Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

 To My Beautiful Friends ~

Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate; cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness. In short, see that these months are freed from all the past—have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time.

Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time.

Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, prayer, meditation, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing—don't do it), and one well-selected resolution.

Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor.  ~ Anonymous

Wishing you a beautiful year ahead for you!


Monday, December 30, 2013

Getting Ready For A New Year


Just a few days ago everything felt warm and cozy with Christmas ornaments and cards and glitter here on my blog. Somehow the so-seasonal picture of sugar cookies on a plate and candy cane sticks poking out from a mug of something steamy suddenly seems 'past its prime'.

I love this vintage vase with violets... I love its soft beauty and somehow makes me feel lovely and eager for a new year.

Here's what I'm up to at present as we wait for the dawn of a brand new year...

Getting ready for another online memoir writing course with Lisa Dale Norton -- it starts next week.  Getting ready for me includes having a project idea lined up of what I want to write about (the last time I took the course, I was a green horn and didn't know what to expect).  And, also important, I've been working on having a few meals in the freezer, things like homemade soup and pasta sauce. Which means more time for writing and pondering and pencil chewing...oh yes, and actually writing several essays over the course.
Purging my ever-increasing load of emails that arrive from all manner of sources --- wanted and so many unwanted and unsolicited -- determining that this year I am NOT allowing emails to pile up in my inbox till it groans with the cyber-weight. So, the goal is to keep my inbox under a hundred.  If that sounds like a lot to you, I used to have several hundred emails in my inbox, because I had signed up for so many 'free' resources and webinars, and of course I'm on all their contact lists now. I'm more particular now, if I'm not using it right away, I don't need right now either.

Tuning up my computer with the help of tech-savvy nephew. Yes, even computers get bogged down in the corners with stuff that we don't need or want...and we even scratch our heads wondering when that program got downloaded. We uninstalled programs I no longer needed, and we did a full and proper scan for viruses. I am amazed at how swift my computer runs again -- I feel quite light headed about it all.  Mmm... maybe I'll be able to blog faster now too -- haha --don't count on it, my friends.

Pondering 'word for the season' for my inner journey as well. What with all this cleaning up of the old, I think the word 'purge' becomes a good mantra for now -- letting go of the clutter, the unnecessary, any distractions that water down my energy and time.

So...on that note, I'm off. As dear hubby and I work at our local performing arts center (there are events both tonight and tomorrow, so said cleaners must do their duty, even on New Year's Eve), we'll be long retired before the bells ring in the New Year in our corner of the world. As one friend says, whether he stays up or not, the year will still arrive, so we'll toast it ahead.  

For everyone else who's staying up ...or not... here's wishing you a very Happy New Year. May tonight ring 2014 in with grace, beauty, and much joy for you and yours.
Hugs and blisses,



Saturday, December 28, 2013

Just Like A Painting

Winter in the Foothills

We were at my sister's place in the foothills near Calgary, Alberta. I captured this view with my camera as I peered out the living room window one morning as the sun was rising. You can see the Rockies way in the distance.

I was amazed at how much this photo already looks like watercolour paintings. I didn't edit it in any way. But, if I were an artist, I'd be reaching for my paints and canvas to play with this one. But since I'm not, I'll enjoy it this way.

Isn't Nature grand?

Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,

Friday, December 27, 2013

Narnia Comes

''This is the land of Narnia,' said the Faun, 'where we are now; all that lies between the lamp post and the great castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern sea.' ~ C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

Earlier this evening I felt drawn to pull out my DVD of the Narnia movie. After the last few days being busy with Christmas festivities, it seemed a perfect way to relax by the fireplace and still keep the feeling of the season.

Then, just a little while ago, as I'm about to retire for the night, I opened the front door to find myself staring out into the world of Narnia itself... right here in my own neighbourhood.  It's been snowing without my knowing it and my world has turned into a winter wonderland.

How fortuitous, then, to find this cozy lamp post in my collection of graphics and pictures, for if you know the movie, you'll see how similar it is to the one in the movie.

How's that for art and story melting into one's life ... in real time and experience?

There seems to be something magical about it. And I realize my heart still longs for that which some will tell us is 'impossible' in this world..... and I'm grateful for people like C.S. Lewis who are able to take their own longings and turn them into something many of us connect to, not with our minds, but with our hearts and imagination.

I love little Lucy.  For her tender age, she seems is the wisest of her siblings.

(Yawn)...Time to withdraw and find my bed. On that note, here's wishing you dreams that are pure and sweet.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve


 Dear Beautiful Friends,

These past couple of weeks turned busier than we'd planned. Not so much with getting ready for Christmas, but life events, one of which affected someone we love dearly. As a result, as you can see, my plan to write something every day during Advent didn't always pan out. But that's okay.

Now here it is... one of my most favourite days of the year has arrived. Ever since I can remember, just thinking about December 24th can give me little shivers of joy and delight, as these days are so entwined in those wondrous memories I have of Christmas Eve as a young child.

One such memory has stayed constant over the years.  And, when I look back, it has become the guidepost, the essence, of what I think of as as the beauty and wonder of Christmas. Hope you enjoy.

IT WAS JUST A FEW days before Christmas (as a child those days seemed longer than long). The air outside was frostier than icicles hanging from the eaves of a barn, but inside the welcome breath of air from the old coal furnace filled the house with warmth.

It was dark out and Mom was preparing supper in the kitchen.Otherwise it was quiet in our little farmhouse. I'd settled myself on the little green couch, perfectly content in the peaceful ambiance of our front room which was lighted only by the glow of a strand of round sugar-glass tree lights. I felt safe and cozy; my world looked beautiful as I stared dreamily into the swirling glass balls and glimmering ribbons of tinsel.

In this contemplative mood, I thought about the pictures I saw on holiday greeting cards ... artists’ renditions of little towns of Bethlehem with midnight skies and light streaming from tiny earthen windows. I mused about the shepherds who were the first to hear angels heralding good tidings. And of course, I wondered about this Baby Jesus I'd heard about and envisioned him asleep in a manger where cows and sheep ate lunch.

I also wondered how I could possibly contain my girlish excitement, the happiness of being five or six or seven with only a couple of sleeps left till Christmas Eve. It was almost as if my body would burst with anticipation. Not only at the thought of finally opening those intriguing parcels under evergreen boughs, but the last minute flurry of practicing my lines of poetry and trying to remember the words of old carols not quite familiar for the upcoming Christmas Eve Concert.

Finally...finally it would arrive and it was time to pile into the family car. Bumping along on frozen, square tires, we'd arrive at the brightly lit clapboard church two miles into town. We clamoured into the church to find our friends. The building was abuzz and packed with people.  Adults tried to keep order in the basement, until antsy kids, showing off new Christmas outfits, finally got the word, “It’s time to start the procession.”

Before we knew it, we’d all be warbling the last notes of We Wish You a Merry Christmas and annual event of receiving a candy bag -- paper lunch bags bulging with chocolates and candies and peanuts, as well as the treasured ‘Christmas orange’ brought all the way from that faraway place called Japan.

These old memories wrap themselves around me as cozily as soft, furry slippers. Many decades later, when I try to get in the Christmas spirit, it’s the essence of these memories that I’m always trying to catch. I've learned over the years that if I don't strive to find it, they will come. They always have, and I think they always will.

On that note, here's wishing you a beautiful Christmas Eve, 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Shops and a Movie


It's a clear, cold and frosty morning, and a rim of pale, pale pink hovers as the mostly full moon, shiny like a newly minted quarter, edges towards the western horizon.

Hubby and I are back from our far-too-early shift cleaning at our performing arts centre. However, it feels good when we leave and everything is fresh and ready for a new day of activity. Which excitingly includes Opening Night of the T.S. Eliot--Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Cats (for which we have tickets after Christmas).

So we relax a few minutes and I'm indulging in a wee glass of eggnog. Um ... in my view, don't be bothering with that low fat stuff here. I'd say cut the fat somewhere else if you must, but not in eggnog! It has a watered down feeling when you drink the low fast stuff. Just saying...

Eggnog done. Now we're getting ready to meet friends to spend the day out.  First, a stop at the big mall in our area to do a wee bit of Christmas shopping. Nothing serious needed, so it will be relaxed and fun. The boys are heading to the electronics while my girlfriend and I are heading to a lovely French shop called L'Occitane.  Each to their own... each happy. 

Later, we're going to a matinee to see Dame Judy Dench in her newest movie, Philomena. As I understand it, it's the true story of a woman who decides to look for the child she had as a teen and was forced to give up. I've always loved Miss Dench as an actress so I'm looking forward to her latest.

That's what is on our day... how about you?

Wishing you happy glimpses of the season,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Wonderland Photo Party

 Sky Blue Pink

I love winter scenes. These photos were taken out in the country at my sister's acreage. With so much open space the views are spectacular -- some mornings the dawn is simply breathtaking. No photoshop playing, except to add the frame and tag.

Here's to enjoying a Winter Wonderland... with scenes from Southern Alberta (Canada). We're delighted to be linking with Vee's December Note Card Party.

 Whipped Cream and Cinnamon Sprinkles

  Softly Wakes the Dawn

 Walking into the Morning

Wishing you a beautiful day,

Photos: © 2013 Brenda C Leyland

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Season's Gift of a Letter


Dear Beautiful Friends,

After days and days of snow and shadow, this morning is bright with winter sunshine. I peer out my study window to see brilliant blue skies with hardly a cloud and nary a chimney puffing out warm smoke.

Temperatures are hovering near freezing today ... it only takes a day or two of the -30 stuff to make anything else feel quite balmy. It'll make for a lovely day for the to-ing and fro-ing of Christmas shoppers later on.

There's a peace over the neighbourhood, not that it's ever noisy ... unless it's a lawn mower or snow blower racketing away in the distance. If it stays this warm, perhaps we'll see kids out making snowmen later in the day. I'll love that.

A lone chickadee just flew into the backyard. These cheeky ones tend to enjoy peace and quiet when they feed, and so one or two or three will come when other species have feasted and dispersed.

We always look forward to our resident downy woodpecker showing up. Not to mention the northern flicker. We sometimes wonder if the pair of them are 'friends' as they oft appear the same time.

Christmas cards are waiting to be written out ... yes, they probably should be in the mail already, but I hate rushing notes to far away friends and family, sending a mere crumb of attention, when surely a slice of one's life would be much more satisfying to receive. You know ... to touch a heart, not just get a job done.

I'll probably plug in a seasonal movie while I do that. I enjoyed one of my favourites last night, the old classic The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven. But on such a bright, sunny day I think something fun like Home Alone would fit the bill.

I've got Christmas carols crooning away in the kitchen where I should be soon... as hubby has said he's got a hankering for homemade mushroom soup for lunch. I agree, it seems perfect.

I was in the mood to chat with you a wee bit... to say hello and wish you a peace filled day.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tea for Two?

"Have a friend over for tea. Serve cinnamon melba toast and have a real talk. This time of year when the pressure to spend money is intense, calm down and give the most precious gift. Give of yourself." ~ Alexandra Stoddard, Grace Notes

Now that sounds like a great idea... it's been a while since I've had anyone over for tea. Or mulled cider or hot cocoa.  On such an overcast and snowing afternoon, it would be perfect day for a wee visit in some cozy nook. It would be sure to perk any dragging spirits and waning energies.

Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Are You Savouring The Countdown?

In keeping with the season, I once again pull out Shepherds Abiding by Miss Jan Karon.

Although an earnest reader could finish it in a few short hours, I like to turn the pages slowly ... to savor the story. And, let the anticipation that's building up within Father Tim's world create that slow momentum in my own. I don't want to speed through the pages as though I were flying around the world on Santa's sleigh come Christmas Eve.

I went in search of the dictionary to see if I could deepen my understanding of the word.  Savor means to enjoy and appreciate slowly; to enjoy (a pleasure) for as long as possible. Ah yes... the way a child savors her cup of hot cocoa, especially if it's just before bed.

The story lets us peek into what Father Tim is up to during the Advent season. He's working on a time and labor intensive project---a derelict antique Nativity scene complete with the Holy Family, shepherds, sheep, camels, angels---all of which needs to be refurbished before he can offer them as his Christmas gift to Cynthia, his wife.

With the project still so far from the end and days slipping by like beads on fishing wire, at one point Father Tim wonders if he shouldn't just choose a larger tool to get the job done sooner. He thinks about it and decides, no, he wants to give it his best effort, his deepest concentration. He realized that he didn't want to.....

"...blast through an experience without savouring it or later reflecting upon it. For him, working on the figures had slowed him down, forced him to pay attention and to savor the work of his hands ... (because) the time of preparation was yet under way."

The process slowed him down and forced him to pay attention... to enjoy the labour of his hands without pressure and impatience. Sometimes I need that reminder. Maybe that's one reason why I love this story so much.

Reading Shepherds Abiding has certainly become one of my own little Advent traditions. It's a beautiful way to savor the wonder of this holy season.

Wishing you some savoring, pondering time...


Monday, December 09, 2013

A Puzzling Tradition

I enjoy putting together seasonal-themed jigsaw puzzles during the month of December, so I"m often on the look-out for a new one each year.

Yet I usually come back to the very first Christmas puzzle I bought years ago. It's A Peanuts Christmas by Springbok. It still remains a favourite one to work on.

As a child I never really warmed to the Christmas special on television ---I felt sad every year when I saw poor, yelled-at Charlie Brown with his sad little tree.

It wasn't until years later when I saw the movie again that I realized that I'd forgotten the rest of the story.  It doesn't end with Charlie staying sad and alone. Do you remember where he forlornly wails, Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

And, Linus, so sweetly and confidently, takes center stage and begins to recite those beautiful, poignant words taken from the centuries-old version of Luke's Gospel (It's the one I know by heart just from hearing it over and over as a child):
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 and they were sore afraid. And the angel of the Lord said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord....

For me, that's Christmas. I do all the decorating, baking, partying, singing, wrapping presents, eating and visiting as a joyous way to celebrate and honour and take joy in  the Child...Emmanuel God with Us.

As for the puzzle, I haven't started it yet this year, but it's sitting on the table in the family room....waiting. I look forward to pouring out the pieces and sorting them.  As I go about my life over the next few days, I'll stop, puzzle a few pieces into place, and hopefully by Christmas Eve, it will be altogether.

Are you a puzzler?

Wishing you a peace-filled day,

Sunday, December 08, 2013

No...Not Impossible

 Annunciation (Caravaggio)

And Mary said to the angel, How can this be (how can I have a child), since I have no husband?

Then the angel said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you: and so the holy Thing which shall be born of you will be called the Son of God. ...

For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. from Luke 1:37-38

Anyone have any impossible situations in their lives?  Has God given you a promise...a word that you know is yours for that situation?

Don't lose heart now...it ain't over till it's over...for He who promised is faithful to watch over his word to perform it.

I'm taking that for myself today... for I, too, have some things that seem impossible to my natural eye.  With God nothing shall be impossible.  All things are possible to him who believes.

With a hug and a gentle kiss atop thy head,


Saturday, December 07, 2013

Reduce the Season's Stress

Source: Microsoft Images

It's the time of year when things get busier than usual.  Perhaps you're starting to feel the pressure and the jolly is ebbing away like the tide.

Why not stop for a moment and breathe deeply. Again. Now ask yourself this big question:

1. Is everything on your To-Do list really necessary to make your holiday merry and bright? Really? What could you pare down? Maybe it's not even something huge, just a small adjustment. Keep what's important and rule out what might just be excess and clutter for you this year.

For example, I really enjoying writing and sending greeting cards and letters to keep in touch with people, so most years I make time for this tradition. But I know lots of people find it a huge burden. (Some year I have too, so I didn't do it then.) 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 this year...or any year? Can you just send e-notes or Facebook messages?  Would that help? Do the things that make your heart sing and rejoice.

2. Schedule a date with a friend -- someone you don't see often but wish you could. Visit a local site like a greenhouse that's all gussied up and where the air is fragrant with blossoms and balsam. Browse through their Christmas displays. Then relax over a steaming latte in a cozy setting.

3. Treat your body like a queen instead of a slave. 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.

5. See photo.  You already know the so-familiar tip everyone mentions so I'm not even saying it out loud, but you know... it works.

Here's hoping these ideasadd to the peace and joy that we long for these Advent days.