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...

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.'


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,


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,

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!


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?



Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fun Christmas Questions

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,

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!


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!

Photos:  © Brenda C Leyland 2010 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Still Enjoying Monet

I found a treasure when I found this book entitled "Monet's Table, The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet (Claire Joyes and Jean-Bernanard Naudin.)

Not only did Claude Monet know how to create delightful art on a canvas, he knew what made great art in a dining room -- good food, lovely table settings, and a host of congenial friends with which to share it all.

"They came to dine in almost ritual form, first visiting Monet's studio and the greenhouses, then having lunch at 11:30 (the time the family always dined, to enable Monet to make the most of the afternoon light). Tea would later be served under the lime trees or near the pond." Excerpt from front cover

Of course these happy times came a long time later in his career. There is a story about Monet and his struggling artist friends -- they all knew how to eat beans for days on end, so they could scrape enough coins together to buy paints and canvas for their ever-hungry artistic muse.

See the blue-trimmed yellow dishes in the bottom corner of the photo below? This pic shows a artistically-laid table in Monet's dining room.

Now... just imagine the excitement my former housemate and I experienced years ago, when we stumbled upon the same pattern of dishes in a local department store.

We snapped them up for our own entertaining, and though our table might not have included such auspicious guests as Monet's, those blue-rimmed dishes tell their own tales of good food, pretty table settings, and congenial company. Mmm... maybe it was the dishes!

Don't you just love it when you go to someone's house for dinner and they've created a beautiful table for the occasion? It adds to the whole pleasure of eating. Monet knew that. Maybe that's one reason why I love him -- he seemed to know that our lives are enhanced when every area is touched by beauty.

Catch a glimpse of it today...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Simply Sunday - A 'Hallelujah' Peek

For those of you starting to get in the Holiday mood, you might enjoy this video. And, if you are not in the mood, it might get you started...

Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Knees Go Weak

Yes, they definitely go weak on this one...............
Michael Buble singing Sway!


Friday, November 19, 2010

God Whispers: Beauty In Every Corner

photo: leonardo wong |

"God has called you to speak the word to the world
and to speak it fearlessly. While acknowledging 
your woundedness, do not let go of the truth that lives
in you and demands to be spoken".
~ Henri Nouwen, Inner Voice of Love

My desire to establish Beauty in every corner is not so much about flowers, teacups and lace -- although it is certainly part of it -- it is also about establishing the beauty of heaven here on earth where ugly stuff like p*ornography, child a*buse, s*ex trade, hunger, cruelty to man and beast, crime, lying,  stealing, cheating is lessened, maybe even eradicated.

A place where people can flourish because they deal with their issues wisely; where they know how to overcome the enemy of their souls, and they have learned to walk out the royal law of love and kindness in every situation. Because people everywhere who hear the whispers of heaven are determined to establish heaven's Beauty here on this blue marble we call home. 

"Your vocation is to speak from
the place in you where God dwells."
~ Henri Nouwen, Inner Voice of Love

People say that's impossible, just look at the world around you. How do we do this? I don't know, but it can't be by praying out of fear or hopelessness or wringing of the hands. Can we believe that our prayers can change the world? Lord Alfred Tennyson once wrote that "more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. Perhaps if we believe we receive when we pray, we shall have the answers more often. I want to work towards that with my words and actions and intentions.

For nothing shall be impossible to him who believes.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Wintry World Today...

Outside My Window...

I am thankful for...
~ Warm, cozy sweaters
~ A furnace that faithfully heats my home
~ Snowy, gray days that make me feel Christmas-y

I went out into the cold...
~ To buy bird seed for the feeders
~ To meet friends for coffee

I've been reading...
~ The latest issue of Victoria magazine

In my kitchen...
~ I'm making meatballs with mushroom gravy
~ Sipping hot apple cider with cinnamon and cloves

I can hear...
~ A large chorus of sparrows chirping in the bushes

Wishing you simple pleasures today!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is Quilting A Sane Hobby?

That is what Mom and I were wondering last week. Think about it... first you go out and look for the perfect large piece of fabric. Then you cut it into little strips. Wow, a big job cutting all those tiny strips. But wait... now you have to sew them all back together again.

But it's the way you put those little strips back together that creates the excitement...watching a new pattern form as each strip passes over the feed-dogs of your sewing machine.

It was quite the sight when we spread the pieces over the the huge makeshift table set up in the living room (the room with the most natural light).

Here is my mom. As you can see the afternoon shadows were already creating lots of shadows, so we had to stop for the day.

Miss Kitty thought it was a great time to play with those funny looking pins. (sorry for dimness of the photo... I caught her sitting there in the dark).

It was a special week -- I think we quilted more than just pieces of fabric though. Our hearts were also quilted with the beautiful pattern of mom and daughter time -- precious time!

So maybe quilting really is a sane hobby! Especially if it brings loving heads bent together over the same project, creating memories as well as something beautiful for your home.

Wishing you your own beautiful 'quilted' moments,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cotton Candy Pink

A glance from my bedroom window early this morning
had me thinking about cotton candy...

for that's exactly what these wispy clouds reminded me of... 

Promises of another beautiful day.

"God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone,
but also on trees, and in the flowers
and clouds and stars."
~ Martin Luther

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!