Sunday, December 09, 2018

Day 9. Heaven Everywhere

aaron burden |

"It's the grace that we show
to a world that needs hope"

Line from Heaven Everywhere
Songwriters: Ben Glover / Francesca Battistelli

Yesterday afternoon we had the happy pleasure of attending our community choir's Christmas concert. As I sat listening to all the beautiful songs and carols old and new, it really made the feeling of Christmas whoosh in. There was one song in particular, new to me, that the youth choir performed. They sang like angels, and by the time they finished the last note I was in love with a new favourite song for Christmas -- the melody, the lyrics, all of it.

I knew then that I wanted to share this sweet, beautiful song with you today. Click on the link to hear it sung by Francesca Battistelli...

* * *

It's my prayer for us ... for our world today
on this Second Sunday of Advent.

With a gentle kiss atop thy head.


If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you can contact me directly by email

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Day 8. Something for the Mischievous Among Us

“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

Haha ... said no kid ever! And so starts my Saturday morning.

I just found a short post in my Christmas archives that promises to put a smile on your face. If you are feeling sprightly, or if you need some bounce in your step, then take a peek.....

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Wishing you gladness in your heart today.


If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you can contact me directly by email

Friday, December 07, 2018

Day 7. Let's Not Start Christmas Too Early

photo: mariana b |

When Rick and I got married, twenty years ago now, I was a little surprised to discover that we each had different feelings and ideas about Christmas. It never became an issue or anything, but in my desire to know and appreciate the man I married, we eventually chatted about what Christmas meant to each of us and specifically, the topic of today's post, our own ideas about when the Christmas season should begin in our house.  

I have always been an over-the-top Christmas enthusiast. Long before I met Rick, my then housemate and best friend Jean and I loved Christmas. I mean . . . We. Seriously. Loved. The. Season. The first snowflake that sometimes fell as early as September was a very good reason to pull out the Christmas music. It wouldn't be long before we'd be snooping the stores for decorations, pretty gift wrap, and gorgeous new Hallmark boxed greeting cards (for I loved sending out Christmas cards). We'd spend hours dreaming about handmade gifts and how we would decorate, as well as digging out all the recipe books for holiday baking and menu planning. December 1st usually found us in a flurry as we considered that the official start of Christmas. We decorated our house. The tree was put up, to the delight of all the kitties. Tiny white lights were nestled in greenery atop the kitchen cabinets. Wreaths and candles were set out. Not only was our home aglow, but we'd string white lights on the huge maple tree in the backyard, sending out the Christmas cheer to all our neighbours.

So when Rick and I got married, I brought all that tradition and passion with me. It turned everything upside down for him. While I loved all things Christmas and cherished its many traditions, he was nowhere as enthusiastic about all the hoopla. He would hang lights up on his house outside, but he didn't put up a tree. And, by the time I met him, he didn't always travel to visit far away family, but spent Christmas Day with good friends nearby. So his celebrating was simple.

When I'd start hauling out the decorations at the beginning of December and putting on the Christmas music, Rick would tease me that he'd have to call the "Christmas police" because it was way too early for decorations and Christmas music to be playing all day. I thought he was just goofing off, but, then I saw that he was serious, not about the Christmas police, but that he truly didn't appreciate Christmas music and decorating that early.


So, we sat down and talked about it, over cups of tea probably, and he told me why he didn't like starting Christmas so early. As a student going to university, he worked part-time in the sporting goods section of the local Woolco. The tinny canned Christmas tapes began playing right after Halloween. And, listening to it shift after shift after shift for almost three months, it was enough to put him off Jingle Bells for life, with the whole idea of celebrating Christmas not far behind.

Except he liked Christmas. He liked his childhood Christmases. But now, he was tired of Christmas by Christmas Day. The holiday felt tattered, broken, and worn out, much like those music cassettes that had been played over and over. I saw the juxtaposition clearly. For me, I truly loved and appreciated the build up to Christmas. I think people who have happy childhood memories of nice holidays and good feelings often feel excited about hearing the early notes to familiar tunes. But, for Rick, who had had to listen to Christmas tapes repetitiously for weeks on end, it really triggered old, uncomfortable stress responses when I started playing music too soon. Any special feelings he once had had worn thin and empty.

I understood that. Totally.

So I said as we finished our tea, well, let's start Christmas later this year. Definitely not before December but keeping the decorating and music nearer to the actual day. I was happy enough to share this new experience of waiting, because in truth it was an old one for me. When we were kids, Mom didn't decorate our home until just days before Christmas either, and most of our celebrating was kept to those few days right around the 25th and between Christmas and New Year's. It felt like slipping on comfortable, old slippers.

That year, I refrained from shopping (yes, even shopping) and baking until later in the month. I did read my collection of December Victoria magazines and dream about Christmas, but there were no actual activities. I don't remember what I did about cards, if I worked on those early or not, but I saw a note in my archives that we didn't play any Christmas music until December 11th that year. 

Anticipation grew as we waited and it also revealed something else that was interesting. It was like the essence of the holiday had distilled into something more potent. We were not at all jaded by the frenzy, but there was that gradual build up of something now eagerly looked forward to. For both of us. It felt more akin to that feeling I used have as a child.

That year, I read Jan Karon's novel Shepherds Abiding and was delighted to learn that Father Timothy had recognized something similar. In the story, he had just finished listening to the church choir singing the beautiful old carols,  and he thought to himself...

"Call him a stick-in-the-mud, a dinosaur, a fusty throwback, but indeed, jumping into the fray the day after Halloween was akin to hitting, and holding, high C for a couple of months, while a bit of patience saved Christmas for Christmas morning and kept the holy days fresh and new."

Starting Christmas later that year made it fresh for us, and it renewed my acquaintance with an old childhood tradition. Since then, nine years later, we have tried not to start Christmas too early. I do dream about it in my own space ...  I still love, love Christmas and all it means to me. But I have come to appreciate that keeping Christmas for Christmas Day has its place too.

I have to tell you something cute .... maybe three or four years ago, when I wasn't feeling well, I almost thought about not putting up a tree. We weren't having family Christmas at our house, and I would have been quite happy with just the twinkle lights everywhere. So, surprised was I when Rick asked one day, when are we putting up the tree. And I realized that we'd both changed. I was okay about not spreading the Christmas decorating out for weeks, and he was realizing that early Christmas decorating doesn't have to jade the season but can be part of building anticipation.

* * * 

This year, 2018, we've got twinkle lights and greenery up on the mantel piece and lights in my little study, but we're not putting up the fresh tree and other decorations until just a few days before Christmas. And, when I play Christmas music early, I do try to listen when he's not around. He still loves to tease me that he's going to call the Christmas police when he hears a carol playing, but I don't think he minds it quite so much any more. I hope so, I always wanted the two of us to share a mutual appreciation for the warm traditions of Christmas in all their wondrous beauty and glory.

When you do officially begin Christmas at your house?


If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you can contact me directly by email.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Day 6. Take Joy In Your World


"There's just something beautiful about
walking on snow that nobody else has walked on.
It makes you believe you're special."

~ Carol Rifka Brunt

Put on your coat and mittens, and go out into your world today. Maybe take your dog ... or your kitty for a walk. Going out the front door, are you stepping out in the early morning or is it a late afternoon trek? Notice how the shadows shift on piles of snow. If you were going to paint the snow, what shades would you select from your palette? Do you notice how rarely snow is actually white-white? 


What captures your attention as you walk? Is it an abandoned birdhouse swinging in the wind with snow plastered to the roof as well as its sides? Notice how the sunset makes the snow golden, making it feel almost warm like a sheepskin parka.


When you happen upon such a cheerily dressed snowman with his carrot nose and black-pebbled eyes, do you smile? Is the child inside your adult suit jumping with gladness at such a playful sight? Did you ever make snowmen when you were a kid?


Looking up into the sky, don't you just love the play of colours -- the contrasts, the vibrancy of the red against that particular blue sky, mingled with the white hoar frost hugging the branches? Eye candy for the soul.

Even if you can't walk out in the countryside or a nice woodsy park, just taking a walk down a city street at this time of year can be as enjoyable as you catch sight of lit up Christmas trees, candles in the windows, or street lamps glowing against twilight skies.

In seed time learn, in harvest teach,
in winter enjoy.

~ William Blake

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If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you can contact me directly by email.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Day 5. Christmas Past -- An Element of Surprise

Have you ever hauled out your Christmas storage boxes from the attic or basement and opened them to find some treasure you'd forgotten all about? This happened to me a couple of weeks ago when I came across some lovely Christmas items I received from a dear blogging friend last year. Until that moment, I didn't remember I had them and I was happy to renew my acquaintance. It's like Christmas just to open the decorations boxes ... all that ooing and ahhing.

Looking through my blog archives is a little like searching through the tissue in those holiday storage boxes. There are times when I find an old post I've written and, just as with those forgotten ornaments, I'm happy to renew my acquaintance, especially when I discover that the piece is still delightfully readable and I thrill to think I was its author. Include a little ooing and ahhing for good measure.

Today I am sharing such a find with you, and I hope when you click the link below that you will discover a certain gladness in renewing your acquaintance. And, if you have not read it before that you'll be glad there's this chance now. So, without further ado, I present a post from Christmas Past. Please note that the photo above gives a hint as to topic, but I won't say more so there will be... 

* * * 

On that note, I'm wishing you a day of beauty and sweetness.


If you are receiving this post by email, you can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you can contact me directly by email.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Day 4. Christmas Traditions Quiz


“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Soon the bells will start,
And the thing that will make them ring
Is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.”

~ Meredith Willson, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”

Here's something a little fun while we wait for Christmas. Which do you prefer when it comes to Christmas traditions? I've shared my own preferences. I'd love to hear some of yours.

1. Hot Cocoa, mulled apple cider, or eggnog? Hot Cocoa, and don't spare the whipped cream and chocolate shavings either, with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

2. Turkey or Ham? Turkey with our mom's stuffing, and lots of it.

3. Tree decorated weeks ahead or just before Christmas? This year, we are getting a fresh tree, so it will be around December 20th, just like our family did when I was a girl.

4. Decorations on the outside of your house? Lights on the house, a wreath on the door, greenery in large garden pots on the front step.

5. Snowball fights or sledding? Sledding, although it's been years since I've been on a sled or toboggan. Snowball fights as a kid were a menace to eyeglasses.

6. Christmas song you most often find yourself humming this time of year? Deck the Halls or The First Noel.

7. Favourite Christmas songs? It depends what grabs my heart and fancy on a particular year. Sacred: Joy to the World and O Holy Night. Secular: Sleigh Ride and Jingle Bells.

8. Favourite Holiday movies? The Bishop's Wife, Bing Crosby's White Christmas and Going My Way, While You Were Sleeping, Home Alone, Narnia, It's A Wonderful Life.

9. Is it ever too early to start listening to Christmas music? I used to love Christmas music any time, but these last few years, I prefer keeping the Christmas music to December. Hubby for sure likes it later rather than sooner.

10. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when? I love the Christmas Story from Luke 2, King James Version -- it's what I grew up on. I love to read and ponder, like Mary, throughout December.

11. What other stories do you like to read at this time of year? 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Christmas Memory by Truman Capote, Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, Shepherd's Abiding by Jan Karon.

12. Something you like to do while you wait for Christmas? I like putting together jigsaw puzzles during December, trying to wrap it up by Christmas Eve, especially if we're hosting Christmas. I also like to sit at my desk with my cozy lamp on and write out Christmas cards. Music has to be playing.

13. What do you do after presents and dinner? Sit around and visit, snooze, play games, work on puzzles. Alas, we aren't skaters or trompers through the snowy woods; we're much more sedentary on Christmas Day.

14. What is your favorite holiday smell? Fruitcake or cookies baking; the spicy smells of cinnamon and cloves; the turkey cooking on Christmas Day.

15. Ice skating or walking? I prefer walking in the winter wonderland. Ice skates and my feet don't get along.

16. Do you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Christmas Day. My own family tradition when I was a girl was to open our presents on Christmas Eve. We loved that we didn't have to wait until Christmas morning like all the other school kids. But now we always wait until Christmas Day. I used to miss that earlier tradition, but now it's okay.

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. It felt cozy and safe. 

18. Favorite part about winter? Snow days, sun shining through glimmering ice crystals, hoar frost on the trees, 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).

20. Vintage Christmas decorations or modern new ones? It depends. Some years I yearn for something more traditional, the way I remember it from a child. Other times, I'm happy to get new baubles and decor and lights. I loved the coloured lights as a child, then I loved the clear white lights for decades, I'm starting to swing back to coloured lights.

21. On the top of your wish list this year -- books, clothes, jewelry, slippers, bath products, perfume? Books.

22. Traditional red and green or something more exotic like peacock blue or purple? I like the traditional red and greenery at Christmas, but sometimes I do feel the urge to play with the more exotic colours -- they are so striking.

23. Gift bags or gift wrap? I prefer using coloured tissue paper and ribbons. Different colours.

24. Fruitcake or runny butter tarts, shortbread cookies or ginger snaps? Yes please! (wink)

Wishing you the best kind of day.


If you are receiving this post by email, you can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog where you are welcome to leave a comment. Or, you can contact me by email.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Day 3. Christmas Giveaway

“I love the Christmas-tide, and yet,
I notice this, each year I live;
I always like the gifts I get,
But how I love the gifts I give!”
~ Carolyn Wells

Today's post is simply to announce a Giveaway -- 
since you really can't have Christmas without presents.

* * * * * * *

for $25.00

* * * * * * *

To enter the draw,
leave a comment on this post. Share something that's
on your Christmas wish list this year. 

If you are on Facebook,
you are welcome to leave a comment on the Giveaway post over there.

And, if the Comments Box is being unfriendly to you,
you are welcome to email your entry to the draw.

Draw will be held
Monday, December 10th at 9:00 am MST

Fingers crossed and here's wishing you the best!

Although the gift card is for you to spend as you please,
I have provided several book suggestions as possibilities.

The choice, of course, is totally up to you!

by Lisa Dawn Bolton

More than 100 easy recipes and ideas on how to turn
simple foods into beautiful boards.

by Sarah McCoy 

Marilla Cuthbert is a young woman living in rural Prince Edward Island
in the nineteenth century. It's the story that unfolds long before Anne
ever arrives in Marilla's life and home.

by Patti Callahan

"... this tale of unlikely friendship turned true love
between Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis."

by Louise Penny

Louise Penny's latest novel in the Chief Inspector Gamache series.
I just read the book and loved it.

by Sarah Clarkson

Sarah Clarkson has always loved books. As an adult
she has come to see how books have shaped her as a woman and lifelong learner.

* * *

Some Links you might be interested in:

My Advent Calendar from Christmas Past

Sarah Clarkson's lovely Advent post

Info about my Christmas! Magazine
Available for purchase at

* * *

I might have to enter my own contest,
some of these are on my own Christmas wish list.

Here's wishing you a beautiful day.


If you are receiving this post by email, you can click on It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog where you are welcome to leave a comment. Or, you can contact me by email at

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Day 2. As We Wait


When I was child, I couldn't wait to open the presents under the Christmas tree. Sure, I loved all the other things -- baking cookies, singing the carols, decorating the tree, getting a new dress. But let's be honest, what I really waited for were the presents. As anticipation mounted, the waiting became more excruciating. How could I possibly wait 'three more sleeps' when the yearning was so intense I thought my little body would burst from its skin.

This is a season of waiting, not just for children. And, all these years later, it's not the presents that make my heart beat faster with longing. Oh, I still love presents -- giving and receiving them -- but it's the music I yearn for these days. I long to hear the old familiar carols of Christmas that have come down the ages. The music that interprets yearnings of the heart.

We each have our own favourite carols of Christmas. And we listen or sing as we wait. For me, one of many favourites is the centuries old carol O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. If memory serves me right, I was in Grade 5 when I first heard this piece. My piano teacher suggested I learn to play the simple melody for Christmas that year. I eventually heard it sung and especially love when it is sung in Latin. My heart soars on the notes, and through it "the voice of the Spirit himself sings our hearts back to wholeness." (this line from a fellow blogger's post, Sarah Clarkson)

This carol was originally written in Latin text in the 12th century. Apparently both the author of the words and the composer of the music are unknown, although it is believed the melody is of French origin. Wherever it originated, and whoever was inspired to pen this melody and lyrics, I'm grateful for that person or persons and that it survived the centuries so we can enjoy its beauty in the 21st century.

Oh come, oh come, Oh rising sun
Cheer us by your coming
Drive away the clouds of night
And the dreadful shadows of night

Rejoice! Rejoice!

I first came across this particular rendition a few years ago -- it still touches me. I offer it to you today and hope you will enjoy it. 

Wishing you a beautiful day!


If you are receiving this post by email, you can click on It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog where you are welcome to leave a comment. Or, you can contact me by email at

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Day 1. Let The Countdown Begin


"People have long thought me crazy because
of my love affair with snow. ...
And Christmas? Well, Christmas just isn't
the same without snow. I love the way a heavy snowfall
wraps the view outside my window like a sparkling gift."

~ Debra Mayhew, The 129-Year Snow
Christmas Miracles, Chicken Soup for the Soul Special Edition

December is one of my favourite, favourite months of the year. I like the short days and having sunset at four in the afternoon. I like cold, snowy days. And, I love that my favourite time of year -- Christmas -- is right in the middle of it. I like that so many people get all excited about Christmas celebrating with family and friends. It used to be just a day or two we observed, but now it's become a month long festivity. And why not? It's good to have nice things to look forward to -- we don't have to try to stuff all its goodness into one day.

So, in these days leading up to Christmas, I'll be sharing a few of my favourite posts from Christmases Past. And because we can't have Christmas without presents, we're having a Giveaway  Draw which I'll be sharing this coming Monday (Dec 3rd). To enter the draw, you'll need to leave a comment on the Monday post.

So, let the count down begin ... here is a list of my Christmas favourites.

Wishing you a happy day,


If you are receiving this post by email, you can click on It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog where you are welcome to leave a comment. Or, you can contact me by email at

Friday, November 30, 2018

30 Days of Gratitude Wraps Up, Part 2


Fear not November's challenge bold– 
We've books and friends,
And hearths that never can grow cold;
These make amends!

–Alexander L. Fraser (1870 - 1954), "November" c. 1918

How can it be the last day of November already? They say time flies when you're having fun. Yes, we did have fun this month, especially participating in a 30 Days of Gratitude challenge on my Facebook page. It turned out that taking time every morning to consider the day's prompt was a most enriching exercise. Sometimes I paid attention to the 'stream of consciousness' first response that bubbled up and wrote that down. Sometimes I had to really think about it to be sure it resonated in my heart and wasn't just a pat answer. I always hoped to share something that my FB friends would find interesting, thoughtful-provoking, and alive to the moment ... something fun too.

Today I'm delighted to share the last half of the month's prompts and responses here on my blog. Perhaps with a new month about to begin, this is something you might want to take up yourself. As many of us prepare for our favourite season of the year, there really is so much to be thankful for. If you are interested, you can find the 30 Days of Gratitude chart here. And, if you missed my earlier post with the first half of the month's prompts, you'll find it here. 


The subject of gratitude is a topic that is often talked about these days. People recognize how having a thankful, grateful attitude impacts the well-being of our souls. I recognize that for myself. Rabbi Harold Kushner once said, “If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”

How many times I have needed and relied on the words from others to resuscitate hope, inspiration, and gratitude. We need not be ashamed to admit this short falling; it's the common human experience of living in this upside down world. We can't always pull ourselves up by our own boot straps -- sometimes we need a little help from our friends. Albert Schweitzer was to have said, “At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” How true.

Focusing on this challenge over the past 30 days has causes my heart to overflow with gratefulness for all the good gifts in my life. I feel rekindled. Inspired. And hopeful. Cheered and happy too. Today, if there is a word or phrase or quote in this post that lifts up one person, then I will have passed along something priceless. I will have done my work today.

"They might not need me; but they might.
I'll let my head be just in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity."

― Emily Dickenson

Emily's verse really speaks to me. Too often I have had to shake off the lie that what I have to share, to offer, won't be desired or needed by anyone. But, I catch myself as Emily caught herself -- maybe she shook her head as I do -- as we recognize our small smile might be 'precisely their necessity'. 


As I mentioned there are a lot of people who have had something to say about gratitude and how it makes our lives richer. Here are a few 'kindling' sparks that speak so beautifully to the topic of living our lives more gratefully.

“The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.”
 – Mary Davis

Oh yes, when I kept a gratitude journal many years ago, it changed everything for me. Because as I wrote down the one thing I was grateful for, I became so much more aware of my world around me and how beautiful it really was/is -- suddenly I'd be noticing five more things to add to the growing list of gifts in my life.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not,
but rejoices for those which he has.”
– Epictetus

In our world, it can be easy to look around and see what everyone else has and think we're missing out. And yes, we might be, it's true. But at the same time, while we're looking out there, we're prone to miss seeing what we do have already going for us. I want to be the wise woman and not grieve for what I don't have, but to keep focusing on and rejoicing about what I do have right now.

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.
The more you express gratitude for what you have,
the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”
 – Zig Ziglar

I know this to be true in my own life. The more I express gratitude for what I have, the more I find to be grateful for. Every tiny gift ... the twitter of a bird on a bleak morning, the way the sun glints on the neighbour's window just so, the dime I find in the parking lot, the smell of bacon frying ... it goes on and on and on.

Image may contain: text that says '30 days of gratitude'
Click for POST with Days 1 to 16

And so, here are the rest of the prompts from my challenge on Facebook. I hope you enjoy.

November 17. What KNOWLEDGE are you grateful for? I'm so glad that I know in my own heart that God loves me. I don't know how I know it, but I do. Sometimes when I'm snuggling down to go to sleep at night, I giggle to myself as I cherish the thought that He is with me all the time. ♥️

November 18. What PIECE OF ART are you grateful for? This is a hard choice. Should I select something from our own lovely art pieces in our home? Shall I think about the famous works of arts in museums and art galleries and pick a favourite? In the end, I decide to share my latest acquisition. A little painting with chickadees in a seasonal setting from one of our local artists. It was at the Christmas Market yesterday. I spotted it first thing, and as you see, it came home with me. I'm pleased. Also grateful for the many folks who create wonderful art treasures for us to enjoy.

November 19. What TOUCH are you grateful for today? Hugs from people I love. Kisses. A loving touch on the arm, shoulder, or cheek. Out-of-the-blue hugs from my sweetheart and walking arm in arm, holding hands. And, I always appreciate a touch of the funny, witty, and silly.

November 20. Who are you GRATEFUL for today? Today I'm grateful for the birds who come every day to the feeders and add so much pleasure to my life. For the neighbour's Orange Kitty who comes to visit for her pets and ear scritches. For my Facebook and blog friends who carry on the gentle work of making our world a kinder, more beautiful place. For my mom and all my dear family who love me regardless. For near and special friends who make good companions on life's journey. For my kind, funny husband who is the best companion ever. Truly... the list is endless but that's a start.

November 21. What SONG are you most grateful for? Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. I remember hearing it the very first time when I was a little girl. As it started playing, the audience rose to their feet. That moment was electric and I was in complete awe. I've never stopped loving that piece of music.

November 22. What STORY are you grateful for? Probably the very first story I heard as a child -- the Bible story of the little boy bringing the loaves and fishes to Jesus. For my mom tells me that I wanted to hear the fishes story over and over. Today, I am grateful for that first story my mother told to me, for it was the beginning of what has turned out to be a lifelong love relationship with books and reading and loving Jesus. I still feel a giddy anticipation to just think of those words I used to say, "Read me a story"

photo: it's a beautiful life

November 23. What TRADITION are you grateful for? With the season coming up, I turn my thoughts to the traditions of Christmas. I love Christmas traditions. I love sending out Christmas cards and wrapping gifts and singing carols. I like Christmas baking. I love taking out the decorations and seeing the special things that only come out once a year. I love the Christmas tree and all the lights.

I love eating a traditional turkey dinner with stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce. I love going to carols sings and Handel's Messiah and listening to the Lessons of the Carols. I love pulling out favourite Christmas stories and rereading them each year. I like Advent calendars to mark off the days until Christmas.

I like the idea of traditions. And, of keeping them. As a child there was something reassuring and comforting about being able to say, We always do it this way. I still find that a comfort even now. Maybe more so when times are troubling and unstable. We turn to our traditions as that stabilizer of what's 'normal' when things aren't normal. Today, I am grateful for the beauty and comfort of Christmas traditions.

November 24. What CHALLENGE are you grateful for? My writing buddy and I joined forces in January of this year to take up the challenge to each work on a writing project that had become stalled and was unfinished. We called the challenge Finishing School (based on the book of the same name by Cary Tennis and Danielle Morton).

Without this challenge to work on the project every week for a certain amount of time, and without the encouraging cheering of my writing companion, Joy, I would not have gotten as far as I have. The projects are not done, but Finishing School is still in session. For this challenge and for Joy's online company, I am most grateful today.

November 25. What MOMENT this week are you grateful for? On Monday this past week, I received an email (our weekly check-in) from my writing buddy, Joy. She told me something that I have been holding sweetly in my heart all week. She wrote: "I dreamed I was holding your finished project in my hands last night. It was thrilling."  It was thrilling for me to hear it!

November 26. What FORM OF EXPRESSION are you most grateful for? Art, Music, Literature, Drama, Photography are all forms that often speak to me. But Words are my favourite, favourite form of expression. I'd sooner write it than paint it, sculpt it, play it, dance it, or perform it. While I don't much use these expressions myself, I'm truly grateful for the artists who do paint it, sculpt it, play it, dance it, or perform it. Their expressions are gifts which I utterly enjoy.

Today, I am also grateful for Nature's form of expression ... winds in the willows, creeks rushing in the Spring thaw, fog hovering in low areas, sunlight glimmering through ice crystals, Jack Frost patterns on a window, the northern lights swirling overhead ... to name just a few.

November 27. What SMALL THING that you use daily are you grateful for? My toothbrush. There are people in the world who do not have a toothbrush and must rely on a stick to help clean their teeth. Yes, today I'm very grateful for my little toothbrush.

November 28. What SMALL THING that happened today are you grateful for? Every morning my sweet hubby of 20 years brings me coffee in bed. Today it came with bigger than usual smiles, kisses, and gifts. It is our anniversary.

November 29. What FRIEND/FAMILY MEMBER are you grateful for today? Oh no, that's impossible. How is a person to pick one dear and special person over another? I shall choose Miss Kitty, my pretty tortoise shell, who had to leave us forever the weekend William and Catherine were married in London. In the midst of all the global celebrations, I had the very sad task of saying goodbye in the vet's clinic. I'm not sad anymore, but there are days when I still miss her a lot and remark that we wish she would be meowing and rolling on the carpet with joy when we'd come home from somewhere. Today, I'm grateful for my sweet kitty cat who graced my life with her furry presence.

November 30. What TALENT OR SKILL do you have that you are grateful for? As I sit here ready to type out my response to the last prompt in this challenge, I don't think I've ever truly acknowledged the gift I received when I learned to type that year in Grade 8 on an old-fashioned manual typewriter. And, I'll never forget the day when we finally were given the thrilling chance to practice on the one IBM Selectric typewriter we had in the class.

Little did I realize then that typing would be a key function skill that I would find useful throughout my entire life and in just about every phase of it. I used it in college typing my papers, I used it every day at work and during my newsletter writing days, and now writing on my blog and here on social media.

Today I honour my ability to type. And give thanks for the very useful skill I learned so many years ago.

* * *

It's a wrap. My heart is full. My life is rich. I'm grateful for each of you. I'll be back on Monday, December 3rd, to kick off the month with a Christmas Giveaway. In the meantime, here's wishing you a beautiful weekend...


PS. It's the last day of November, which brings to mind that it is the birth date of one of my favourite authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery. A few years ago, I wrote a tribute to her, and since I'm writing about gratitude today, I wanted to include it here today. I'm so grateful for this beautiful author and woman, a fellow Canadian, who changed my life is so many ways. Here's the link.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Coffee and A Little Chat


"Gratitude can transform common days into
thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change
ordinary opportunities into blessings."

― William Arthur Ward

It's Monday morning and I've had my coffee and toast with peanut butter and sliced bananas; alas, no fruit bread as indicated in the lovely photo above. The sun is up but it's not enthusiastic in the least this morning -- the dimmer switch is definitely turned to low. Even the birds are quiet.

I'm laying out my plans for the week as I sit here at my desk. Of course, I want to finish this post, which should have been up already. I want to work away on another few pages in my blog's 10th anniversary magazine (earlier post HERE). It's coming along, but slowly. Rick and I are making a second batch of Light Christmas Cake this afternoon (recipe HERE). We decided we're quite the team; we could match baking wits with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood in Best British Baking Masterclasses. Well, almost.  

Plus ... I'm in the mood to start getting the house ready for the holidays. Some tidying and deep dusting must happen first before I haul out the decor and greenery. Dust bunnies are having conferences in the corners -- it's the one chore I seem to do the least often around here.

But even before the dust mops get underway, I'm in the middle of microwave shopping this morning. Online. Ours gave up the ghost last night in the middle of baking our russet potato for supper. I quickly popped the potato into my regular oven and finished baking it, making it all crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. I love that I can do the 'legwork' online, i.e., checking out models, features, prices, etc. on my desk top or iPhone and then just going to the local appliance store and showing them the model, saying "This is the one I want." Makes life easier and helps local economy.

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Hubby, who doesn't want to hear Christmas music until deep into December, went off to the gym early this morning. And, on the heels of his departure, we who enjoy listening to seasonal music much earlier than December 24th, popped a CD -- Downton Abbey style -- into the disc player. Ahhhhh...lovely. Now everything, including my tasks, are sweetened by these melodies old and familiar.

Here's a question that comes up: Do you still buy CDs when you shop for music, or do you shop iTunes and other places and download them to your device?

My first response is that I still look for the physical CDs. On Amazon now. I know, I feel archaic in this regard. Some things I have adjusted to 21st century and other things I'm still back there in the 20th. Feet firmly planted in two centuries. When my sister and I went to the Paul McCartney concert in September (happy blurb about it HERE) we had gone with the full intention of buying souvenirs. And, in the kiosks set up everywhere, there wasn't a CD to be had. Lots of t-shirts, posters, and other paraphernalia. I guess they just assume people buy their music online. So, we came home with other loot, but no music. Just the tunes rolling round in our heads for days after, which we loved.

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So, what are you reading these days? Here are two books I've been enjoying:

I just finished the last page of the enthralling mystery Dead Cold by Louise Penny. That's the British title, and I understand it's also published under A Fatal Grace in America. Either way, it's the second in the Chief Inspector Gamache series.

I decided to reread this episode because it fits this time of year, what with the cool temperatures outside and Christmas around the corner. It's a great story, filled with well developed characters that I have grown to care about. The novel is set in the village of Three Pines, and villagers are celebrating the holidays when a murder happens right in the middle of the festivities. No one cares for the woman or that she died -- she is no Miss Congeniality and is known to be particularly mean and nasty. It's amazing how many people become suspects as the story unfolds.

Here's a little quote from the novel. Chief Inspector Gamache is trying to bring a measure of hope to the dead woman's young daughter:

“He tried to let her know it would be all right. Eventually.
Life wouldn't always be this painful.
The world wouldn't always be this brutal.
Give it time, little one. Give it another chance. Come back.”

― Louise Penny, Dead Cold

If you aren't aware of this wonderful series, think traditional English cozy mystery and move it to the fictional Quebec village of Three Pines. Then, imagine a thoughtful and intelligent Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec who, along with his team, solves the crimes. The story lines often leaves the reader agape at how it wraps up, and the main characters become more like family and friends with each book you read. There are thirteen in the series and ....

I'm excited that Louise's latest, book 14, Kingdom of the Blind will finally be in book stores TOMORROW. It's definitely on my Christmas wish list, so here's hoping Santa is taking notes over my shoulder. I mention her books in an earlier post HERE.

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And, I'm currently reading Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life. First published in 2001, it was republished this year and now includes a Reader's Guide, which to me is worth the price of admission. If you love Madeleine L'Engle's writing, e.g. A Wrinkle in Time, Walking on Water, A Circle of Quiet, and if, perchance, you ever wished you could attend one of her writing retreats but never did, this book compiled by Carole F. Chase might in some small way make up for that.

The book is filled with over 360 pages of selected passages from Ms. L'Engle's writings and audio recordings from old workshops, retreat sessions, lectures, and interviews. They offer wonderful doses of inspiration, wisdom, and insight. Ms. Chase had the wonderful experience of being an attendee at many of Ms. L'Engle's writing workshops and so has an inside knowledge of the style and methods that she used in her sessions.

As Lindsay Lackey, the creator of the Reader's Guide, says in her introduction, "Though the world lost the person of Madeleine L'Engle in 2007, her wisdom, humor, and insight continue to inspire and teach so many. ... Though much of L'Engle's advice on writing is actually advice on the creative life in general and is undoubtedly useful to an artist of any type, the prompts are specifically crafted for writers. However, the discussion questions are for anyone who has chosen a creative existence."

Here's one passage from the book:
"I listen to my stories; they are given to me, but they don't come without a price. We do have to pay, with hours of work that ends up in the wastepaper basket, with intense loneliness, with a vulnerability that often causes us to be hurt. And I'm not sure that it's a choice. If we're given a gift -- and the size of the gift, small or great, does not matter -- then we are required to serve it, like it or not, ready or not. Most of us, that is, because I have seen people of great talent who have done nothing with their talent who mutter about "when there's time . . . ," or who bury their talent because it's too risky to use.
Yes, it is risky. We may not hear the story well. We may be like faulty radios, transmitting only static and words out of context. But I believe that it is a risk we have to take. And it is worth it, because the story knows more than the artist knows."
― from The Rock That Is Higher, Madeleine L'Engle

I am bolstered by this passage both as a writer working to get down her own stories and as a blogger who sometimes wonders if the ordinary things she writes about makes any difference in the world in which we live. And, though I know in my heart the answer is yes, yet still Ms L'Engle's words give me the inspiration to carry on as well as the reason to be courageous. To be willing to pay the price and take the risk. To be responsible to the gift I've been given, however small, and put it out there.

* * *

A last thought before I sign off, I asked myself what I wished I could be doing this week. And, without thinking, I knew if I could, I'd fly off to Oxford, England. My friend Carrie on Twitter told us that Oxford is alive with Christmas bells and concerts this week. Soon the students will be on their Christmas hols (holidays) and so the whole college is alive with festivities and celebrations right now. Carrie says it's really the best time of the year to live there. As you may recall, Rick and I went there for my birthday in 2017 (post here) to catch the daffodils in Spring. Now on my bucket list would be to go there for these great concerts and celebrations.

I lift my eyes unto the backyard and see that the light bulb sunshine has gone entirely dim. Though in the summer it would still be 'high' afternoon, sunset is no longer that far away. It sets tonight at 4:20 pm MST.

I've been to the store and back -- the new microwave is settled in. The Christmas cake is cooling as we speak. The kitchen is so fragrant. I'm ready for a cup of tea and my L'Engle book. Supper is only to heat up from last night (Salisbury Steak with gravy, mushrooms and lots of onions). At this stage, and don't tell anyone, I won't tackle the dusting today. There's always tomorrow, right?

"Grace is available for each of us every day -- our spiritual daily bread --
but we've got to remember to ask for it with a grateful
heart and not worry about whether there
will be enough for tomorrow.

― Sarah Ban Breathnach

Here's wishing you a beautiful day and a great week ahead.