give this year. Of course, for some of us, that might cause more stress than delight.

It's so easy to get caught up in the social obligation of gift giving at this time of year. Instead of feeling a sense of joy and wonder, we can start to feel the pressure because it's expected of us. I don't know about you, but I don't want to receive something from someone if they only feel a sense of duty to give it to me. I don't want to give in that spirit either.

I don't shop the way I used to, and I no longer play the game of guessing how much someone might spend on me so that I might give something of similar value. The stress I used to carry as I tried to figure that out -- it still gives me the shudders. Always wondering if it was the right thing, if I spent enough to indicate some reasonable measure of 'love'. I assume that, right or wrong, it creeps from a mindset of commercialism and consumerism that seems to be a mostly North American malady. Diamonds and fancy presents are not the only way to express a measure of love. Now, if you have the ability to share those kinds of gifts, by all means let those items be an expression of the love you have in your heart.

And, for many of us whose pocketbooks aren't as thickly padded, we need to somehow let that pressure go. And the means we have within our reach, that's what we use. Sometimes the best gifts are those wrapped in beautiful paper and bows; sometimes they are less tangible but still as life-giving: gentle and affirming words, generous giving of time and energy, providing acts of service, to name a few. Large or small ... only as long as it speaks from the heart.  

I do want my gifts to be an expression from my heart. Because, in the end, it doesn't matter if we're two or ninety-two, we are all looking for that special something that conveys the message....

"You I notice ... you I cherish."

Happy Preparations,

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Perfect Match

On that day ten years ago we looked deeply into one another's eyes and said those wonderful two words, "I Do"!

Today we celebrate the fact that we'd say them all over again. "For me God hath provided thee" is the phrase inscribed inside our wedding bands. A perfect description of how our two lives came together.

I tried looking for someone on my own before and it never worked out, but as soon as I took my hands off and said, God, will you be my Matchmaker, this wonderful man came into my life just months later. I came home from work one day, and there he was... standing in the garden. It turned out that Jean, my dearest friend and housemate, and Rick had both enrolled in the same Master Gardener Course. Rick, having given Jean a ride home from class that first day, was in our backyard, inspecting the garden with Jean.

When you let God pick him for you, He does it perfectly. Sometimes, it still boggles my mind how beautifully our lives came together, how we fit hand in glove. Truly, a match made in heaven.

Happy Anniversary, dearest Husband! You are still the most wonderful man in the world, and I'd still follow you to the ends of the earth. Joy! Joy!

With all my heart,

"Faith, Hope, Love...
the greatest of these is Love."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

100 Postings In 100 Days!

It's celebration time! One hundred days ago, I published my very first post on It's A Beautiful Life. One hundred posts later and it's time to get out the champagne ... to celebrate my little achievement.

I never imagined that setting the challenge to do 100 postings in 100 days would impact my life so much -- I wanted to use blogging as a way to develop the habit to write more regularly and consistently. To quit 'aspiring' and actually write, not just talk about it. And here I've done it! That's why I'm so excited.

What fun it's been too! I've met so many interesting and creative bloggers.  I've been learning my way around blogland, wrestling with the 'technie bits' as I tried my hand at uploading photos and new backgrounds. Not to forget the joy of anticipation as I sat here at my computer every day thinking up new posts that would hopefully spark readers' interest.

So thank you, Beautiful Readers, for making this new beginning so enjoyable. I appreciate hearing from so many of you -- it has made the beginning of my blogging journey sweet and oh so worthwhile.

In response to the question some of have asked, what will you do now? I'm having too much fun to stop now. I may not be here every single day, but I'm certainly going to continue blogging. I'd miss you too much.

Here's wishing you a beautiful day!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 99. Pass The Gift Along

As much as I love giving and receiving gifts that come wrapped in pretty paper, I've learned that often the most precious gifts we give or receive don't arrive in ribbons and tissue.

