Friday, December 23, 2022

It's Nearly Here...

"It is Christmas in the heart
that puts Christmas in the air."

I started to work on this new blog post several times now. I have so many things I want to share with you. Fun stuff, and book stuff, and Christmas around the house stuff. Baking stuff and cold weather stuff. Alas, my blogging muse has already booked off for the holidays and she doesn't seen a'tall interested in coming back for a few hours to help me out.

I admit to feeling very festive myself today. It started in earnest yesterday morning when Rick and I visited the Italian Centre to do a little Christmas 'baking' at their bakery (such yummy treats). Treats to share with our lovely neighbours.

Then I saw on Facebook that a writer and fellow blogging friend posted a plea for donations. She works at one of the city libraries and mentioned how some of their visitors are in need of toques and mittens and socks. With the cold weather, their stock has run low. Thinking of the brutal weather of these past weeks, our hearts quaked to imagine people going about not properly dressed. So we dropped into Marks and bought a big bag of warm things. I think my friend was amazed that we'd come all the way into town. And that's when the Christmas spirit floated in . . . our hearts expanded knowing this was something that really mattered, offering something that will provide some comfort to someone on these harsh days. We've been waiting to feel that wonderment of Christmas . . . and now it's here. Now this is Christmas.

I've been rereading a few blog posts from Christmases Past. I'm amazed, and humbled, to say that they continue to sparkle with life and hope and joy. Even for me, the author of them. If you're looking for something today to comfort or lift up and cheer, perhaps something in these two posts will light your candle:

'Christmas On'
Dec 21, 2021
"Well here it is, the first official day of winter, and it's just four more sleeps until Christmas. I woke early to find moonbeams streaming into our bedroom. The ghostly globe hung high... CLICK TO READ MORE

'A Wee Chat Before Christmas'
Dec 23, 2020
"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 in the hedges. Oh my, such a marvelous beginning to...  CLICK TO READ MORE 

There will be other days to tell you all the other things I wanted to chat about. Now it's time to wish you a Happy Christmas . . . it's my heart wish that your own hearts will be filled with peace and joy and the comfort of some of life's little pleasures.

"God bless us, everyone!"

With love,

Photo credits:

Top Image by Zsolt from Pixabay
Middle Image by Stefan Nyffenegger from Pixabay
Bottom Image by Brenda Leyland

Sunday, December 11, 2022

December Daybook Notes: Getting All Cozy

"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 time for home."

Happy Sunday! Hope you enjoy my December edition of Daybook Notes.....

Outside my window: As I write this, it's a colder day here this morning, with the palest of sunshine and faded blue skies. On milder days, the birds come for their first feed as the sun rises, and then they tend to fly off and aren't around much. I suppose because they don't need ALL their energy just to keep warm, and they can fly and forage further afield. Today they stay close to their seed trays. I came across a lovely line attributed to Pope Pius XII: "Feeding the birds is also a form of prayer." To the One who notices when little sparrows fall, surely it's a most acceptable prayer.  

Inside the house: The pencil tree is up and has been sending out cozy vibes the last couple of weeks. Other corners are slowly being decorated, as I set out something festive every day, a little like opening a new window on an Advent calendar. Will include some photos next time.

What I'm wearing: At this moment it's still morning and, yes, I'm still in my jammies. I wanted to get straight to it before I lost any of the 'youthful' zest of early morning. It makes me feel on top of things when I get straight to it. Then, once I've passed that crucial good start, I can relax and go get myself ready for the rest of the day.

Plans for the day: The day is still young, and after a very decent sleep, I feel quite ambitious today. My aim is to finish this post and have it up by day's end. Plus, I hope to wrap up (see below)...

Writing Christmas cards: Started writing cards the other day, and today there's just a tiny pile to finish off. Rather than trying to find room enough on my small writing desk in the study for this beloved holiday tradition, I made myself a writing station at one end of the dining room table, where I can hear the Christmas music playing, enjoy the warm lights on our new pencil tree, and spread out my assortment of festive cards, envelopes, stamps, stickers, address book, pens, and glue stick.

A Little Day Dream: I love my small and cozy study with my books arranged around me, but there are days when I yearn for it to be just large enough to house a nice-sized work table, like the one I showed you in this POST. To have a place where I could spread out my books and paper and notebooks, and have lots of breathing space to muse and play with my thoughts and ideas. But square footage-wise, well, it can only remain a dream at this point. 

A peek at my writing desk: I love my writing desk in my snug study. This photo is from a few years ago. It's so cozy to sit here at this time of year. As you sort of see, there really isn't a whole lot of room to spread out when space is required.

I am looking forward: To baking a small batch of Mary Berry's Shortbread, to which I want to add some orange zest (about a tsp or two) to the recipe. I saw Miranda Mills and her mom Donna sampling orange shortbread on her Christmas vlog from a couple of years ago - I don't recall which one, sorry. She didn't share the recipe they used but there's a similar one of Mary Berry's HERE.

With me still carefully watching my sugar and carb intake, even with my good lab results of a few months ago, I found something that might work for a small, not too dangerous holiday treat that includes dark chocolate. I found this recipe (and photo) in an old Christmas magazine I'd saved from years ago.

Fruit and Nut Clusters

150g / 5oz dark chocolate
3 tablespoons shelled and toasted nuts (eg, hazelnut, peanut)
3 tablespoons raisins (or craisins)

Melt chocolate in a mixing bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.
Stir in nuts and raisins. With a teaspoon, drop clusters onto a parchment paper covered tray.

Now I haven't tried this recipe, but it sounds delicious. I am a little surprised at how small a batch this makes. I'm trying to imagine 6 tablespoons of nuts and raisins. How many clusters would that make? Surely a person would have to double or triple the recipe unless you're the only one planning to sample.

A early Christmas delivery arrived yesterday: An IKEA bookcase for my study! Which means a wild afternoon of assembling and scratching one's head about the directions. Thankfully Rick volunteered to take it in hand, and it turned out to be fairly straight forward. I've been wanting a new shelving unit for a while now—to finally get the growing stacks of books off the floor. So when Rick asked what I wanted for Christmas, I knew what I wanted right away. Once "Santa" has assembled it, he can put a big red bow on top—my reminder that Christmas presents don't always fit under the tree in book size boxes. And, occasionally they show up a little early.

I was musing with my sis-in-law, in years past, such a present would not have been considered good gift material, but rather more in keeping with the frowned upon frying pans and irons. But things change as we mature. It truly matters less about what's under the Christmas tree. Or, even if it gets under the tree. Yes, I admit, Christmas presents gaily wrapped in bright paper and pretty bows is a joy I don't quite want to give up entirely, but my new shelf fits the bill perfectly this year. I'm going to have so much fun filling my shelves. And yes, I will show pictures when it's all settled.

Just finished reading: Once Upon A Wardrobe by Patti Callahan. What a delightful story, with its hint of fairy tale magic, very much in keeping with the other book using 'wardrobe' in its title. Young George Devonshire falls under the spell of his favourite story: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. His older sister, Megs, sets out to fulfill her beloved brother's last wish to find out where Narnia came from and visits the author himself. Set in 1950 just weeks before Christmas, this is a perfect little book to curl up with a hot cocoa or spiced tea on a wintery afternoon. 

A wonderful quote from The Christmas Chronicles: I've got Nigel Slater's gorgeous book The Christmas Chronicles on my bedside table. It's great for dipping into at the end of a busy day when a person wants something gentle and comforting before drifting off to sleep. Here are a lovely few lines about coming in from the cold that he writes so cozily about:
"It is just as good to come in. You stamp to shake the snow from your boots. The flakes of snow on your coat melt instantly. Your glasses steam up. You close the door and thank God you remembered to put the hall light on a timer.

You hang up your coat, tug off your boots and light the fire. You will probably put the kettle on or pour yourself a drink. No so much as a way to get warm, more to welcome yourself home. Home means more to us in cold weather. Making ourselves comfortable is a duty. Making friends and family comfortable is an art.

'Come in.' Two short words, heavy with meaning. Step out of the big, bad, wet world and into my home. You'll be safe here, toasty and well fed. 'Come in.' They are two of the loveliest words to say and to hear."

On that note: Time has come to say goodbye. Evening shadows have fallen around my study, and it's more than time to turn on the lamps. As I close I'm spreading out my arms and sending you a big heart hug, with lots of wishes for a beautiful week ahead. It's two weeks until Christmas, can you believe it?

Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,

Photo Credits:
Top Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
Other photos are mine

Friday, December 02, 2022

Five Wintery Quotes

"It was a day when frost and sunshine
combined went to one's head like iced champagne."
from The Irish R.M., 1928

Read the above quote this early morning—it's today's selection from the Nature Writing for Every Day of the Year book I mentioned in yesterday's POST. Our own morning dawned soft pink and pale lemon and breathtakingly cold. The birds are busy at the feeders, and the squirrel wastes no time to nab a few freeze-dried mountain ash berries for his breakfast.

On this first Friday of December, here are five quotes I'm enjoying as the season gets underway in earnest. We're writing out Christmas cards, gently celebrating someone's birthday with a delicious-looking carrot cake waiting in the kitchen for afternoon tea. Wishing you a bit of bliss. 🎄💖

"So quiet and subtle is the beauty of December
that escapes the notice of many people their whole
lives through. Colour gives way to form: every
branch distinct, in a delicate tracery against the sky.
New vistas, obscured all Summer by leafage, now open up."

"In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter long ago."

"May and October, the best-smelling months? I'll make a case
for December: evergreen, frost, wood smoke, cinnamon."

"At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows."

"As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded
by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that
there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation,
and people to whom we are worth the same."

This is my second post in as many days. Perhaps there's a pattern forming to do an Advent post more often than my usual once a week. I won't promise, but you might find a few more than usual bonus posts in celebration of winter and Christmas.

Until next time, stay safe and warm,

Photo Credits:
Top: Image by Peggy Choucair from Pixabay
One: Image by Mark Martins from Pixabay
Two: Image by Peggy Choucair from Pixabay
Three: Image by Susanne Jutzeler, Schweiz from Pixabay
Four: Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
Five: Image by Gerhard from Pixabay

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Three Books I'm Dipping into for Advent

"In the winter she curls up around a good book
and dreams away the cold."

After a couple of snowy, blowy days, everything was fresh and soft this morning. The pale lemon sunshine reminded me that, although the world looked pretty outside, it was best to dress up warm when going out. Winds were still sharp with temperatures well below zero. 

As mentioned in my previous post I took a few days away for some needful chores. And, after getting done some real dusting, decluttering, and setting things in order, the house once again feels snug...and ready for the coming season. I even packed up a few bags for the thrift store and did a major clear out of the laundry/cleaning supply/vase collection cupboard. Oh my, what an assortment of old bottles of this cleaner and that one—it was much like how shampoo and lotion bottles collect under the bathroom sink with their last bit in the bottom because someone conveniently forgets it's there and starts the fresh, new bottle. So, with the slate clean, I've been slowly adding touches of greenery, strings of twinkle lights, and it's starting to feel quite cozy and festive about the place.

Reading comes front and center in my world during this time of year. I think it's so for many of us. Reading and dark, cold nights are suited to each other like mugs of hot chocolate and snappy cookies. I like to bring out all my favourite seasonal books as I decide which ones I'll read through December, the holidays, and into January. Today I want to share three books I plan to dip into every day during these Advent count down days. These three books are each organized to have a specific short reading for every day, each with their own focus, as you'll see below. At this time, I don't have any set Advent rituals that I bring out from year to year, but I do enjoy taking time for a little Advent-focused reading, to set my thoughts on my reasons for this season. The other favourite seasonal books on my Winter-Christmas shelf will also make congenial companions for the wintering season—I'll share about those another day.

And so to these three...

Janet Morley

I read this book last December and felt drawn to it again, if only so I can feast all month on its gorgeous front cover. The cover image is by Lisa Graa Jensen and it's called "Winter Woolies, Surrey Hills". This book is meant for the heart. As the back cover says, "Here, the reader is given an opportunity to engage in a pilgrimage of the heart, through Advent and Christmas to the feast of the Epiphany. Each day—from 1 December to 6 January—offers a poem . . . and an accessible commentary that is both critically informed and devotional in intent." Some poets are familiar to me, some are not: Rowan Williams, Elizabeth Jennings, Edwin Muir, Philip Larkin, T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, Gerald Manly Hopkins, P.J. Kavanagh, and more.

Edited by Jane McMorland Hunter

I purchased this book at the recommendation of Miranda Mills on one of her Christmas vlogs. This book is for that part of us that connects to and finds solace in the beauty of nature. There are daily entries for every day of the year. And since I couldn't wait until January to begin this lovely book, I'm starting at the back in the December section. Short entries, barely a page each, are excerpted from many authors, including people like David Attenborough, Wilkie Collins, Rachel Carson, etc. In the Introduction, Ms. Hunter explains, "I have compiled two collections of nature poetry, and while doing so, I came to realize that many of the very best nature writers never wrote poetry and that many of the most moving descriptions of the natural world appear as prose rather than verse. Equally, writers such as Jane Austen, Thomas de Quincy, Daphne du Maurier and Samuel Johnson may not be best known for their descriptions of the natural world, but write on nature with great insight and feeling."

I suppose that's why even my novels are often starred beside exquisite lines that describe the natural world in which a story is set.  

Notes, stories & 100 essential recipes for midwinter (2017)
by Nigel Slater

This is a book for lovers of food and winter. In it, the author shares his deep love for the season of winter—which started as a boy—and his love of food and cooking. A line from the back cover he says, "With recipes, fables and quick fireside suppers from November to early February, I take you through my essential preparations for Christmas and the New Year and everything you need to enjoy the winter months." This book also came recommended by Miranda Mills. And, already I'm drawn to Nigel Slater's beautiful writing about living in his favourite season of the year. I'm glad I love winter too. Looking forward to reading this rather full volume at 450 pages.

On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful month ahead,

Photo Credits:
Top Image by Danuta from Pixabay
Book images are mine