Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year

It's almost here ... New Year's Eve. We were out doing some errands early yesterday afternoon. Quite mild out around here these last few days. Still wintry, but with those pale blue skies and tepid sunshine. 'Twould be a perfect day for cross country skiing or tobogganing or a simple walk out in a woodsy park. Alas, I've done none of these recently (but it's a good idea) -- I like my cozy chair by the fireplace too much these days between Christmas and New Year's. Perhaps hot cocoa doesn't taste quite the same as when you're sipping it by a huge bonfire, wrapping frozen fingers around a hot mug, feeling the blissfulness of its warmth.

But I'm happy and content inside too. Watching my corner of the world from my study window. The northern flicker has been around a lot lately, and right now the cute downy woodpecker is pecking away at the peanut/sunflower suet ball. Chickadees, redpolls, and sparrows fill in at the other feeders.

And, I sit here at my computer looking up the rules for that old card game, Canasta. We've got some friends coming in for a little party in a while and we thought we'd all try our hand at this old game. It's been years since any of us have played. Checked out the Dummy's version for a quick review.

It's been years, too, since we've done much on New Year's Eve. The past four to five years found us long tucked in bed before the New Year's bells rang, as we usually had to work the wee morning hours of New Year's Day. Revelers weren't even tucked in bed yet while we were starting to get up for our too-early morning shift.

But, not having to thankfully do that anymore, we thought we'd be more playful this year on New Year's Eve. Not big partying but with a few good friends. A buffet full of food. And hopefully lots of good conversation, fun, and laughter too. Especially laughter. I'd like to ring in the new year with happy thoughts and feelings and let this house echo with joyful sounds of love and friendship.

Hope you're enjoying this last day of 2015. I see online that many folks are focusing on goals and dreams for the new year. I'm not in that space right now as I'm still in holiday mode. I'll probably think about that more once January is underway.

How about you? Got any thoughts for yourself as 2015 winds up and we stand on the cusp of the new year?

I was looking at my post from last New Year ... my thoughts are similar and so I'm taking the easy way out and saying "Ditto" and if you're wondering what those thoughts are, I do cordially invite you to slip over HERE and please accept my very best wishes for a beautiful New Year ahead. I'll be back in the swing after the holidays.

I'm off to anticipate my guests.
Sending you love and hugs,

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dec 25. Wishing You...

"Joy to your world"

It’s here … the day we’ve been waiting for. With all my heart I'm wishing you joy to your world with gentle kisses atop thy head. Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone!

With love,

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve

Photo: Obara

It's late on Christmas Eve and I just opened the front door to take a peek outside. The street feels so close and cozy as house lights are still lit up all along the street. I get a sense of where the mostly full moon is shining, although the night sky, afloat with frosted glitter, is hazy and muted.

A neighbour two doors down stands out in front of his house all bundled up -- maybe he's watching for Christmas. Or letting the dog out. We wave and call out "Merry Christmas" to one another. I can see my breath. All is calm, all is still.

Even though I was feeling quite weary after a busy day, in the twinkling of a second, I feel alive and well in my soul. I can go to bed with a smile on my face and Christmas in my heart, for it just whooshed in on the frosty air.

Merry Christmas, Everyone, and to all a good night!
Sweet dreams,

Day 22-23-24. Looks and Feels Like Christmas

It hardly seems possible that 24 days have just flown by like an Olympian racing across a frozen pond. In real life, sometimes I didn't even get to open my Advent Calendar window every single day. Some days I'd ask myself, did I open my window today? Oops, I guess I didn't. But all that meant was that 'today' I had a bigger treat as I could open two or even three windows all at once.

Such is what you find here today. In the midst of holiday preparations -- family of 19 coming on Christmas Day -- the last couple of days whistled by. I didn't know how to squeeze in a little blogging time, especially if I wanted to sleep. And, as I wanted to share a picture or two and those still needed loading from my camera plus editing ... well, you get the idea.

Today, we're delighted to  offer a three-in-one bundle for Days 22, 23, and 24. I hope you enjoy.

 ¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*¨)
 (¸.·´ (¸.·´ * 

Day 22. Pictures of the tree

I promised a few photos of the tree. This is the first time in decades that our tree has multi-coloured lights. I have loved the warm white twinkle lights ever since they first came out a couple decades ago. I never tired of them.

So, you can imagine then, when we brought home our lovely scented tree last week, I surprised myself. For this year I wanted to do something different. I thought at first to create something more natural. I used to put fresh baby's breath and dried roses on it (that's some years ago now). I also realized I wanted to celebrate by using multi-coloured lights intertwined with some white lights. For a real tree and multi-coloured lights both remind me of those wondrous days as a little girl where excitement was palpable just days before Christmas.

Since I didn't know there would be this change of plan in my tree decorating, by the time I got to the stores at this late date most things were picked over or gone. Shelves were empty. There certainly wasn't time to hand make new things. So it was create as I went with what I found in my boxes.

And so it has ribbons and burgundy poinsettia on its top -- no stars or angels this year. It may interest you to know that these ribbons are now 17 years old -- they were our pew decorations at our wedding all those years ago. Now they are a regular part of our Christmas decorating. Often on the tree, sometimes on the mantel, sometimes on the stair railings.

We love this pretty enamel painted star below. An ornament years old now. It looks huge here but it's not, as it fits in the palm of my hand. Every year I pull it from its tiny square box and admire its delicate work before hanging it up.

And, so we love its liveliness, its warmth of colour, and its use of pretty ornaments and ribbons in a more old-fashioned style ...

...maybe even in a slightly higglety-pigglety way, reminiscent of simpler, happy times. I smile every time I look at it and draw near many times to let my fingers pick up the scent and feel its softly prickled branches.

This little tree offers us her beauty and we in turn offer her our love and thanks. She brings us much joy these dark and cozy days. 

Day 23. Vanilla Rolled Cookies

Making cookies here with my mom the way I remember doing it as a child. Roll-Roll-Roll. Cut-Cut-Cut. Bake till the kitchen smells of vanilla sugary sweetness. Let cool slightly before dabbing on some icing just to get to the good part -- where you decide which sprinkles to shake on. The red or green sugar crystals? The chocolate morsels? Or the teeny coloured balls? All the while attempting to do so without spilling the whole bottle on one small tree or star.

Of course, then comes the best part -- popping that first slightly-warm cookie in your mouth. Just a bit of crunch on the outside with the hintiest of hints of soft in the centre (that is, if they were rolled a wee bit thicker). Savouring each bite. And remembering how that little girl felt back then doing the very same thing. Sharing the moment with her mom again after all these years.

It's a simple recipe. So flavourful with real vanilla and almond essence added to the dough. Heavenly.

Here's the recipe for Vanilla Rolled Cookies.
It's from a Wilton recipe that came with some cookie cutters I bought once.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (only used about 1/8 tsp)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy.

Beat in egg and extracts.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mix 1 cup at a time, mixing well.

Do not chill dough.  Divide dough into 2 balls.

On floured surface - roll each ball approximately 12" wide and1/8" thick.
Dip cutter in flour. Cut dough into shapes.
Bake cookies on ungreased pan 8 - 11 minutes or until lightly brown.
Cool slightly before removing from pans.

Best to ice them while still a little warm. Decorate as you wish. Recipe can be doubled.
Approximately 2 dozen (depends on size of cookie cutters).


Day 24. Christmas Eve - Stars in my eyes

It was snowing most of yesterday. Softly. Quietly. Resolutely. Turning our corner of the world into a winter wonderland. Making it feel Christmas-y inside and out.

Ever since I was a child, right alongside my birthday, Christmas Eve has been my most favourite day of the year. For me, there is so much wonder and awe wrapped up in the Christ Child's birth. All the other things I love about Christmas and this time of year wouldn't be as meaningful without knowing that Jesus is real and His love is real too.

I have shared more meditative thoughts in other posts over the years. If you are interested, you will find some of them under the label Christmas Past and in my Advent PDF Restoring the Joy of Christmas (towards the end of the book).


Before I sign off for a few days now (I'll be back after Christmas sometime), I do want to send you my very best heart wishes for a beautiful Christmas holiday.

With a gentle kiss atop thy head!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Twenty One. Surprises In Our Mailbox

Source: from Pinterest

I love surprises -- nice surprises, that is to say. Especially when they show up in the mailbox unexpectedly. Or even when you are expecting something and you look every day just in case it's arrived already. December had a few of those nice surprise days and I'm pleased to share a glimpse of them with you today.

1. Card Exchange with Tracy

Early in the season, I signed up to participate in Amy @ Love Made My Home 2015 Christmas Card Swap. Everyone who joined was paired with another blogger who could be located anywhere in the world. How exciting -- what a great way to meet new bloggers from all over the place. And it's a wonderful way to keep the old-fashioned Christmas card exchange alive (I think it's a lovely tradition --  even though I also enjoy sending e-cards there is something special about getting a card in the mailbox that you can open and display on your desk or mantelpiece).

What a treat then to receive my beautiful card from Tracy @ Mad About Bags who lives across the pond in the United Kingdom. It came by "Royal Mail' you will note.

Tucked inside the card I found a little treat of three miniature Victorian-style Christmas cards. I love Victoriana and so this was a lovely surprise indeed. Thank you, Tracy! And to Amy for hosting this fun exchange.

2. Mail from Canadian Blogging Friends

Earlier this year I was invited to be a part of a card and tea exchange with some fellow Canadian blogging friends. This is a year long exchange of cards, tea, and sometimes other little treats that can fit in a small envelope, and are to be sent out for birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Canada Day, and Thanksgiving.

You can well imagine the anticipation as December arrived to find swells of  festive treasures in the mailbox. It truly feels like Christmas. It's been delightful and fun to share -- and expect -- little treats from these lovely bloggers spread throughout the year.

 3. Christmas Comes Early

The thrill of hope ... the happy heart rejoices
When yonder bell rings ... UPS is standing
Hold out your hands ... a cheery package awaits thee

Do you buy yourself Christmas presents? I must admit I do. Above are two that came in the mail a couple of weeks ago. And, on a whim the first Sunday in December, I quickly wrapped the calendar in tissue for myself, as I had a little something for Hubby (we hadn't planned ahead you see). A spur of the moment little Advent exchange that I'm hoping will fast become an annual tradition. The very act of opening a packaged wrapped in festive paper was still thrilling ... it hardly mattered if we already knew what was inside. This week it was my hubby who surprised me with a little package that arrived with coffee and toast in bed.

That dear Susan Branch surely knows how to spread Christmas Joy with all her whimsical and delightful artwork. I am so looking forward to displaying the 2016 calendar in the new year. And the little Christmas Joy book, which I found for a song as a second hand book online, well, that is a joy too! Especially as I'm going to be sharing it with a loved one this Christmas.

It's here ... the count down to Christmas begins in earnest now.  Five more sleeps. I still have some things to prepare, but it's all fun from here on in. How about you? My mom is here -- we've been eating Christmas oranges and whipped shortbread, and she's been wrapping presents for me this morning. When we get the little stack done, I'll be sure to take pictures.

Wishing you a beautiful day and a wonderful week ahead. Will share tree pics tomorrow.


Today I'm linking with Judy @ Mosaic Monday


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Twenty. Simply Sunday

Source:  Artist Unknown

I was a little girl when I first heard the moving carol O Holy Night. I wouldn't doubt from that first note I loved the music -- I remember feeling something sweet swell up on the inside in response to those voices soaring over such wondrous notes. I would never forget it.

Recently I'd asked my brother, David, if he'd share a meditation guest post here on my blog. He didn't have the time to work on something but he did offer to share a link to a moving Advent meditation he wrote for another publication; the piece is called Echos of Immanuel. When I went to read the online article, there was an accompanying illustration of the Mother and Child done by Megan Peters that is quite beautiful -- it included a phrase from this carol that I can't get out of my head or my heart now.

  "A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices..."

Some days we almost fall beneath the weight of the world's woes, the sorrows of people near and far, our own personal burdens. Yet there comes this timely reminder for me that God is with us in the midst of these hard places. We don't have to carry these burdens ourselves. When we ask, God, where are you in all this? there comes the thrill of hope as He sweetly reminds us that one of the names given him, according to ancient texts, is Immanuel "God with us". Oh yes, I don't have to do this alone anymore.

On this last Sunday of Advent, I offer my brother's thoughtful article along with that lovely illustration as my little present to you. Click here to find it. I hope if you are one who follows Him, you will know your own thrill of hope. To be able to shuck off the weariness and let Joy be your strength.

For we have a Party to celebrate in just a few more sleeps. In the legend, Santa Claus comes once a year and goes back to the North Pole, but Immanuel came to stay. God with Us. I feel a thrill of hope.


And, if you have time, here's a lovely short video with Josh Groban singing O Holy Night. If you like this carol, you'll probably love this rendition of it.

Here's wishing you a beautiful Sunday...
With love,

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Nineteenth Day. O Christmas Tree

As seen on Pinterest, Avanti Christmas Cards, 'City Christmas'

We went out into the snowy, blowy afternoon to get our Christmas tree. A real tree. The first real tree we've had in years. When Rick and I got married 17 years ago, we bought a pretty tree that we could pack into a box at the end of each season. Mostly because I liked putting up the tree early in the season -- December 1st if possible. A real one would never have lasted that long without shedding every last needle before Christmas Eve.

That's not to say we didn't miss having a real tree, for my childhood is filled with magical memories of the Christmas tree. How it looked and smelled, and how its presence made us all feel so happy.

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred,
 and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit,
 become a child again at Christmas-time.
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

On this frosty, wind-whipping day, we were glad not to be tromping through forests or stomping our feet around a local Christmas tree farm. Our first stop was one of our favourite greenhouses, but they were already sold out. We then stopped at our local grocer's, and though their stock was dwindling, we found a lovely shaped fir that we wrestled into the back of the vehicle -- not sporting quite the same magical ambiance as observed in that too-romantic Christmas card above.
Yet, it only took a few seconds for the earthy, evergreen fragrance to completely fill the car. And on the inside of me, I could feel the giggle of happiness starting to stir. Just like when I was a girl.
“...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
Soon the tree was scenting the whole house and we delighted in this gift of nature all evening. Making sure it had lots of water to drink as it acclimatized to our house. I'm grateful for its gift to us this Christmas -- something that will delight my mom and all my family when they come next week.
That was yesterday. Today we adorn it. Already I know in my heart that I don't want to deck this natural beauty in the usual way; perhaps something simpler. Lights, of course. And, for sure the vintage ornaments. Nothing too bling-bling. Something softer. We shall see ... will take photos and show the results.
A question for you:  Do you have tree-trimming parties? I know it sounds like fun, but I just can't imagine having all kinds of people with all their own ideas gathered in one place to decorate my tree. I prefer decorating the tree on my own. Being happy with my own thoughts and musings as I pull out boxes and open lids, deciding which ornaments to use and where to hang them.
Now, if I had kids or grandkids around me, then that would make it an entirely different story. Family around the tree is absolutely necessary. Some of my best memories of Christmas is trimming the tree with my parents and siblings. When I asked the question, I was thinking of when people invite hosts of friends in for tree trimming parties.  Just asking for fun.  

I hope it's a beautiful day for you, one filled with glimpses of heaven in all sorts of unexpected places. It's just a few more sleeps now.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Eighteen. Two Favourite Christmas Novels and A Hopeful

 Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon

There are some books of which I never tire, and Shepherds Abiding is one such story. In just the same way that those of us who eagerly pull from the storage our treasured tree ornaments and decorations every December, so too I pull from my book shelves this book, along with a few other favourites.

Shepherds Abiding was published in 2003 -- the same year my dear dad passed away just days before Christmas. My husband knew how much I loved Jan Karon's writing, and so it was no surprise when I found this beautifully written novel under the tree that Christmas. Little did he or anyone know how much this gentle, hopeful story would bring comfort to a grieving daughter's heart. It grounded me during a time when everything as we knew it felt torn from our lives.

To this day, I love reading this book some time during the Advent season. Making preparations both in my home and my heart for this wonderful time of year, I let the slow build up of the story create my own sense of quiet, but eager anticipation.

You see, I can totally relate to Father Tim's own grappling with the overwhelming sense of urgency to rush through and get his gift for Cynthia finished quickly versus the desire to live in the moment and savour the whole experience. For if you don't know the story, he's undertaken to repaint and refurbish a derelict, antique nativity set and the rush is on to get it completed in time for Christmas Eve. I did share something of this in a post last December -- you can find the post here.
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, 2000

I've probably read this wonderful novel a half dozen times or more -- always around this time of year when Christmas and winter solstice draws near. If you've never read it, I highly recommend it -- it's one of my top forever favourite books. Here is the short review I wrote for our local newspaper last year:
Winter Solstice promises cozy reading for these dark winter evenings. This delightful story gently draws us into the lives of its characters. First Elfrida, retired actress from London, moves with her "Heinz 57" canine companion to a southern English village. She happily adjusts to her new life, but while on holiday, tragedy strikes in the village. Its ripple effect eventually brings her – and others – to a house deep in the hills of snowy Scotland.

The author takes the story threads and weaves them like tweed in a Scottish woolen mill. Thread by thread, chapter by chapter, we meet Oscar, Lucy, Carrie and Sam. We watch them grapple with their individual disappointments and heartaches. We cheer when hope glimmers and they begin to see that “beyond the pain, life continues to be sweet.”

This heart-warming novel culminates Rosamunde Pilcher’s successful writing career. She is now in her 90's and lives in Dundee, Scotland.

Christmas at Claridge's by Karen Swan, 2013

I've told you about two favourites; now here's the hopeful novel which I had plans to read over the holiday season. I placed a hold for this library book a few weeks ago based solely on the title.

You see, Hubby and I are planning a trip to England next year -- some things are booked already -- and after watching an interesting program on TV about the beautiful London hotel, Claridge's, we both thought it would be a grand experience to have Tea there one afternoon.

What could be better than Tea at Claridge's? Perhaps a book called Christmas at Claridge's? So when I picked up the book this afternoon, I was happy to note the front cover had a festive feeling with its dusky, wintry picture. Would that indicate a lovely, gentler kind of story, that would maybe be similar in some ways to Winter Solstice? Not having read anything by author Karen Swan, I really didn't know what to expect. Which is why I went in search of some information about the story and what some of the reviews might indicate.

That was interesting -- the reviews were all over the place. Some people loved the book and gave it five stars; others said it was awful, gave it one star, and threw it in the trash without finishing it. Suddenly I wasn't feeling quite so 'hopeful'. From the comments given by several, maybe it wasn't going to be that nice, cozy Christmas read by the fireplace. Some say it's not set at Claridge's except for some small part. And it's not really about Christmas either. And the main character, Clem, isn't anyone they could relate to. Oooooo...

Then I found a review that seemed to settle it for me that I would at least give it a good chance before deciding one way or the other. This reviewer had her reservations when she first started reading, but in the end she was glad she finished it as she found the book a gem. You can find her review here.

Will I like the book? I don't know. Here are the opening lines: "She awoke with a start. Her dream had been greedy, sucking her into a deep, motionless sleep, and her heart pounded heavily within her chest at the sudden fright. Above her head, the thin blue paisley curtain fluttered wildly like a trapped bird at the open window, the room falling into sporadic darkness as battle-fresh storm clouds surged across the sky... ."

With such an introduction, it puts me in mind of Daphne du Maurier's novel, Rebecca. A fine, wonderful read, but I'd never think to read it for Christmas, would you? Which means I might save Claridge's for after Christmas -- some good hunkering down January reading. Any of you read it?

Enough about books, can you believe it's December 18th already? Even though it's flying faster than Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve, we're excited to be this close!

In a couple days Mom will be here for Christmas. Woohoo! And, today Rick and I are going out to get a real tree -- it's been decades since we put up a real tree. I'm looking forward to the scent of evergreen in the house, not to mention the trail of needles across the newly shampoo'd carpets (hehe). I don't mind, honest. After the holidays, we'll set it outside in the backyard for the birds to use as shelter on January's cold days. But first, we have to decorate and then turn off the big lights so we can sit in the cozy glow of the tree lights. And think cozy, happy thoughts.

Sending you cinnamon-scented joy and cranberry red wishes for a beautiful day!



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Seventeen. Assorted Favourites

Trisha Romance, Artist

People are so creative especially this time of year. My goodness, the wonder and beauty that is going around out there in cyberspace for all to see and enjoy. It's a treasure trove! So many lovely photos and paintings are being turned into GIFs this year with that lovely snow falling. Isn't it just so cozy -- it certainly adds that Christmas feeling, don't you think?

 Source: Simply Feminine Facebook

And while some folks are creating lovely snowy GIFs, there are some among us who are sharing their artistic endeavours from the kitchen. Looking at this toothsome concoction above, it would make Julia Child smile -- for it would certainly turn any casual meeting into a Party!

This cakes should be saved for Something Really Special ... to celebrate Someone Really Special. Turn down the big lights and carry this lovely cake into your celebrations on Christmas Eve. Watch eyes light up.

Source: Heavenly Handbags on Facebook

And, this one ... well, it's just plain fun, wouldn't you agree? Who would have thought that rolled sheet music would create such a lovely bodice. And those boughs such a sassy skirt. Love it!


Well, dear beautiful friends, these are a few of my favourite beauties this week -- I hope they delight you today as they have me. On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful day, liberally sprinkled with joy, and with a welcoming light when you get home today. Don't forget to laugh. Smile. Hug. Hold hands.

Hugs and blisses,

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sixteen. Treats in Grandma's Apron

 Grandma, Grandpa, Little Sis, and Me (the one with the really short bangs)

A house needs a grandma in it.
~ Louisa May Alcott

Going to Grandma J.'s house was a treat anytime of year, but during the Christmas season it was extra special with that trembling kind of delightful anticipation. Because somewhere during our visit she would lay down her crocheting, get up from her chair and quietly disappear into her tiny bedroom down the hall. Closing the door behind her with gentle, but firm instructions not to peek or follow her in. We were sure to obey. But we'd grin to ourselves ... we knew something was afoot.

And, sure enough, moments later the door would open and out she'd come with her big apron held at the corners filled with Christmas treats. Sweet smelling mandarin oranges wrapped in green tissue, fragrant B.C. Red Delicious apples, not to mention yummy chocolates with their surprise centers, and the hard ribbon candy in brightly assorted colours and flavours. I was always on the lookout for the ones that tasted like cloves -- a favourite to this day.

We'd eat our Christmas orange -- that's what we called them -- carefully removing the soft peel. I wonder if it was Grandma who showed us how to peel it in such a way as to create a long trunk and two elephant ears all in one piece. And we'd watch mesmerized as she'd take a paring knife and peel the apple round and round in one long, curly piece. Cutting the apple into slices and sharing them with us.
Thinking about that now, I realize it wasn't just about eating chocolates or oranges or apples, but the whole experience was the treat. There was the feeling of sharing something of mutual enjoyment. A quiet contentment as we savoured and relished the sweet treats together. No gulping and no rushing. Just being in the moment. No wonder those memories stuck. They fed more than tiny tummies. They left hearts feeling loved, included, cherished.

"Sometimes you will never know
the value of a moment until it becomes a memory."
~ Dr. Suess

It's quite a Christmas gift when you think of it that way. Today, I say a little prayer of thanks for this wonderful gift of a grandmother's love and her presence in my life when I was a little girl. And, dear Lord, I'm especially grateful for all those sweet and scrumptious Christmas treats.

The anticipation is building...
Sending you hugs and kisses,