Thursday, December 31, 2020

A New Year's Eve Thought and Wish


" What a wonderful thought it is that some of the
best days of our lives haven't even happened yet. "
ANNE FRANK


I had full intentions to write a post during the Christmas week. I meant to chat about the holidays and share from the stack of books I've been reading, but here it is already New Year's Eve with post unwritten. Christmas, though different, was lovely. The days following have passed quietly and pleasantly in our household. We ate Christmas leftovers, nibbled on delicious cookies and other treats, had Scrabble tournaments for two, went for walks, read our books, watched movies.... 

 

"When fog invades the plains,
everything disappears; everything but fog!
When loves invades the minds,
everything disappears; everything but love!"
MEHMET MURAT ILDAN, Turkish Author and Playwright

We even took a drive one foggy morning to the nearby Elk Island National Park. Families were out with their kids, suited in ski pants and Covid masks. 'Twas delightful to watch them sledding down the hill, hurrying back up to soar down again. I felt a gush of nostalgia as I watched and remembered my own happy childhood tobogganing in the deep winter till we were frozen like popsicles yet not wanting to quit. The memory was so fresh in my mind, I felt in want of hot cocoa when we got home, even though my toes weren't the frozen ones.

We thought we might spot some bison out there, but they and every other wild creature were absent in full force. Rick figured they'd booked off Christmas and 'to heck with the tourists'. Perhaps they hunkered down somewhere because of the fog. I loved being in the midst of the foggy foggy dew—I was enchanted by the feeling of other-worldliness. As soon as I saw that lone tree (above), I knew I had to capture it against the muted shroud of grey—its bent trunk speaking of endurance through seasons of wild storms, wind battered but still standing. To me, it's a perfect picture for the storm our world has endured in 2020. As a child, I would have found such a picture utterly bleak, stark, and lonely, one that was to be avoided for something brighter and cozier. But I have since come to recognize there is a wild beauty in starkness. And rather than shun it, I embrace it in the moment. I'm sure Mary Oliver would have said that more poetically.

* * *

As we breathe the last few hours of this horrid virus-tossed year, I think of something Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote: "Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering 'it will be happier'... ."

Oh yes, we hope it will indeed be a happier year. For so many though, all the wishing won't make the intense pain go away, and I am so sorry it is so. I just read something Canadian singer Jann Arden wrote on her Facebook page about grieving her mom. The day she posted, it was two years since her beloved mom passed away after years of suffering with Alzheimer's. Jann shared how she missed her, but said....
"I don't mind the grief. It's like an aftershock of love. I don't mind missing her and dad. I don't mind the pangs or the jabs or the throbbing aches that stretch across the muscles in my chest. I just don't mind it. It's lovely in its own way. Makes me keep trying to live."
Those lines speak to me....that she doesn't mind the grief, that it's like an aftershock of love, that it reminds her to keep trying to live. I am not sure why that gives me comfort, but it does. I'm not grieving personally for anyone at the moment, and I'm not in a sad place for myself—life is sweet and good for me these days—but I do find myself carrying in my heart the pain of others, for the folks who have lost their lives and those who lost loved ones and remain in their now-shattered world. I so hope and pray they will one day find a measure of peace and comfort and eventually discover new reasons to face their futures less bleakly. A little bit happier.



"Lord, grant me peace above all else no matter
the circumstances I may face this year."
UNKNOWN

As we stand on the front porch of this brand new year, I am grateful for your company as we share this journey together. I remind myself and you, should you need it, to keep watching for those glimpses of heaven glimmering with hope that 'beyond the pain, life continues to be sweet' (Rosamunde Pilcher). Facing the New Year with still so much uncertainty and trepidation, we must take 'courage, dear hearts' (C.S. Lewis).

Happy New Year! And in the words of a dear old neighbour who was wont to say when the world felt decidedly upside down, "Here's to better days ahead." That's my heart wish for you in 2021!

