Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Day 18. It Feels Like Christmas Around Here


"Winter is the time for comfort, for good
food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly
hand, and for a talk beside the fire: it is the
time for home."

~ Edith Sitwell


Yes, it's starting to feel a lot like Christmas at our house this week. The tree is up, see yesterday's post. Around the house, corners, table tops, the mantelpiece, even beds are getting gussied up for the season. Except hubby did makes noises about how was a fellow supposed to take a nap with all that prickly stuff on the bed pillows.




There is definitely something in the air since we got the tree up. Bought this pheasant teapot for my dad many years ago, so it's out on full display as we think of him and miss him these days. 




We moved the television to the other wall, which leaves a wide open empty wall staring at me. Too late to look for a piece of art (except I know what I'd like there... hint hint, Santa Baby). In the meanwhile, an elegant amaryllis and sprigs of greenery does a fine job of giving our eyes something lovely to look at.




We got bunches of free greenery from the tree farm. The fellow said help yourself to the brush pile. And we did. Here's a small bouquet of greenery with a hint of red to make it sparkle. Red and green and gold are still my favourite Christmas colours.




I'm off to meet a dear friend for lunch.
Here's wishing you a beautiful day.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox





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 get in touch by email.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Day 17. The Tree Awaits




There really is something special about waiting to decorate the tree until it's nearer the big day. When I was a girl, our family put up the tree just two or three days before Christmas. When I grew up and had my own home, at first I did it the way we always did it at home. But once we got an artificial tree, I loved putting up the tree at the beginning of December and being able to enjoy its comforting light and beauty all month long. But now, since Hubby and I have taken to getting a fresh tree the last few years, we put it up much later in the month, to keep it from being all worn out by the time Christmas arrives.

In our world of having access to just about everything 'instant', I have found something special about giving my soul a chance to wait for something again. To anticipate the arrival for something -- in this case, Christmas. And not speed through to the next thing. There is often such a rush this time of year, perhaps putting up the tree a little later is one small way I can slow myself down just a little.




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


We got our pretty spruce tree on Friday, and we let it sit in the garage a day to guzzle up the gallons of water it needed once it was cut. Rick set it up in the usual corner of our family room, opposite the fireplace. While half watching, half listening to one of my favourite Christmas movies The Bishop's Wife yesterday afternoon, I unpacked the lights and ornaments. As there was nothing else on the agenda, just me and my own thoughts and a box of ornaments to muse over, I spent a couple of happy hours getting them on. For it is a studied business when it comes to deciding where each ornament should be placed to create an overall pleasing effect. Even after the official announcement is made -- it's done -- the next few days often find me tweaking an ornament here, a light placement there.




Ornaments old and new. Ornaments we bought together the first year we were married. The special ones we found during our honeymoon. The pretty ones we received as gifts from friends. The tartan heart and kitty from our trip to Scotland, even one or two remaining ornaments (above) carefully saved from my childhood Christmases. And these jolly red and white sprigs (below) which I found last year and fell in love with -- they seem not to take themselves too seriously -- good advice when it comes to decorating our trees.




Some years I make plans in advance of what I want to create. Sometimes it's a colour scheme or a certain theme. Sometimes like this year, there is no plan, no specific colour scheme, it's choosing whatever makes my heart sing when I see it. The gold bows at the top, the spot usually reserved for stars and angels, were once the pew markers at our wedding twenty ago. So that's special for me.




I loved the white lights, Rick likes the coloured ones. So we have strands of each. And they make a pretty blend. And, so here's our tree...






That's a wrap. And that's our tree for Christmas 2018. Yes, I already tweaked since the photos. And speaking of photos, writing this post and taking these few photos -- trying to get a half decent look took much longer than it did to decorate the tree itself.




Looking out my window, it's late afternoon and nearly sunset. The sky is a gorgeous pale pink along the horizon. This evening we are attending the local Christmas production of Singing in the Rain, and I am feel quite jolly about it all. On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful evening. 

Hugs,
Brenda
xox





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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Day 16. Waiting. Listening.

photo: pixabay.com

Here is a favourite Christmas carol...

with Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma


Advent is an expectant season. We wait poised for what Frederick Buechner names “the extraordinary moment.” He utilizes the image of an orchestra conductor waiting... waiting until he has the full attention of the orchestra, the full attention of the audience. It's that exact moment just before the music begins.
“The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised his baton. In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart . . . The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.”
~ Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

photo: pixabay.com


“I shall attend to my little errands of love early this year,
So that the brief days before Christmas may be unhampered and clear

of the fever of hurry. The breathless rushing I have known in the past
shall not possess me. I shall be calm in my soul and ready at last

for Christmas. I shall have leisure — I shall go out alone from my roof and my door;
I shall not miss the silver silence of stars as I have before.

And oh, perhaps ... if I stand there very still ... and very long
I shall hear what the clamor of living has kept from me — The Angels' Song!”

~ Grace Noll Crowell
"Leisure," Poems of Inspiration and Courage (1928)



* * *

Wishing you peace on this third Sunday of Advent

With love,
Brenda
xox






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 get in touch by email.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Day 15. Christmas Tree Outing




As was mentioned in our previous post, we went to get our Christmas tree from the Fir Ever Green Tree Farm yesterday. Our drive out into the countryside was lovely. There is nothing like watching snow covered fields and sunlight glinting through the tall trees to create a sense of restfulness and ease of spirit. Even though we went in the early afternoon, the sun already lay low on the horizon, reminding me that this is one of my favourite times of the year. 




"Despite all I have seen and experienced,
I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow."

~ Edmund Hillary




"O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches..."



"Smell is the mute sense,
the one without words."

~ Diane Ackerman
A Natural History of the Senses

Measuring in at seven feet tall, it was perfect in our eyes. I wish, I wish, I could have bottled the fragrance of this pretty little spruce so you could smell it too. Every branch, every needle exuded its winsome perfume. Hubby and I both agreed that that was the smell of Christmas.

Do you remember the 1947 movie The Bishop's Wife, with Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven? Do you recall the scene where the Bishop's wife goes to the green grocers to order a Christmas tree and happens to meet up with her friend, the Professor, while there. The Professor had his 'annual' argument with the shopkeeper about how much he should pay for the Christmas tree, and finally the shopkeeper counts up all the branches and charges him by the branch. I was kinda glad we didn't have to count how many branches were on this tree -- there seemed quite a few.

Now I'm in the mood to watch the movie, as I haven't yet this year. Have you done so already? 

  


Even though the day was mild, it was lovely to catch the warmth of this little fire burning near the chalet. The wagon with its load of wood, the owner proceeded to tell us, was around 150 years old. It came from the 'old country' where he grew up -- Switzerland. You will note that the original wooden wheel had been replaced with a modern one. I think he said the wooden one had worn out. 


 *!*!* Two happy campers *!*!*


The tree has been in our garage guzzling buckets of water today. Tomorrow we bring her inside and set her up. We're still deciding which corner she'll preside over the soon coming Christmas doings.

* * *

We've been to visit my mom today. She served tea and Christmas baking. We had a lovely visit. That's why I'm a little late on getting this post up today. I hope you've had a wonderful day. I now wish you a pleasant evening and a sweet sleep.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox





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 14, 2018

Day 14. O Christmas Tree

photo: pixabay.com

"... 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 


I felt a sense of adventure when I woke early this morning. Hubby and I are going to get our Christmas tree this afternoon. Because we live in the city, if we're getting a real tree for Christmas, we usually buy one from the temporary tree lots or grocers. But Hubby declared he wanted a tree that was really fresh, that hadn't been cut two months ago -- he wanted the true fresh fragrance wafting through the house like when he was a kid. I was secretly thrilled. Me too! Can almost smell it -- all earthy, piney, and oh so pungent with its sap fresh and sticky.

We'll head out into the countryside to a local family-owned tree farm where they offer landscaping trees in summer and u-cut evergreens in December. I think Rick is excited about bringing along his saw for this somewhat woodsy adventure. I wish we had a couple of those red lumberjack shirts for photo-ops -- you bet, I'm not leaving home without my camera.

photo: pixabay.com

Just thinking about it makes so many childhood memories float up. I can remember coming home from school, just days before Christmas, to find the freshly hewed spruce tree propped near the back step. Oh goody, Dad had been out. There it sat waiting, just like us, for the big day. If we weren't already antsy with excitement, well, it just made the anticipation soar off the charts. We begged Mom to let us bring it in. But she always wanted to wait as long as possible, to keep the needles fresh. I could hardly stand it for joy -- it felt like the top of my head would blow off.


"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.
In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.

~ Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas


It's true, when you are five or six or seven, every tree seems thirty feet tall, but in truth, looking at some old family photos, our trees weren't those towering specimens at all. All green and prickly, smelling of pungent spruce resin -- I didn't like how my fingers stuck together when drops got on my hands -- they were sometimes a little scraggly, somewhat sparse on branches, even a bit crooked, but in our eyes they were practically perfect.

The day finally arrived, usually December 20th or 21st, when Mom would give the okay. Dad would drag the frozen tree into the porch where it thawed out, the snow on its branches melting into puddles on the floor. Which meant that the next day when we got home from school, it would be proudly sitting in its wooden stand. A prince of a tree in its honoured place in the corner of the living room, where Dad had secured it with clear fishing line to the door jam -- cats and kids being prone to examining tree branches rather closely.


"You can tell a lot about a person by the way
they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage,
and tangled Christmas tree lights.

~ Maya Angelou


photo: pixabay.com

When we were old enough, we kids would haul down the decoration boxes from the upstairs crawl space. First, there came the task of untangling tree lights -- not a job for the kids, thankfully. I felt too impatient for that slow process. It was the pretty ornaments nestled in their boxes with the cellophane windows in the lids that I waited for.

Chains made from coloured construction paper and tinsel garlands were added. Placing the ornaments was a very studied business as we pondered which branch they should go on for the best effect. Delicate glass balls would hang alongside the proud display of glittering handmade Christmas cards done in school art class. The very last thing to go up was the tinsel, we being firmly instructed not to throw clumps of tinsel on the branches, but to carefully drape it strand by strand until the tree became a glimmering tower of awesomeness.

At last came the moment when the overhead lights were turned off, a record would be set to spin out carols, and we'd all stand back in awe of our handiwork. It was beautiful, all lit up and sparkling. And with that, we were ready for Christmas. Life couldn't feel any more perfect than in that moment. With so much to still look forward to and so few cares of the world intruding on our little family, at least for a few days, we felt safe and happy as we snuggled against the storms of winter and life.


Here's a YouTube link to

by Classical vocal ensemble VOCES8



circa 1964, Little Sis and Me

* * *

It's getting closer. The anticipation is rising.
Here's wishing you a beautiful day.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox





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 get in touch by email.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Day 13. Wonky Donkey

photo: caroline herandez | unsplash.com



My ideas are frozen
The words really stuck
Maybe it's all from the baking
My mind's turned to mush

One little thought
from a YouTube I viewed
Could be the wee gift
you're seeking and need

For the kid with a funny streak
and sweet giggles besides
Check this out -- Wonky Donkey
Even Grannies have cried

I dare you to listen and not be tickled too
Click here for the storybook
You'll be hooked out the gazoo


* * *

Happy Thursday!

Hugs,
Brenda
xox







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 12, 2018

Day 12. Lemon Loaves and Being Neighbourly



I am on a mission. A few days ago, I stocked up on bags of fresh lemons, pounds of sweet butter, and a few dozen eggs. I am going to bake lemon loaves for my neighbours this Christmas. It's not something I do regularly, hardly at all. I might make muffins and take a few to a neighbour, but not often. But this year, I wanted to give a little something to more than just my two next door neighbours on either side of us.

As a writer, I am generally ensconced at my desk inside my house -- where I sit right now looking out my window over the pre-dawn navy skies. It's not that I don't care about my neighbours, it's that I get caught up in my world of words, and days can go by and I haven't seen much of anybody. I might catch sight of someone when I'm out for my walk or as I drive by on my way to do errands. We might smile and wave at each other, but for the most part, I don't even know their names. Rick knows them more than I do, as people often stop and chat when he's working in the front garden in the summertime. 

But this year, what with all the disasters and terrible things that have been going on in our upside-down world, and for the most part there being nothing I can really do to help heal the world at large, I have had a heart longing, a tug to reach out and touch a few souls closer to home. Not for my sake or because I'm lonely, but because I want these people with whom I share this neighbourhood to know that someone does notices that they live on this street even if she doesn't do much more than offer a wave and a smile. For I am glad they do live on this street, even if I don't know their names. It's a nice, peaceful neighbourhood, and we know it's the people who live in it that make it so. I don't have to know them personally to recognize that.

But wouldn't it also be nice to know them personally, to know their names and the names of their kids and kitties. And, that's when the idea to bake lemon loaves for these nearby residents came to mind. Christmas is often a time when people can do things like this and not feel so weird about turning up out of the blue. So I dug out my recipe, lined up my ingredients, greased and floured the pans, and set to work. As soon as I got three loaves baked and cooled, I wrapped them up, carefully put them in a carry all bag, and started off down the street. People were surprised to answer the door and see me, a virtual stranger, standing on their doorstep with a cellophane, ribbon-wrapped loaf and Christmas card in my hand.

The task is not yet complete. I've delivered six loaves so far and I'm off shortly to start baking another batch for today's deliveries. I might get on such a roll that I'll go all the way up and down my street ... well, maybe not this year anymore. One thing for sure, I'm calling on the neighbours -- I have no idea who they are -- who have the orange kitty, a friendly puss, who comes to visit us often during the summer. We've watched from which house she saunters, so we know that at least.

I'll probably say, "Hello my name is Brenda and I live at #27. Your beautiful orange kitty often comes to visit us and so we wanted to give her family this package as a thank you for her friendly face in the neighbourhood."

* * *

The kitchen smells so wonderful these days. Not the usual spicy smells of Christmas, but rather that aroma of zesty, buttery goodness that tantalizes my nose. It's a recipe I've had for decades now -- after this week it will be properly tested and tried -- and I am happy to share it with you today.


Glazed Lemon Loaf
Makes one large loaf, two smaller loaves, or one bundt pan cake

Preheat oven to 350F
Grease and flour the baking pan(s) called into service

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon essence
zest from 1 large lemon (or two small)

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk

Instructions

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time.
Stir in vanilla, lemon essence, and lemon zest.
Mix flour and baking powder in a separate bowl.
Add these dry ingredients alternately with milk to the wet ingredients.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan(s)

For one large loaf, bake for 55 minutes, until golden
and tester comes out clean from the center.
For two smaller loaves, bake for 45 minutes.
For bundt pan cake, bake 45 - 55 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto wire rack.
Brush with lemon glaze while loaf is still warm.


Lemon Glaze

3 tsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/2 cup icing sugar or castor sugar (finely ground sugar)

Mix ingredients into a slightly runny paste.


* * *

"Eat a slice with tea and enjoy without guilt."


* * *
"Cakes have gotten a bad rap. People equate virtue with turning down dessert. There is always one person at the table who holds up her hand when I serve the cake. No, really, I couldn’t, she says, and then gives her flat stomach a conspiratorial little pat. Everyone who is pressing a fork into that first tender layer looks at the person who declined the plate, and they all think, That person is better than I am. That person has discipline. But that isn’t a person with discipline, that is a person who has completely lost touch with joy.
A slice of cake never made anybody fat. You don’t eat the whole cake. You don’t eat a cake every day of your life. You take the cake when it is offered because the cake is delicious. You have a slice of cake and what it reminds you of is someplace that’s safe, uncomplicated, without stress. A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what’s served on the happiest days of your life.”
~ Jeanne Ray, Eat Cake

I think this Jeanne Ray is a smart lady with her very sensible thoughts on eating cake. I shall remember her fine words when we have a slice of lemon loaf later on.


* * *

And so I'm off to bake. It's a beautiful, mild day in the neighbourhood.

I wish you a wonderful day whatever you're up to today.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox


PS. I forgot to say that I'm guest posting at InScribe
today -- a short piece called Longing At Christmas.





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 reach me directly by email

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Day 11. Christmas Fruit Drops - One of Dad's Favourites



My sister Janet wrote a lovely post on her Facebook page yesterday. She wanted to do a little Christmas baking. Finding one old recipe set her thoughts off in a different direction. Her post was so touching that I asked if I could share it here today on my blog. She agreed.


by my sister Janet

Tonight I felt like baking something Christmasy. I am more of a cook than a baker, but at Christmas time I try to do a little baking. I dug out a cookbook of some of my mom’s recipes; you know the kind -- old favourites that conjure up wonderful memories of home. I had a recipe in mind, but I came across a different one called Christmas Fruit Drops with the note beside it: "These were one of Dad’s favourites".

And I realized how much I miss him. In a few days it will be fifteen years since Dad passed away. Fifteen years! So much has changed. Fifteen years ago my kids were 8 and 6 years old, and, along with the rest of the grandkids, they were the apple of Grandpa’s eye. I wish he could see them now as adults. I think Dad and Matt would be great friends. He has his grandfather’s looks and build, incredibly so, but he didn’t inherit his grandfather’s shyness. I think Matt would have drawn Dad out and would have asked him questions about 'the olden days' and how to use his tools; they would have talked about cars, and jobs, and goals. And I think Dad would be quietly proud.

My daughter Becca, lovingly called Becky by my dad, barely remembers her Grandpa G. That makes me sad because they held a special place in each other’s heart. I think my dad would have been so pleased with her “I can do it” attitude and her artistic abilities. He was creative in so many ways, and I think he would fully appreciate all that she can do.

I wish my Dad was here to see where we live. I know he would probably have laughed when he first saw our acreage and wondered (he wouldn’t have said it out loud to us) what on earth we were going to do with this untamed piece of land. But I know he would have come to love it as we have – and would probably have built us a hand cultivator to keep at bay those weeds that are endlessly out of control in our garden!

How I wish I could walk to the top of the hill with Dad and sit at our picnic table (he would probably bring along a hammer to tap in any nails that stuck out) and visit. But he is not here, so we can’t. And I miss him. So instead, tonight I bake Christmas Fruit Drops, and I remember him with love.


* * *
Dad,
You are loved
You are missed
You are remembered


Wishing you comfort and joy today.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox






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.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Day 10. Christmas Oranges and Giveaway Winner

photo: pixabay.com

"The Christmas oranges are here!" This used to create quite a flurry of excitement at our house when we were kids. The fragrant mandarin oranges, wrapped individually in green tissue, had traveled all the way from Japan in the Far East to our frozen northern land of Canada. Happening only once a year, they always arrived in time for Christmas. Hence, the nickname Christmas oranges. We also referred to them as Japanese oranges for their place of origin. I don't think we ever knew them as mandarin oranges until decades later.

As a girl, I loved this sweet juicy orange and looked forward to eating my share each year, but I never realized until yesterday just how much I still anticipate breaking open the thick skin and letting the scent unique to mandarins waft to my nose. For me, that's a smell of Christmas, and when I catch that first citrus spritz on the air, I'm right back in my childhood. 

I remember visiting my grandma when I was little. We'd sit in her little front room, each of us carefully removing the soft peel of a Christmas orange. I no longer remember if it was my friends at school, if it was my grandma, or maybe my dad, who first showed me how to peel it so as to create a long trunk and two 'elephant' ears all in one piece. We'd sit there in the peace and quiet, experiencing a sense of mutual enjoyment. No gulping, no rushing. Just being in the moment. Enjoying the treat.  I am warmed by that memory.

Now I don't usually hand out advice, but something I jotted down some years ago still works for me so I'll share it: For many people, things get busy this time of year. Sometimes stopping to carve out mini breaks helps give our bodies a chance to rest, to catch up. Why not take a few minutes to enjoy a mandarin or clementine. Sweet and juicy, full of fibre and nutrients like Vitamin C, I think they are a wonderful treat for our bodies. Have to admit, I have never felt sluggish or a little out of sorts from eating this juicy treat. So, here's to nature's sweet gift.

* * *

And, now to announce the winner of the Amazon gift card Giveaway....



SHARON GOEMAERE

Congratulations! Woohoo!


Sharon, I'm so pleased to be able to send you the $25 Amazon gift card. Connect with me so I can get your email address, and before you know it, the gift card will be in your inbox in time for a bit of Christmas shopping fun. 

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who entered the draw! Your participation helped to made it a fun event.


Share a slice of Christmas sweetness
with someone this week.


Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox





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

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Day 9. Heaven Everywhere

aaron burden | unsplash.com

"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.

Love,
Brenda
xox




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.....



* * *

Wishing you gladness in your heart today.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox






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 | unsplash.com

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.

photo: pixabay.com

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?

Hugs,
Brenda
xox




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

photo: pixabay.com

"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? 


photo: pixabay.com

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.


photo: pixabay.com

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?


photo: pixabay.com

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.


photo: pixabay.com
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


* * *


GO OUT INTO YOUR WORLD TODAY.
AND TAKE JOY IN IT.


Hugs,
Brenda
xox




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.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox




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

photo: pixabay.com

“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.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox





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.