Sometimes these gifts are all the wonderful things we've been learning over the past months that have changed us in some way for the better. The perfect insight someone shared in a book that now helps us in our own struggles to find the answers we need. A comment someone made even in passing that suddenly lights up with inspiration. A posting here in blog-land that gives encouragement just at the right time. We might jot these little 'gifts' in our journals and notebooks as reminders for ourselves.

But wouldn't it be wonderful to take these bits and pieces and create outlets for the inspiration we've received to flow to others? To allow our knowledge and ideas to move freely and gracefully from our own lives, letting them now refresh and nourish someone else. 

Booker T. Washington once said people should lay hold of something that helps them and then use it to help somebody else. Mary Kay Ash shared a similar thought when she noted how often we are the recipients of countless gifts from people and how we can, with gratitude, pass on to others something of what we have received.

What inspired idea helped you make your home more peaceful or organized? What great tip is making your business work better? What truth has come alive for you and is positively changing how you perceive your life?

Blogging can be a wonderful platform for doing this very thing. Let's be bold to share our lives and the things that have helped us. Someone out there needs it. 

Gracefully yours,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 98. Simply Sunday

"Never be in a hurry;
do everything in a quiet and calm spirit.

Do not lose your inner peace
for anything whatsoever,
even if your whole world seems upset."

~ St. Frances de Sales

Wishing you a peaceful Sunday,

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 97. Notice The Beauty

"Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams." ~ Ashley Smith

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 96. Magpie Treasures

Things are pretty much frozen in my garden now. I did spot a little squirrel snooping around our yard the other morning. It's not a usual sight to have squirrels here in our backyard, so I decided to leave a treat for the bushy-tailed fellow, snitching some fat peanuts from Hubby's personal stash.

Except...there has been no further sighting of my bushy-tailed acquaintance. Instead, a rather large magpie spied the peanuts, and he took up the task of 'squirreling' them under mounds of moldering leaves and snow piles.

Task accomplished, he took one in his beak and flew off with it. After all that hard work, I guess it was time for coffee break!

I love those nature moments...

Here's wishing you a beautiful day,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 95. Read Your Own Books Challenge 2009

Book bloggers are already envisioning wonderful new reading challenges and projects to fill a brand new year. That means 365 whole days to enjoy all manner of reading pleasures, including the 2009 Read Your Own Books Challenge, for which I have now signed up.

I've decided to challenge myself to read at least 53 books in 2009 that are from my own home library. I must admit I have quite a few on my shelves I never read it.

Dear Hubby will be most happy to hear this, as this means I'm required to focus more on the books piling up everywhere around my house, and less on the ones still shelved at Chapters, Amazon, and quaint secondhand bookshops.

The rules are simple. You set your own goals and read your own books during 2009. If you'd like to join the challenge, click here.

Bookishly yours,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 94. Better Than Chocolates

I stared at the box of chocolates I was holding in my hand.

An unexpected pleasure, they'd arrived with a note from a friend in response to a letter and gift book I'd sent her a couple of weeks earlier.

Although I didn't realize it at the time, my friend had been feeling quite despondent; she was leaving her job with an organization that had been 'home' for 30 years and she was finding out how deep her roots had gone down.

When I first heard that she was resigning, I felt a quiet urging inside to send her a note of encouragement. Almost without thinking, I picked up my pen that evening and words tumbled out.

They came as a spontaneous thought... send her something that helped you during your own experience of dramatic change; give her the image that, like any plant being transplanted, she may feel and look a bit wilted as she adjusts and sets down new roots, but soon she will flourish in her new environment.

In her note, my friend told me that I had shared exactly what she needed to hear. My words had given her a glimmer of hope that, yes, there would be life after this job.

My heart was bursting out at the seams with the wonder of it. I loved it! As a writer, this is what it's all about...bringing the right message to the right person at the right time, and being so bang on, that in a twinkling someone's life is changed and their spirits are lifted.

By the way, my friend is now established in her new position and LOVES it! She says she still reads my note and the book I sent....and is now even considering passing it along to someone else who is facing her own set of challenges.

To me, that's working with the Divine to bring about a little 'heaven on earth'. And you may be interested to know, the chocolates were celestially divine too!

How sweet it is!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day 93. Joy in Gratitude

"It is in the smallest details that the flavor of life is savored."

So wrote Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. And how, if we pay attention to the beauty around us, we will enrich our lives and become more content.

One way we can begin this habit of paying attention is to keep a daily gratitude journal, and at the end of each day, take a few minutes to write down five things for which you are grateful.

The first time I started a gratitude journal was many year ago now, but I still I remember waking up those mornings during that season. I woke with a sense of eager anticipation, wondering what new joys might be uncovered and what new things I might be able to jot down later that evening. That time at the end of each day soon became a cherished quiet time for me. The little exercise set in motion a pattern of looking for joyful moments and beauty in every corner of my life.

 "Gratitude is the heart's memory."
~ French proverb

I grew amazed at how many blessings liberally sprinkled my days, things I'd never really noticed before. I began to focus on the abundance all around me rather than the lack. That's not to say my life was a proverbial bed of roses; I had my challenges, some of them severe, but I was learning to look for, and find, the smallest of beauties in the midst of the larger trials. Like tiny bunches of violets suddenly springing up in most unfriendly places, there they were adding colour and beauty, not to mention the hope to carry on.

 Find A Pretty Journal

If you are finding that your own life could be sweeter, may I recommend that you find yourself the prettiest, most inviting notebook... and begin the delightful habit of jotting down those simple pleasures for which you are grateful. You will find yourself living your life more beautifully.

Living a life of gratitude has made me happier. Even though I don't jot something down every single day now, I've never forgotten the lesson.

Gratefully yours,

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 92. New Snow Everywhere

Methinks someone was sprinkling powdered sugar over the doughnuts Upstairs last night for we woke to find the neighbourhood covered with powdery white stuff again.

Or... it could be craft sparkles and glitter. Maybe the instructors forgot to put the lids back on the glitter jars. You see, yesterday a friend and I went to a Stampin' Up Christmas card workshop. Above is a pic of one card we worked on. 'Twas a fun afternoon playing with paper, stamps, ribbon, and glitz.

Here's wishing you a lovely new day!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Day 91. Lesson From Our Doggy Friends

When someone is having a bad day,
be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them.
~ Daily Splashes of Joy, Barbara Johnson

 Sending you warm wishes and hugs,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 90. On A Lighter Note...

Handle every stressful situation like a dog.
If you can't eat it or play with it,
just pee on it and walk away!

~ Original Author Unknown

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 89. Books for Kids Young and Old

I love children's books and have been in love with them for as long as I can remember. To this day, it's still a shivery, delightful pleasure to browse the shelves in the children's section at a library or bookstore. I especially love the large picture books with their vibrant illustrations and artwork.

With it drawing near to the time of year when people start thinking more earnestly about holiday gift-shopping, I'm sharing a few other of my favourite storybooks in case you need to buy for little ones -- or as the case may be -- not so little ones, like elderly aunts or grandmothers who need tickling in their funny bones. And, of course, what fun to pass along some of our own favourites to our children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces, sharing in the delight of stories that make us giggle or sigh with understanding.

The short list below is not of newly published books. These books have been around awhile now, but as they still remain some of my favourites not only for their stories but their wonderful illustrations, I'm sharing with you today.

Wishing you a bookish kind of day,

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash written by Trinka Hakes Noble and illustrated by Steven Kellogg. 1992. I was introduced to the book by a dear friend who made me realize it was quite fine to enjoy reading children's storybooks even if I was 25 or 26 or 27. For years now I count this charming story among my favourites.

It's an engaging tale about a school field trip gone delightfully awry. Responding to her mother's query about her day, one child says, ' was boring...kind of dull...nothing much. Well, until the cow started crying." Why was the cow crying? "Oh because the... ." And the tale spins out from there.

Library Lion written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. 2006. "This story's appealing premise is clear in the first sentence: 'One day, a lion came to the library.' There's the expected uproar as the lion pads through the stacks, but librarian Miss Merriweather only asks: 'Is he breaking any rules?' The lion is not, and so he is allowed to stay." excerpt from Booklist

Cynthia Coppersmith's Violet Comes to Stay Story by Melanie Cecka, Pictures by Emily Arnold McCully. 2006. The first in a series of storybooks about a white cat inspired by Cynthia Coppersmith, Father Tim's wife from Jan Karon's bestselling Mitford Years series. In this story, Violet's search for 'home' leads her to a plant nursery, a bakery, and finally a bookstore—the one place where the gentle cat isn't expected to be a mouse hunter.

Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury Written and illustrated by Jan Brett. 2001. This gorgeous Christmas collection combines seven of Jan Brett's most famous, highly acclaimed, best-selling, beloved books: The Mitten, The Wild Christmas Reindeer, Trouble with Trolls, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The Hat, Christmas Trolls, and The Night Before Christmas. A book of stunning art and endearing characters, Jan Brett draws upon the cultures of the countries in which her stories are set and brings both original stories and classics as charming, lively, and timeless as her art. Info from
A Star for Christmas Written and illustrated by Trisha Romance. 2007. "A gentle old carpenter who has spent his whole life in the service of others has finally begun to build his own home in a quiet meadow, with nothing but a small reindeer to keep him company. Finishing by winter seems like an impossible task, but the carpenter reaps the years of kindness he has sown, and his neighbors return his love by helping complete his new home by Christmas. He has a wonderful surprise in store for them, making this Christmas one that everyone will cherish forever." Amazon excerpt

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 88. Booking Through Thursday Blog Tour

I get happy just thinking about books. You too? Although I have many interests and enjoy various creative ventures, the one thing that has stayed constant over the decades has been my love of books and reading. The past couple of days I've been browsing through some great reader/book blogs. I love the fact that we get to 'meet' so many interesting people who share kindred interests.
Today I'm joining Booking Through Thursday. Each week a book-related question is posed by our blog tour host for readers to ponder and provide comments, if they wish.
Here's today's question:
"I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?

Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book.

So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?"

Here's my reply:

Once upon a time when I was trying to ’simplify’ my life, I thought I should stop buying so many books and just borrow them from the library whenever possible. (After all, the library is one of my favourite haunts).

Turns out…simplifying and streamlining my home in the area of books did NOT work for me. Because when I tried to keep notebooks and index cards of all the quotes and good ideas I wanted to remember from these borrowed books, it made a bigger pile (and mess) than if I’d just bought the book and put it on a shelf!
I most often buy non-fiction, because I want to be able to mark the thoughts and ideas that speak to me. I tend to remember where quotes are in a book once I’ve marked or underlined it, so it makes for easy reference.
I’m more apt to borrow fiction from the library as some novels I may only read once and be done with them. Unless, of course, I find an author I really like (like Jan Karon, Agatha Christie, or L.M. Montgomery, Rosamunde Pilcher, Alexander McCall Smith, Elizabeth Goudge, just to name just a few), then I'll buy those favourites to re-read over and over.
The main reason I buy books is that the good ones become dear friends, and I like to have my chums nearby. A person never knows when the whim to read an old friend shows up, and it's lovely to them close to hand.

There’s something quite invigorating about taking a newly purchased book home (or a pile of them on a good browsing day). It’s the perfect perk if I need new inspiration. It makes me feel like Scrooge when he’s gleefully rubbing his hands and counting his money — treasures, treasures, treasures!

Happily engaged with a book,

PS. If you're interested in participating in this book tour, you can copy the question from Booking Through Thursday and find out how you can post it on your own blog.
PSS. I've been re-reading some of my old Christie favourites. Right now I'm in the middle of The Caribbean Mystery.