With love,
Brenda
xox


Photo credits:
(Top) Image by Mary Gorobchenko from Pixabay
(Middle) Tree in Fog by Brenda C Leyland 
(Bottom) Image by Hans Benn from Pixabay



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Wee Chat Before Christmas



" Maybe you have to know the darkness
before you can appreciate the light. "
MADELEINE L'ENGLE


I'm writing in the early morning, just moments before sunrise. Silent stars fade as a blaze of glory stains the sky in the predawn. As I watch from my front step in the cold air, I hear a chorus of sparrows singing from the hedges. Oh my, such a marvelous beginning to the dawn's early light. I seem to be so much more aware of these good gifts around me than I have ever been before. At least, that is how it seems. Perhaps it's because I have time to consider the handiwork of creation all around me. My life is not so cluttered this year with to-ing and fro-ing.

As I write it's two days before Christmas. For all the quirkiness surrounding this year's unusual way to celebrate—due of course to Covid-19 restrictions—nevertheless I am feeling a frisson of anticipation building on the inside. When I was a child, these last few days before Christmas were the most exciting....and definitely the most excruciating. According to the calendar, they were the shortest days of the year, but for me and probably any child awaiting the big day, they felt as if these last 48 hours were an entire year. How the minutes would creep by, until at last it was time to go to the Christmas Eve service at our little country church, dressed in our new Christmas dresses, all ready to do our parts in the program. And then the gleeful ride home afterwards where presents awaited under the tree. Yes, we opened presents on Christmas Eve growing up. Christmas Day was for the turkey and stuffing and for playing with our already opened new toys, games, and crafts, not to mention planning which book we'd read first. As kids, we were always secretly glad we didn't have to wait until Christmas Morning to open gifts.




" All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish
the light of a single candle. "
ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 


The excitement now isn't quite like when I was a child, but there still comes a thrill in hearing the familiar strains of old carols like Joy to the World or seasonal music like Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. And, I just heard Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf on the radio with David Bowie as narrator. The narrator tells the children's story, while the orchestra illustrates the characters: Peter, the wolf, the bird, the cat, the duck, the hunters, and the grandfather. I loved this piece as a girl. 

The thrill has been gradually mounting as packages and Christmas cards arrive via Canada Post and by hand. When the doorbell rings, we find unexpected treats left on the front step from neighbours: slices of banana-chocolate chip loaf, decorated cookies, chocolates, old-fashioned popcorn balls. And a container with two delectable pieces of our neighbour's family favourite dessert: Queen Elizabeth Cake—oh yum!—with a note attached "since we don't know when we can be together in person...hope you enjoy." This moist date cake with its brown sugar, butter and coconut broiled topping made us feel quite 'royal' as we ate cake and washed it down with our Yorkshire Gold afternoon tea. If you need a recipe, you can find one HERE that looks simple and delicious. I could always ask my neighbour if she shares her family recipes.



   The cake from our neighbour was so moist and delicious,
just the way cake should tantalize and satisfy.
Thanks, Christine!


In case you aren't familiar with Queen Elizabeth cake, it is named after Elizabeth II, according to my bit of research. It may have originated in 1953 for her coronation. Or, another account holds that the cake was invented for the 1937 coronation of King George VI and his Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother).

With all the hubbub, it's like Christmas around here! Oh yes, it is Christmas around here. We thought it might be quiet and even a little dull without our usual traditions and family gatherings to prepare for, but people are reaching out in ways unexpected this Covid year, and so the gaps have been filled most beautifully—it's something we also have endeavoured to do from our end of things.

* * *

I have so many little things I want to share with you. God's good gifts from all manner of unexpected places. Let me offer a few photos from around the house, a little of this and that, moments where joy has thrilled me these past few days. Hope they add a morsel of sweetness—a little thrill of your own—as you count down, "Two more sleeps, One more sleep!"
 


O Christmas tree,
how lovely are your branches.



Presents began to appear shortly after
the tree was decorated.



When I was little, I used to be Miss Snoopy Girl under the tree,
musing and carefully lifting and maybe shaking,
but this year I've been a good girl. No peeking.



Let it snow, let it snow, let it snowmen!



Preparing a never ending gift bag, as a friend used to say, filled
with little surprises for someone very dear to me.



Love this gorgeously wrapped gift that
arrived in the post the other day from a long time dear friend.



This pretty felt teacup ornament arrived tucked inside
a Christmas card from a blogging friend. Is turquoise a theme?  



What a charming bear ornament
from another lovely blogging friend.



A Christmas present opened early to enjoy ahead.
I was instructed to do so, in case you're wondering.



I love this fellow,
he makes me giggle and feel happy.


* * *

Today I want to close by sharing a few words written by author Kathleen Gibson, a lovely fellow writer I have appreciated for some years now. She penned these words as a birthday wish for someone and then later published in a collection of her writings. With minor adjustments in brackets, these words become my own heart wish for you this Christmas. Please see below.....


 To my beautiful blogging friends,

[Merry Christmas!] I hope you have sunny weather in your heart, and that God embraces you freshly with reassurance of how incredibly much he loves you. I hope that you have at least one present to unwrap and that someone reminds you they're glad you're a part of their life. I hope you have no tears today, except tears of joy, and you find one verse of scripture to keep you afloat for the next year.

I hope that someone smiles at you for no reason other than that they're glad to see you enter the room, and that you can light up at least one person's day with a smile of your own. [With folks wearing their masks these days, you'll have to watch for the smile and glimmer in their eyes instead.] I hope you're given a new song that fills you down to your toes, and that you can sing it with the joy of being alive today. ... 

I hope ... that you get outside for a few moments to let nature remind you of your Creator. I hope something strikes you as funny, and that you laugh loudly enough for someone to ask why. I hope you put away for just this one day the things that are weighing down your heart, because no one should have to worry on [Christmas].

And I hope you get to eat at least one thing that causes your taste buds to stand at attention with delight, so that [Christmas in 2020] seems a good thing after all. 

Mostly, I hope you know that all these things are just a fraction of the hopes and prayers and dreams of someone who loves you very much.

[Merry Christmas all!]

From the article "Celebrate a Friend" in Practice by Practice, the art of everyday faith by Kathleen Gibson. Permission given to pass along this wish.

   
* * *

Wishing you a thrill of hope this Christmas.
From my heart to yours....stay safe!

With love, 
Brenda
xox




Friday, December 18, 2020

Perennial Jan Karon Favourites at Christmas



"Snow is falling and
books are calling"


It's really starting to feel like Christmas around here. As I write, it has been snowing all day....do you see the smile on my face? Frosty outside, it's cozy inside. Festive music plays on the radio, and beribboned presents mysteriously appear under the tree. I'll show pictures but not today. Today, I want to talk about books from my bookshelf, to add to the series I started back in March when the world went into lockdown.

When it comes to Christmas reading, I turn to this delightful quartet of Jan Karon stories to help set the tone and while away the days of Advent. As one book release put it, "If you've ever been to Mitford in Jan Karon's novels, you know it's the perfect place to visit at Christmas." Truly!

I have loved Jan Karon's bestselling books ever since discovering them back in 1998. Not only are her novels gentle, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, they are always lifegiving without being didactic or preachy—even though her key character is a kindly Episcopal priest. Jan Karon's life as a writer has been an inspiration to me in my own writing pursuits. I refer to her in a recent guest post HERE, if you haven't seen it.

I'm including today's post in my series Pressing My Books Into Service. I hope you enjoy.

 

The Mitford Snowmen

by Jan Karon
2001

This stocking stuffer sized storybook is filled with seasonal fun when a snowfall brings Mitford's citizens out on Main Street where a snowman building contest ensues. The competition is on. Whose creation will win the prize in the First Annual Snowman Jubilee? What's the prize, Uncle Billy wonders. According to Father Tim, it's doughnuts. "Plain or glazed?"


by Jan Karon
Illustrations by Donna Kae Nelson
2002

In this beautifully illustrated gift book, Esther Bolick is in the holiday spirit and begins dreaming about baking her famous orange marmalade cakes for Christmas giving. When her husband calculates the cost per cake, Esther is astounded. Is it worth spending so much money on people who haven't always measured up to her expectations? Then words from a Christmas carol play in her mind, reminding her about what gifts really mean.


by Jan Karon
2003

Father Tim finds a derelict nativity scene that has suffered the indignities of time and neglect. He imagines the excitement in the eyes of his wife, Cynthia, and decides to undertake the daunting task of restoring it. A bigger commitment than first anticipated, time slips away, and Tim is tempted to hurry the project along—maybe use a bigger paintbrush—but in the end he realizes he wants to give this gift his best effort, his deepest concentration, and his whole heart.

This novel was published the same year my dear dad passed away just days before Christmas. My darling husband knew I loved Jan Karon's novels and made sure this book was under the Christmas tree. Little did he know how much comfort this gentle, hopeful story brought to a grieving daughter's heart. It grounded me during a time when the cornerstone of our family had been torn from our lives.

Shepherds Abiding is now a cherished old friend, and as I prepare my home for the holiday, I let the beautifully crafted slow build-up create a quiet but eager anticipation in my own heart. 



Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good

by Jan Karon
2014

After five hectic years of retirement from Lord’s Chapel, Father Tim Kavanagh returns with Cynthia his wife from the land of his Irish ancestors. He is glad to be back home in Mitford, but something is definitely missing from his life: a pulpit. But when he’s offered one, he realizes he doesn’t want it. Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good is not a Christmas novel per se, but the reader will find herself propelled towards the holy season as the story unfolds like an Advent calendar, with lovely new surprises in every chapter. Each time I read this now seasonal favourite, my soul comes away nourished and satisfied.

* * *

" No man can be called friendless who has
God and the companionship of good books. "
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

Christmas presents for the heart—that is how I'd describe them. If you're missing your family this Covid-spackled Christmas, why not join the convivial Mitford family? You'll be welcomed into the fold, and when you arrive at the last page of any of these tales, you'll feel in your heart that you've had Christmas.


So.... that's my gift to you on this last Friday before Christmas.
Wishing you a beautiful day. Please stay safe.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
♥♥♥





Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Soup For A Wintry Day


" There is nothing like a plate or a bowl of hot soup,
its wisp of aromatic steam making the nostrils quiver with anticipation,
to dispel the depressing effects of a grueling day at the office or the shop,
rain or snow in the streets, or bad news in the papers. "
LOUIS P. DE GOUY, The Soup Book (1949)


Yesterday was grey and snowy out, the kind of day that had one longing for something warm and comforting for supper. Something like soup. I found a lovely online recipe for Best Broccoli Cheese Soup at averiecooks.com. It sounded delicious, easy, and it would be ready in an hour, so we wouldn't have to spend the whole day cooking.

We lined up the ingredients: broccoli, onions, garlic, carrots, chicken stock, flour and butter, cream, and grated sharp cheddar cheese. Besides the usual seasoning of salt and pepper, this recipe included paprika, dry powder mustard, cayenne pepper (just a pinch). They were, in my opinion, the key to turning an ordinary soup into something quite delicious. No wonder the author boasted it was the best—we thought so.



" Soup is the song of the hearth and the home. "
LOUIS P. DE GOUY


Rick and I are good kitchen mates—he's an awesome chopper of all things that need dicing, slicing, and mincing, including those darn onions that will make my eyes weep. I take care of the sautรฉing and stirring, taste testing and pouring.

And, we are both a dab hand at the eating and slurping from soup plates filled with yummy, cheesy goodness. On the side, we served country grain bread toasted with melting butter. Well, I had butter on mine....he had his plain, no butter, all crunchy and dry. ๐Ÿ˜ 

For the complete recipe, click HERE.



" Soup of the evening, beautiful..."
LEWIS CARROLL


* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day. Keep safe.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Monday, December 14, 2020

A Thrill of Hope



" Music is the divine way to tell beautiful,
poetic things to the heart. "
PABLO CASALS


The music of Christmas carols and holiday songs have always been a favourite part of Christmas for me. There are so many favourites I could talk about—I have probably loved them all in turn. But let me take you back in time and share just one carol that touched me as a girl. It still sings in my heart to this day.

I wasn't very old, maybe seven or eight, when I first heard the lovely carol O Holy Night and loved it immediately. I remember feeling something sweet swell up on the inside of me in response to the beautiful voice soaring on the top of that enthralling melody...."A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices...". It wasn't the words that stopped me in my tracks as a youngster; it was the music that made a place for those words to live in my memory forever. As I grew up the words took on meaning, especially when hard things made my heart weary. 

There are seasons when we almost fall beneath the weight of the world's woes, the sorrows and suffering of people near and far, our own personal burdens. This has not been an easy year for anyone. There comes a fresh reminder every time I hear the song—perhaps a reminder for each of us—that God is with us in the midst of these hard times and places. I never have to carry these burdens by myself. If I ask, Jesus, where are you in all this, there comes the thrill of hope as He gently reminds me a name that was given to him according to ancient texts: Emmanuel, which means 'God with us'.

Not that many days from now we have a party to celebrate, albeit in smaller than usual fashion this year. In the fairy tale, Santa Claus comes to visit once a year and returns to the North Pole, but in another story Emmanuel once came and He stayed. God With Us. He lived physically on this planet for a while—now He dwells in hearts. In those words I feel a thrill of hope. I hope you will feel it too.


Wishing you a beautiful day.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Photo credit:
(Top) Image by Islem Benzegouta from Pixabay






Friday, December 11, 2020

Books At Christmas—For The Young and Young At Heart



" Reading gives us some place to go
when we have to stay where we are. "
MASON COOLEY


Well, that line by Mason Cooley certainly fits for these days, doesn't it? Thank goodness for our books—they have been a boon in these troubling times. It has been several months now since I posted to the Pressing My Books into Service series I began in Spring during the first pandemic lockdown.

We're not out of the woods yet, and since it's nearly Christmas, I want to include a post or two about my favourite books at this time of year. Things are not looking good Covid-wise here in Alberta at the moment. With high numbers testing positive, there are current restrictions for all social gatherings; there are to be no gatherings, including Christmas, until early January. So I once again draw solace from my dear old books to help pass the time and buoy my spirits.

Today I want to share five books from my shelf that fit in the young readers category—the child in me ever continues to delight in them. I love children's book of all sorts, but especially beautifully illustrated picture books, of which there are three in this list. These children's books have been my friends for a long time, and I am happy to share a browse with you today.

* * *

But first....I can't talk about Christmas books without also fondly remembering my old childhood favourites, stories such as:
- A Visit From St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore - I loved this story especially when it was read aloud to us. Who can forget the opening lines: 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house.
- Egermeier's Bible Story Book, Illustrated by Providence Lithograph Co. - I loved to read the Christmas stories and especially adored those beautifully illustrated pictures of the manger scene, the shepherds tending sheep on the dark hillside, and the Wise Men following the Star to Bethlehem; I'd read the story and study the pictures for hours.

- The Christmas Story as told from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2. I grew up hearing the  King James Version. The opening line was as exciting to me as any story that began with 'once upon a time'.... "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed...". 

- Heidi by Johanna Spyri - reading it at Christmas imagining all that snow high in the Alps and the evergreens sighing in the wind while Heidi slept in the attic of her Grandfather's chalet, sleighing with him to the village below, toasting bread and cheese on the open fire.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - I never tired of the delightful accounts of when the girls buy little gifts for Marmee, find their little books under their pillows on Christmas morning, practice their lines for their holiday entertainment, and take their Christmas breakfast to the sick family.
- The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen - reading how a little girl shivered in the cold as she tried to warm herself by lighting the match sticks. How I shivered and was so glad for my warm house and good food and loving parents. 




" Before they read words,
children are reading pictures. "
DAVID WIESNER



ONE

Text by Margaret Wise Brown
 Illustrations by Anne Mortimer

This delightful story by Margaret Wise Brown was first published in 1949 and was republished years later with Anne Mortimer as its illustrator. I didn't know this book as a child, but I have loved it ever since I discovered it more than a decade ago. It's a picture book with a 'simple, rhythmic story' and winsome watercolour illustrations that invites young readers to follow along with Pussycat as she learns Christmas is coming, plays in the snow, and watches Christmas preparations get underway. If you love pictures books, if you love Christmas, or if you love kitty cats, you will love this storybook.

" She heard the rustle of tissue paper, the whisper of snow,
and the twinkle of bells. She smelled the sharp tangy smell of candles,
and nuts  and apples. And she saw the sparkling gold, silver, and blue lights
on the tree. This, to Pussycat, was Christmas Eve. "



TWO

A Book of Picture Riddles
Photographs by Walter Wick
Riddles by Jean Marzollo
1992

This Level 1 reader entertains children and adults alike as they solve the riddles and play I Spy in search for the hidden objects. Believe me, it's not as easy or quick as one might think. Settle in with your cup of cocoa, put on your thinking cap, clean your eyeglasses, and have a whirl.

" I spy an ice cube, a little twist of lime,
A carrot for a nose, a slim silver dime; "



THREE

by Trisha Romance
2007
"A gentle old carpenter who has spent his whole life in the service of others has finally begun to build his own home in a quiet meadow, with nothing but a small reindeer to keep him company. Finishing by winter seems like an impossible task, but the carpenter reaps the years of kindness he has sown, and his neighbors return his love by helping complete his new home by Christmas. He has a wonderful surprise in store for them, making this Christmas one that everyone will cherish forever."   

A beautiful story for the young and for the young at heart. I had the lovely opportunity to meet Trisha Romance in person as she autographed my book when she visited our community. It was a special moment for me. If you like Trisha's art, you will find this beautifully written and illustrated book most enchanting.




"Won’t you be lonely?" the youngest one asked.

With smiling eyes, the carpenter answered,
"Don’t worry. I’m not alone. Does the moon feel lonely in a sky full of stars?"

A STAR FOR CHRISTMAS



FOUR

and Other Holiday Stories
By L.M. Montgomery (1874 - 1942)
Edited by Rea Wilmshurst
1995

I bought this book one Christmas with full intentions of giving it as a gift to a young niece. I'm not sure what happened as some time later I found it still in my possession. Perhaps I'd put it away and when Christmas came I forgot I had it. Now, all these years later, my nieces are all grown up, and it's become a part of my small collection of holiday books.

This anthology of sixteen short stories features some well-loved characters from the Anne books, as well as plenty of new characters. It celebrates the joys and tribulations of Christmas and the hope of the new year--stories of happy reunions, the ending of a family feud, a Christmas hamper that saves the day in a snowstorm, to name a few. Included are two chapters (favourites for me) from the Anne novels: Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves (Anne of Green Gables) and Katherine Brooke Comes To Green Gables (Anne of Windy Poplars). Anyone who enjoys LMM's writing will undoubtedly enjoy these stories written in the author's charming style we have come to recognize and love.

L.M. Montgomery wrote many short stories for various publications over her lifetime as a writer, and it was through the careful curation by Editor Rea Wilmshurst that many of these lost stories have been rediscovered and republished. Christmas With Anne is one such book.



FIVE

Jan Brett's
G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of 
Penquin Putnam Books for Young Readers
2001
 
This is a real favourite. Rick gave it to me for Christmas one year. I was thrilled as I had already come to love and appreciate Jan Brett's gorgeous artwork and had presented copious copies to the children in my life. Ms Brett is fabulous at colour and detail and making your imagination sizzle.

This Christmas Treasury contains seven of her most famous and best-selling books: The Mitten, The Wild Christmas Reindeer, Trouble with Trolls, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The Hat, Christmas Trolls, The Night Before Christmas. When it first came out, a review by The New Yorker said, "No one can render snow and Scandinavian winter more gorgeously than Jan Brett." I must agree.

It's a collection for readers of all ages—the stories are appealing, the artwork is sublime.



" Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and
love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for
having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime. "
LAURA INGALLS WILDER

* * *

I hope you get a chance to read a children's Christmas book this season. The best fun would be to read it with a child, but that will not be possible for many of us this year. At least not in person; I imagine reading is not quite the same on Zoom. No snuggles or wiggles but you could get the giggles. It can still make memories for the future, and that's got to be a lovely thing.


Wishing you a beautiful weekend.
Heart Hugs,
Brenda
♥ ♥ ♥


Photo Credits:
(Top) Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
(Second) Image by sobima from Pixabay
 (Remainder) photos by Brenda C Leyland (that's me!)



Monday, December 07, 2020

The Daybook: December Edition



"…I pray this winter be gentle and kind –
a season of rest from the wheel of the mind…"
JOHN GEDDES, A Familiar Rain


Many people are disheartened about current Covid restrictions to not gather with family and friends over the Christmas holidays. Of course, it's disappointing but better safe than sorry is my feeling about it. I prefer an 'empty' table this Christmas to ensure (fingers crossed) a full table with no one missing because of the virus next year. As we wait, we can dream about what a celebration we're going to have when it is finally safe to do so.

In the meantime, weirdo that I am sometimes, I admit to being excited about the shift in the usual traditions. Some years I might have been upset about it, but I don't feel that way this year—it's been odd already anyways, and we've had to learn to adapt all along. It's one more 'adventure' to add to the memory pile. Besides, the interruptions of the usual gives us room to pause, to reflect on what really matters, to notice what still remains when all the shaking stops.  

It will be just the two of us this year for Christmas Dinner. Of course, we will celebrate the season, but everything will be simpler and smaller. We'll have our bite of turkey with our favourite stuffing and gravy and cranberries. I am already dreaming of simple ways the two of us can spread Christmas treats over the month instead of trying to cram them into those one or two days.

Making the best of Covid restrictions with a good attitude may turn out to have lovely surprises waiting in the wings if we let it. It's true, I might feel differently if my circumstances were less congenial here in my home with my dear heart husband. So I only speak for myself. In this unprecedented year where we've had to live inside each other's pockets 24/7, I have found that my husband of 22 years is indeed a boon companion with whom to share this unexpected journey. 

I promised you the Daybook edition, so let's begin. Today I'm using prompts from The Simple Woman's Daybook, and I have also added a few of my own. I hope you enjoy, I thought of you as I was writing.  




FOR TODAY



Outside my window...
Oh, the weather outside is frigh delightful
It's mild and sunny—we're grateful
Sunrises at 8:30 ish these mornings
Sunsets around 4:15 ish
Stunning performances of both these past days.


I am thinking...
of the
tiniest visit
three or four minutes
when someone special arrived
at the front door the other evening

no happy hugs or handshakes
no proper invite to 'please come in'
no cheery chats or heart to hearts

just a package drop off
a quick hello
a farewell wave from the front door
as she drove away

One day....


I am thankful...
fingers crossed and prayers breathed, 
so far we are all still well and safe.


One of my favourite things...
at this time of year is reading and reciting the old beloved words
of the Christmas Story as written in the Gospel of Luke.
I grew up on the King James Version so its familiar rhythms
comfort me as I hear them. Especially when Linus recites it.


I am wearing...
My new black skinny jeans, black cotton shirt, patterned wool socks in grey and teal.
#Breakingnews: I had the recent gleeful pleasure of ordering jeans one size smaller. It was to the point where, if I didn't buy a new pair soon, I was gonna need suspenders to hold the whole thing up. It's a good problem, yes? My determined effort to walk every day and eat smaller portions, with fewer cookies at teatime, paid off. Did I say I felt gleeful? I do pass the mirror often these days to admire my more svelte self.
  
I am creating...
my own beautiful world inside my head.
๐Ÿ˜‰


I am watching...
more sunrises and sunsets than ever this fall.
Some have been over-the-top glorious. Have you noticed that too?




I am reading...
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. An old treasure,
the story is familiar, but every time I read it this time of
year, it becomes alive and fresh again. I do enjoy finding my
favourite passages...lines like these:

"Life is sweet. . . Beyond the pain, life continues to be sweet.
The basics are still there. Beauty, food and friendship, reservoirs of love
and understanding. Later, possibly not yet, you are going to need others
who will encourage you to make new beginnings. Welcome them.
They will help you move on, to cherish happy memories and confront
the painful ones with more than bitterness and anger."




I am listening to...
An English choir singing the lovely old carol In the Bleak Midwinter. I came to this carol late in life—I never heard it growing up, but it has become a new favourite. The carol is based on a poem entitled ‘A Christmas Carol’ by English poet Christina Rossetti, which was first published in January 1872. The poem was eventually set to a melody by composer Gustav Holst and was published under the title ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ in The English Hymnal. 
I am hoping...
that Santa still comes this year (surely he's
exempt from Covid restrictions).  


I am learning...
that if one wants to sneak a bit of chocolate in the middle of an afternoon
while reading, one should remove all noisome cellophane wrappers beforehand.
 



Our Christmas Tree 2020
" Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard, or too sad
when you've got a Christmas tree in the living room. "
NORA ROBERTS


In the kitchen...
Not doing much old-fashioned Christmas baking this year. But
my good friend Heather is running a small business
selling her famous gingersnaps. We've placed our order.


Imagining it...
" Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a
wintry fireside; candles at four o’clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair
tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies
to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without. "
THOMAS DE QUINCEY, Confessions of an English Opium Eater


Something different this Christmas...
Plans are underway in this household to make an Afternoon Tea for Two
one day close to Christmas. We'll spend the morning
making tiny scones, fancy finger sandwiches, and a sweet or two.
We've got a lovely Assam tea with bergamot and lavender with which
to pair it all. Of course, we'll use the pretty china. 


In the garden...
Everything is under snow, and our feathered friends keep Rick
busy filling the feeders—nuthatches, chickadees, finches, northern flickers,
downy woodpeckers. Our birdseed supplier hasn't had peanuts in stock
for a while so our bluejays got fed up and went elsewhere. ๐Ÿ˜ข


A favourite link...
My dear friend, Joy, wrote a wonderful post on her blog
Scraps of Joy about the hope that has kept her going
during this difficult year of the pandemic. Beautiful words.


A favourite quote...
“Shut the door not that it lets in the cold
but that it lets out the coziness.”
MARK TWAIN



A moment from my day...
A new Christmas swag on our front door.
I made the bow myself after
watching helpful videos on YouTube.
 

Closing notes...
Keep watching for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,
Take joy in what you do have.
Go for short walks. Or long ones. Stand on your front step
and breathe lusty breaths of fresh air.
Clear your head and calm your heart.

Stay safe and well, dear hearts.

* * *

With love,
Brenda
 ♥ 


PS. Remember my sweet Puppy encounter of the other day?
My BIL sent photos of grandkids, which included one with
a glimpse of Puppy playing in the snow with her new older
brother. Her tail, up in a jaunty wave, was a happy sighting.

 

(Top) Image by Gudrun Becker from Pixabay




Friday, December 04, 2020

Five on Friday: Hints of Christmas


Notice the gifts


" Reflect on your present blessings of which every (wo)man has many,
not on your past misfortunes, of which all (wo)men have some. "
CHARLES DICKENS



December is already well on its way, and the decorating is coming along at a peaceful pace. We are not in any rush this year—simplicity is our key. As hints of Christmas appear in various corners around the house, I thought you might like a peek.




ONE

" Poinsettia all blooming on the table centre sit,
Now we are ready to share our delight... "
DAVE TIMPERLEY, Christmas 2016


It was early afternoon when I took this picture, but already the sun feels like
late afternoon. I love the shadows and slant of the winter light at this time of year.




TWO


Christmas—that magic blanket that wraps itself about us,
that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance.
It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting,
or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance—
a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.
AUGUSTA E RUNDEL




THREE


Take JOY in the world around you.
Scatter JOY with smiles and acts of kindness.
Sing to the world JOY.





FOUR


Oops, that candle sat a little too close to the fireplace. Rick was going to take care of it
but I said, "No, wait, I have to take a photo—that'll be good fodder for the blog post."
It looks like jade and not wax. I know I need a new candle now, but
I'm loathe to discard this bit of melted marvel.




FIVE


" The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned
and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads
and serious faces with a Christmas greeting. "
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, Little Women




BONUS

Like the lilies,
bloom beauty to your last breath.


" May your walls know joy;
may every room hold laughter
and every window open to great possibility. "
MARY ANNE RADMACHER-HERSHEY


* * *

I'll be back Monday with December's edition of The Simple
Woman's Daybook. Wishing you a beautiful weekend. Stay safe.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox