Friday, December 30, 2016

Five on Friday: Calendars For A New Year

Eli Dafaria /

Here we are at that time of year again when Hubby and I make a date to go calendar shopping. We usually go after Christmas and just before New Year's; that way determined Christmas shoppers have already come and gone, and the folks who are now out and about are much more relaxed and unhurried -- which creates an ideal ambiance for browsing.

We do realize that by now selections are much depleted, but we're perfectly fine with that -- the choosing becomes simpler, not having to sort through dozens of designs, as we try to decide what we want on our walls or desks for the coming new year. Shall it be something pretty like flowers, cute like kittens, maybe peaceful like clouds, or flamboyant like Spanish dancers? Do we want art by Monet or Cezanne? Photography of France, Singapore, or England? Do we want sayings and quotes to inspire or photos with no words? What about something to make us laugh ... like those silly cartoon characters making funny comments or pictures of dogs reading their own poetry?

Mulling between this one or that one, we eventually select something that's caught our eye or emotional state of mind, and we gleefully breeze out with our bag of treasures and pleasures.

* * * * *

As you can see, I am one of those people who still likes a physical calendar. It's a reasonable way to display artsy works, and every month I get to turn the page and enjoy something fresh and new. My iPhone and desktop computer calendars compare not in providing that sensory experience of snooping out that perfect bit of art in the form of a calendar that will serve me for a whole year.

And, now for a little parade of our 2017 calendar purchases. Oh yes, not just one calendar, we have calendars in various rooms in the house. Little ones to pin by the bathroom sink, large ones for the kitchen wall, something for our bedroom, and a couple for our two office-studies. Sometimes we even have something fun to post out in the garage or basement (usually the freebies).

*** ONE ***
"Present Moment"
Published in partnership with Sounds True

Thought this calendar, filled with inspirational photography of flowers, branches, even someone holding a bird nest, would work in my office/study ... as a reminder to live my days in the present moment ... not holding onto the past, not fretting about the future, but being mindful of where I am in this moment. And being grateful for it.

*** TWO ***
Ireland by National Geographic

We enjoy calendars displaying wonderful places we'd like to visit in the world. This year we picked an Ireland calendar. Perhaps I was drawn to it because I'm currently reading the latest novel by Canadian-Irish author, Patrick Taylor, The Irish Country Love Story. I love his stories; they are peppered with colourful characters set in the equally colourful Irish village of Ballybucklebo.
"It’s the winter of 1967 and snow is on the ground ... but the chilly weather can’t stop love from warming hearts all over the county. Not just the love between a man and woman, as with young doctor, Barry Laverty, and his fiancee Sue Nolan, who are making plans to start a new life together, but also the love of an ailing pensioner for a faithful dog that's gone missing, the love of the local gentry for the great estate they are on verge of losing, or Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly’s deep and abiding love for his long-time home and practice. ...

An Irish Country Love Story is a new and heartwarming installment in Patrick Taylor's beloved bestselling Irish Country series." ~ Description excerpt from

*** THREE ***
 Canada by Wyman Publishing

As much as we like seeing what the rest of the world looks like, we also know there is no place like home, and home for us is Canada. You can't tell from the photo, but this is the mini-calendar that will be pinned by our bathroom sink -- providing a glimpse of something local and lovely to look at while brushing one's teeth.

*** FOUR ***
The Group of Seven 2017 by Firefly Books

I don't know a lot about the Canadian artists known as the Group of Seven. So when I saw this calendar, I decided it was time to learn more. Having it on our kitchen wall should help me recognize them when I see the originals displayed somewhere ... as well as remind me to go find out something of who these men were as artists and what motivated them. In case you are not familiar with their works either, here's a bit of info:
In the early 20th century, a group of men began to formulate as they discovered they shared a common artistic interest. Together, these men would embark on weekend sketching trips or socialize at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto. They were in search for a distinct painting style that would not only reflect the unique character of the Canadian landscape, but would break from European tradition.
These were Tom Thomson, J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren Harris, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston and Franklin Carmichael.

Although Tom Thomson died in 1917, he had a significant influence on the group and his painting style was representative of the Canadian landscape and experience. In May 1920, Harris, MacDonald, Lismer, Varley, Johnston, Carmichael and Jackson decided, for the first time, to exhibit as the Group of Seven at the Art Gallery of Toronto. This marks the founding of the Group and a historic point in Canada's art history, for which Harris is largely credited. Johnston resigned from the group shortly after. Info from Northern Ontario travel website.

*** FIVE ***
 Great Gardens by National Trust, UK

“The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don't want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don't have a soul.” ~ Thomas More

This attractive calendar comes straight from England. We bought several while we were there -- I don't know how many we mailed home to share with loved ones.

Did I ever tell you that I love gardens? Although I confess I'm not as keen on the actual act of gardening, I do love the beauty of a well stocked and plotted out, and don't forget an abundantly fragrant, bit of earthly paradise.

So when we spent twelve days in Kent, renowned as the Garden of England, during our visit to Great Britain, I knew I was experiencing a long time dream come true. Walking on pathways that swept past vibrant perennial borders, through allΓ©es bordered by majestic trees and shrubberies, and winding their way under rose-laden trellises ... I remember thinking, "Drink this in, Girl, you're really here; you're really standing here in an English country garden. Let it soak into your soul so you never forget."

*** BONUS ***
Cornish Riviera by Salmon Calendars

Oh my goodness, Elizabethd, it had totally slipped my mind until this moment when I read your lovely comment below that I, too, was the recipient of a beautiful Cornish calendar ... the one you gave me when we met in Cornwall this past summer. It was tucked away for safe keeping until the New Year arrived.

I'm so excited ... it's like Christmas all over. I had to come in and adjust my post to give this calendar its rightful place in my 2017 calendar parade.

* * * * *

And, so these lovely beauties wait, like me, for the New Year. With such pleasant items to surround me all year long, how can I not go into 2017 envisioning a brighter, better world? Calendars are not just a time piece for me, I use even them, like gifts to cheer my soul when certain life events hand out the ugly.

On that note, I'm wishing you a hopeful and happy New Year ~
May your days be magical gatherers of those glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.

With love,

PS: With the New Year around the corner, I'm looking forward to sharing some of my great store of photos from our marvelous trip to England and Scotland. So many lovely things yet to show you -- I invite you to stay tuned. xox

Thursday, December 22, 2016

THREE More Sleeps!


So, Christmas Lovers, are you ready? It really is hard to believe there are only three more sleeps, but ready or not, here we are. When a person gets closer to the big day, especially if one is hosting the festivities and family gatherings, it is suddenly very easy to cross things off the list that were really only hopefuls anyway. At this late stage, only essentials need apply. 

But we're not hosting this year, so for me, it's been a gentle rhythm of getting into the Christmas spirit. A little baking, a little cleaning, some decorating when the whim inspires, a little shopping, a concert or two. Enjoying the rustle of tissue paper, not to mention the sampling of chocolates and baking. All with cheerful cups of tea and Christmas music in the air ... and, since there's no pressure, there's also time for being quiet with one's thoughts and for being in wonder all over again as we prepare for this beautiful and sacred time of year.


Over the last couple of weeks my desk has become quite the happy mess of Christmas miscellany: pretty greetings cards and postage stamps, stashes of coloured ribbons, tissue paper, scissors, and pens. With the added string of cheery lights, it has become a favourite cozy nook as evening shadows lengthen.

We've been writing out cards, making lists, dreaming up something nice for you to read here. Even composing a note with some hard-to-say things to someone dear. Yet I feel comforted as I sit here at my antique table in the warm glow.


Beribboned packages are beginning to show up in various corners of the house. Oh, what fun! I love presents and I love surprises of a good kind. I used to be the kid under the tree rattling all the boxes to see if they shook. We have presents under the tree, but they seem to be gathering elsewhere as well.

Surprise Santa parcels are arriving in the mailbox which we then add to the growing pile. There's more parcels inside that gorgeous box with the gold dots. I thought the elegant ceramic birds perched on top--both a gift from a dear friend earlier this month--lend a certain je ne sais quoi to this little vignette.


Now, who can talk about Christmas baking without providing some eye candy and maybe a recipe to go with it. This Chocolate Marshmallow Roll was a favourite at Christmas when we were kids growing up. It was especially yummy, stolen and eaten straight from the freezer. With a texture that's soft and crunchy, sweet and chocolate-y -- what is there not to love?

The other evening I happened to say to Rick, "I think I'm getting addicted to those marshmallow pieces.

"No getting addicted, you already are," said he, with a grin.

Haha ... indeed, she is already obsessed. Quite.

I promised Facebook friends I'd share the recipe. So here it is. Quite simple. A tad messy, which just means you'll have to lick your fingers, not just the bowl, when it's all done.


1/2 cup butter
1 450g (16oz) package milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 450g (16oz) package coloured miniature marshmallows
1 cup broken walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup or so flaked coconut

Melt butter and chocolate chips in heavy saucepan on low heat;
stir until smooth and creamy.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
Fold in marshmallows and walnuts; mix till everything is coated.

Sprinkle a generous sheet of wax paper with the coconut.
Spoon out marshmallow mix onto coconut.
Form into two logs using the wax paper to shape.
Finish rolling the logs in coconut.
Refrigerate at least one hour
before indulging slicing into 3/4 inch slices.



As a way to close out this old year, as this may well be my last post for 2016, I decided to post one of our holiday photos taken this past summer. Rick and I are standing at the entry of the Glasgow Botanic Garden on a cloudy afternoon. 'Twas a wee bit rainy, which meant I finally had a chance to wear my new red raincoat; the weather had been so lovely we hardly needed it.

Looking ahead to the new year, I still have photos I want to share of our holiday to England ... I never did show you pictures of our visit to Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey was filmed. We had a wonderful tour of the house and gardens, and it really did feel special walking down that grand staircase in the main hall, even though we were wearing our heavy duty walking shoes... no sign of dance slippers or elegant Lady Mary shoes that day.

And so, dear beautiful friends, before I go I want to wish each of you a very special Christmas. May you catch glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. May you experience tidings of comfort and joy. And for those with light, merry hearts, may there be much laughter and celebration.

God bless us everyone!

Linking with Five on Friday

Monday, December 12, 2016

In The Kitchen: Mincemeat Cookies

A couple of years ago I made mincemeat cookies for the first time and now they are one of my husband's favourite cookies. Soft and moist inside, they are very flavourful, not too sweet. And, they pair very nicely with steaming cups of tea.

It's a quick and easy recipe to put together ... unless, of course, you're making the mincemeat from scratch, which I might do one year, but not this one.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups mincemeat*
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat butter and sugar together; add the egg and blend together.
 Whisk flour, soda, and salt together; slowly add to butter mixture.
Add mincemeat and vanilla; mix until ingredients are combined. 

By teaspoonful, drop on baking sheet either greased or lined with parchment.
Note: these cookies do not spread. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 12-14 minutes.

They will be soft when they come out of the oven;
if you're not sure, poke to see if the middle is done. 

When cool, sprinkle with icing sugar if you like
My husband prefers his plain.


*Use your favourite brand of mincemeat. Or,
if you want to make your own, Mary Berry's mincemeat recipe is one to check out.

Happy Baking,

Friday, December 09, 2016

December. The Simple Woman's Daybook

Nathan Lemon /

I started out 2016 with the intention of writing a monthly post with The Simple Woman's Daybook community. Although I was faithful most of the year, I missed June, July, August ... having spent June getting ready for our upcoming trip to England and Scotland, then spending all of July traveling throughout the beautiful United Kingdom 'breathing English air', and when we arrived home in August that month was spent catching up on unfinished garden and yard projects.

The Woman's Daybook is a simple and pleasant format around which to formulate ideas and thoughts for writing a new post every four weeks or so. By following a list with basically the same prompts each month, it becomes a delightful way to record a few snippets of daily life, thus creating something like a long newsy letter for my beautiful readers and a diary of sorts for myself.

I know I lament too much at how quickly time flies, but it really is hard to come to terms with the fact that here we are hurtling through the last month of the year as if someone is about to guzzle the last of the eggnog. But since it's here--and yes I love December--it means this is my last Daybook post for the year. That sounds kind of sad, doesn't it?

Then I'm reminded a brand new year is about to unfold, and as this Daybook format fits my writing style and voice ... and since I've received such lovely feedback from so many of you telling me these posts connect with you, I'm delighted to carry on in 2017. Why change something that works for me ... and apparently ... for you too.

So, here it is, dear friends, this year's last shining star: the December edition of The Simple Woman's Daybook.

For Today...

Outside my window...  For the last few days it's been charmingly crisp and c-o-l-d. No more dreaming for a white Christmas -- we have it in full orchestra. People were caught scrambling for their heavy parkas and gloves the other day, and with the temperatures now groveling well below zero, let's just say we won't imagine Spring any time soon.

Depending on the time of day I looked out yesterday, the sky was pale as rice paper in the morning, and just before the sun dipped below the horizon shortly after four o'clock in the afternoon, the light like soft creamy butter, was maybe the colour of lemon snickerdoodles.

This morning as I finish up this post, the sun came out in full force. The snow glistens on roof tops. Skies are clear in a frosty shade of blue, and chickadees whistle in the backyard.

I am thinking... there is something a little festive about standing in a line up at the post office this time of year. I've been four times already in the last couple of weeks -- once for stocking up on seasonal postage stamps and thrice for sending off  small parcels or slightly stuffed envelopes.

There are folks like me who arrive with boxes carefully wrapped and fastened securely with tape; others come with ... well, you do wonder if their parcels will indeed arrive at their destination or will their contents spill out somewhere along the way for being so poorly packaged in too thin paper and tape that barely sticks. It makes me want to offer to rewrap the packages for them.

People seem patient as they wait in thick winter coats holding boxes and bundles of envelopes. There's a certain spark in the air. Someone gets into a conversation with the person in front of them, chatting about who they won't be seeing for Christmas this year and hence the gifts in the mail. There's the Grandma and Grandpa standing at the counter with heads together, no doubt deciding which is the most economical way to send off their precious cargo. There are mothers and daughters, sons with dads, not to mention aunties sending off plainly--sometimes gaily--wrapped bundles for loved ones. Sigh ... yes there's something wonderful about this time of year. It makes me hope all those hard working postal workers get their fair share of spiked spiced eggnog and gingerbread cookies when they are finally done their shifts.  

I am thankful... for my simple pleasures, that my family and friends are all in reasonable health this year, that Rick and I are well too. And that we don't need a lot to be happy, but I'm grateful for all the many blessings of good food, a place to call home, utilities and furnaces that keep working during this frigid weather, hot cups of tea after being outside. My cup runneth over and I'm sipping from my saucer. 

I am wearing... A long-sleeved L.L. Bean black t-shirt, black jeans, slippers. The house feels cool so no sleeveless tops for this girl today.

Photo: SuzyM5

I am creating... a mess in my study/office. I ran out of bookshelf space and now there's a pile of recently acquired books on the floor waiting for a spot to call home. THEN I saw this photo on Facebook called the Snowman Book Sculpture. Isn't that a fun and creative way to dress up books for the festive season? It looks pretty simple to make, but if you want the instructions, you can click here.

I am going...
on a little shopping date with Rick this afternoon. C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s  is in the air! And we're going out for lunch too. Woohoo!

I was wondering... what to make for our dinner tonight. We took out chicken breast earlier, but I see dear hubby has already pulled out a recipe for lemon chicken. Gotta love that man ... and I do ... very much! While he's having a wee nap, I'm going to surprise him and get it started.

I am reminded... that somewhere in my travel souvenirs, I have two Christmas tree ornaments I bought while in Scotland.  Of course, they are in tartan ...aren't they sweet? I just love the kitty one. Soon they will be waving from the branches of our Christmas tree; hubby set it up for me and I'll be decorating this weekend.

I am reading... Winter Solstice (for the umpteenth time) by Rosamund Pilcher. It's one of my holiday favourites. It promises cozy reading for these dark and frosty winter evenings.With a satisfying plot and characters that one begins to love like their own kin, the author takes the story threads and weaves them like tweed in a Scottish woolen mill. Thread by thread, chapter by chapter, we meet Elfrieda, 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.” When you've finally read the last page, you realize you've been holding your breath just a little and now you can breathe out, because it all turns out just as it should, just in time for Christmas.

Something else on my Christmas reading pile is Christmas at Thrush Green by Miss Read. I know many of you have read her books in this series, but as yet I have not. I am looking forward to delving into the Christmas episode, hoping it won't be too difficult to sidle in the side door and warm up to new-to-me characters in this seasonal tale.

For my quiet reflective time I've been reading a stirring little book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer God is in the Manger, Reflections on Advent and Christmas. He was a German Lutheran pastor in the 1930's, was arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned for being a Nazi dissident. He was executed near the end of the war as the Nazi regime was collapsing. But he left behind many of his inspiring writings, including the short excerpts from his letters and passages from his Christmas sermons. I'm taking comfort and joy that this man could still find the joy of Christmas even while sitting in a prison cell or concentration camp.

I am hoping... to finish writing out my cards and notes this weekend. As much as I love writing out Christmas greetings by hand, I don't do as many snail mail cards as I used to, for I also love sending out those beautifully designed Jacquie Lawson e-cards.

In my garden... The blue jays, magpies, chickadees, downy woodpecker, not to mention the silent tracks of our neighbourhood bunny who must have visited in the night, all add a certain joy to our snow covered yard. The Jays are quite vocal about requesting their fair share of the peanut handout, and will step up to the backdoor and peer in.

Which is why I love this little picture below that my sister painted of one clever fellow.

A favourite quote for today... "When giving treats to friends or children, give them what they like, emphatically not what is good for them." ~ G.K. Chesterton.

“One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” ~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

"Christmas gift suggestions: to your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” ~ Oren Arnold


One of my favorite things... is singing Christmas carols and songs at this time of year. I'll find myself humming snippets of Deck the Halls, Joy to the World, Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, Jingle Bells ... even that crazy old song 'Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer' if I hear it on the radio.   

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
 ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Pinned: Christmas

From Pinterest board room... We might not have new Downton Abbey episodes to watch this year, but the lovely tree is up at Highclere Castle. Is that not a fine specimen of a Christmas tree, all bedecked and ready for this holiday season?

Rick and I visited Highclere Castle this past summer; what a wonderful day we spent touring the house and gardens. We stood in that very room, looking around with mouths agape. It all felt so familiar -- I remember walking very slowly down that grand staircase, imagining Lady Edith standing there in her beautiful wedding gown on her true wedding day. I couldn't take photos inside the house, but how could one forget those beautiful settings after all the episodes we've watched.

I don't think I'm ready for the complete series just yet, maybe after Christmas; but I might need to watch that sublime Christmas episode where Matthew proposes in the snow and Mary finally says yes.

Aside ... Highclere Castle is hosting a Sing for Peace fundraiser on Dec 11th. After looking at the list of lovely hymns and songs being sung that day, I do wish I could pop over and join them there.

Post Script... If you missed my previous posts in The Simple Woman's Daybook series and want to check them out, you will find the set here.

On that note, dear friends, I'm wishing you a beautiful week
filled with glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.

With a gentle kiss atop thy head,

My series of Advent posts from the past: