Monday, November 26, 2018

Coffee and A Little Chat

photo: pixabay.com

"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.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox




28 comments:

  1. Christmas in Oxford, wouldn't that be a royal treat?! Maybe one day. No Christmas music here yet, but soon I think. I'll start with The Nutcracker Suite and the Skater's Waltz, two all-time favorites for me. Have "fun" with your new microwave!

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    1. Those are two favourite seasonal pieces of music for me too! Thanks for the reminder.

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  2. The fruit cake always makes a kitchen smell wonderful.Sometimes I think I bake it as much for that smell as for the taste later. I still buy some CDs but also get some music from iTunes.

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    1. I think you're right about baking fruit cake for the smell as much as the taste.

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  3. Thank-you for brightening a dark, dreary evening. Enjoyed this! and was touched by the passage you shared from the book you are reading! SO true! You've cheered this Getting older gal with some of life's simple pleasures!...and for your reading pleasure this; https://www.google.ca/search?q=dust+if+you+must+poem&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=0cgJlPUbu7WX8M%253A%252CQYSpbyBSO9HyaM%252C_&usg=AI4_-kROBOY2p3cVzXlUSpl3y7nqVwSvzA&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi9y5bdqfPeAhUKY6wKHUg6BBMQ9QEwBXoECAAQDg#imgrc=_p_lfqhVGGCq1M:

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    1. Janet, I went in search of what could be at the end of that google link. I loved the poem "dust if you must". Thank you!!!

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  4. I'm sure Christmas in Oxford would be lovely experience!
    I too, love to collect CD's, however, I do occasionally download songs if I don't enjoy an entire album. Overall, I prefer records. It gives me such nostalgia!

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    1. There is a certain nostalgia over records. They bring back a lot of memories for me.

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  5. As it happens, Judy from Cranberry Morning is visiting or will soon be visiting Oxford for the next few weeks. She is probably giddy as all get out. I am eager to see her Instagram account because I think she’ll be posting there. Start planning, Brenda!

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    1. I'm so pleased for her... I can imagine just how giddy. Dreams do come true!

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  6. I remember Oxford at Christmas from many many years ago, and it was lovely then. Maybe more so now, though there is also so much commercialism.
    Let the dust bunnies wait till you are ready for them!

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    1. I'll heed your advice about the dust bunnies. Thankfully they are quite benign. :)

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  7. The dustbunny comment made me giggle. I also like to research or comparison shop for a product online before making a purchase.

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  8. Brenda, I love your sweet, thoughtful, and heartfelt posts. Yes, indeed, I am a cd-buyer. Just bought one today, as a matter of fact. I don't care if it's out-of-date. I love brass, too! Brass anything is beautiful to me. The modern cold steel/aluminum is terribly unappealing to me. I love books, like you, and making a warm and loving home. Brenda, thank you for your beautiful blog----a light in the world. Susan

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    1. I think there are certain 'earmarks' in each generation that identifies the time and season we were born and grew up in. The use of CDs and brass is part of our generation. Something to celebrate, wouldn't you think?

      Thanks for your lovely comments, Susan! xox

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  9. I'll bet your kitchen smells (smelled?) wonderfully Christmas-y and inviting!

    I still buy CDs, although my daughter Kati has an iPod and we enjoy listening to her collection too. A generational difference perhaps. I'm glad you asked what I was reading . . . I recently finished one of your recommendations, Making Toast: A Family Story. It was as you described it: "painfully beautiful."

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    1. That fruitcake recipe we love is a very fragrant one ... all buttery with hints of lemon and almond. Glad you had a chance to read that book -- it stayed with me a long time.

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  10. I really enjoyed reading this post ( and everything else I've read on this blog so far). So many things you mention have been on my mind as well recently. The passage from Madeleine D'Engle's book is very interesting: that it's our duty to use our talents (like in the parable of the buried talents), and that there is also a risk involved and sometimes we're too afraid to take it. Or too lazy. But I really think we can't live a content or happy life unless we take that risk and do whatever our talents urge us to do. No matter what it is, it can be creative like writing or painting, or more practical like running or hiking.

    That Christmas at Downton Cd sounds great. I prefer CDs as well: something physical that I can see even when my computer is turned off and that usually comes with a booklet.
    Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I'm glad I found your blog!

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    1. Thank you so much, Anke, for stopping by and leaving your lovely comment. I'm glad we found each other too.

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  11. Brenda, this was a most special post for me and gave me needed inspiration to keep plugging along with my blog. I question myself and it quite a bit.

    I had a good laugh about your dust bunnies. I do believe mine held their "conference" and have planned a take over. I'll get after them soon.

    As for me - I still like a CD. I will certainly look into the Christmas at Downton, I miss that show terribly. And, for what I am reading - FEAR, Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward. Why, I don't know. It has only made me realize how freighting our times really are.

    Brenda, you are such a talent and give your readers such joy and inspiration in these crazy times. Blessings, dear friend.

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    1. Had a chuckle about the dust bunnies ready to do a take over at your house. Thankfully they are benign.

      About the Downton CD, it's funny, my stomach always lurches with anticipation just hearing those first notes of the series music theme. They certainly have become a part of our lives and culture.

      Do keep writing your lovely blog, Sandra. It's an oasis of beauty and grace in the midst of the desert storms. We all need these stopping places of refreshment. xox

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  12. dusting can always wait and it does for months on end...lol! I'm busy collecting and organizing my poetry into a three ring notebook to see what I want to do with it-thinking a photo-poem book but who knows.

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    1. I'm so pleased to hear about your latest dream for a photo-poem book. I hope it turns into reality. Dusting can surely be staved off for a few more weeks or months - hehe.

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  13. I love the way you describe your early morning...it is my most favorite time of the day. Thanks for posting about the Downton Abbey Christmas music...I've got it on my Spotify playlist now! I can't remember the last time I bought a CD. :)

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    1. I used to be a night owl but, I agree, there is something very special about early mornings.

      I'll have to check out that Spotify and maybe get with the times, music-wise.

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  14. Dear Brenda I have never read Madelein L'Engle's writings. It sounds to me that I have been missing something special. Will be adding them to my next year's reading list. Yes the dusting will wait...sounds like you were busy with the important things - new microwave and making that Christmas bread - yum!! Thanks too for visiting me. Hugs!

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    1. Yes, I think you would enjoy Madeleine's writings. The book I mention in this post might be a place to start as it has passages from many of her other books, so you would get a sense of what she's about.

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To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xox

PS. I do not always comment here, but I do look forward to coming and visiting you....