Friday, December 30, 2011

Changing things up...

In the center of my beautiful dining room table I have a collection of crystal candlesticks. They are different shapes and styles, and I love how when the sun streams through my window a thousand tiny rainbows dance on the walls and ceiling. Yesterday when I was putting Christmas decorations away I moved some things around. I replaced the dining room candles with a huge white platter and an old fashioned oil lamp. It looks simple, fresh and clean.
Then I shined up the crystal and moved the candle sticks to the window in my kitchen. Last night I lit the candles while I cooked and every time I glanced at that table I felt a happy smile creep up on me. Sometimes just moving things around and changing the way you look at them renews the way you see your world. As I prepare to turn the last page on the calendar that was 2011 I have decided to change things up more in the coming year. I am betting my world will look even more beautiful.

Monday, December 26, 2011

And the stockings were hung by the ...

Tiger Lilly the very old Boxer, has been around for 13 Christmas mornings. She knows that those funny socks we hang suddenly sprout toys and treats. When we hang them, she makes a habit of checking them often. On Christmas day her diligence is rewarded. She shows the other dogs that there is something to be excited about. This year there was quite a LOT to be excited about. After our beloved traditional Christmas morning at home, we loaded the three of us and FIVE dogs into Chris' little Subaru. It was a tight squeeze! Then we headed south, over icy roads, through lovely falling snow, to Massachusetts. Because... I went HOME for Christmas. At the age of 51, I am one of the few people I know who can still go HOME... to a house where I lived from birth till college, to a home my father built by hand. My sister and her husband live there now. There were three sisters there this year, with kids and dogs and significant others. There was roast beef cooked to perfection, and music and amazing seasonal decorations. All of this was stirred with laughter and gifts and hugging and pleasant conversation. It was very, VERY good.
I have not been there at Christmas for 23 years or more. I was determined to create traditions of our own for our little family, and I did. When we had a baby I wanted her Christmas memories to be centered at HOME. I didn't want her to remember flitting from place to place, house to house, with no time to play with what Santa brought her. We have had lovely holidays at home, and we have treasured them. Going away was a break in those traditions, but a good one. On the way out of Boxford, Massachusetts this morning we stopped by the cemetery to visit my parents, grandparents and other loved ones. I thanked them for the roots that are my very foundation, and for the warm home to come back to. I paid tribute to the past, was grateful for the present, and took a quiet moment to look, expectantly, to the future. A future that hangs, with care. Much like Lilly the Boxer, who looks often at the stockings, I look towards tomorrow with great expectation.

Friday, December 23, 2011

White Christmas...

I woke before my 5:00 AM alarm this morning. It is my last day of work before a nice winter break, and there is much to do! When I sleepily opened the door to let the dogs out this is the scene that greeted me. The tune, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" marched, unbidden, into my brain. I put my favorite Christmas music on as I worked and watched the snow dancing in the predawn. All is calm, all is WHITE. I baked three loaves of gift bread that had risen next to the wood stove while I slept. I also made two big pans of pasta shells stuffed with a 3 cheese mixture. Quart bags of homemade tomato sauce that I had nestled into the freezer in August topped the shells. One pan will go to work for our annual Christmas party tonight, the other will be for our Christmas Eve feast tomorrow. A bag of carefully wrapped gifts is waiting by the door to go to work. Today promises to be long and rich and full. The festivities are in full swing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Today is the first day of winter. Only 90 days till spring!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Good light...

When I arise in the morning it is pre-dawn. As I drive home from work at 4:30 in the afternoon, it is dark again. People complain about the brevity of winter days, they say it depresses them. Not me. I enjoy coming home over the unlit road and seeing our little home, the windows illuminated by flickering candles. Those little lights glimmering through the gloom are so welcoming. When I come inside the first thing I do is open the vent on the wood stove and toss a couple of logs in. Soon there are dancing flames to delight my soul and warm my body. Then I illuminate "real" candles around the house. When sunlight becomes a rarity during the long, dark, resting days of winter the light cast from flames touches something deep and primal in my soul. Fire on the hearth or the table is good light. Warm, soft and enticing, it encourages me to sit within the limits of its glow and just be still.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


What I love about this season is the BELIEVING.  Or... as someone I treasure once said, "The suspension of disbelief."  We can believe that people can be a little sweeter, kinder, nicer, more thoughtful.  We can believe in the WONDER of a baby born in Bethlehem.  Or even in the magic of Santa.

One thing I believe is that I'll make many, many loaves of bread.  I've given out many so far this month... to the guys who sold us our Christmas tree, to some customers and neighbors and friends. I have more to bake, the starter is fed and bubbling on the counter. I delight in surprising people with a loaf of home made goodness. I believe in generosity.
Lilly, almost 14 years old, (ancient for a Boxer; her muzzle used to be deepest black) believes, with every fiber of her being, that Life is Good.  Tonight I gave her, the alpha dog, the one and only good soup bone I had available.  She looked at me, incredulous.  She looked at the other dogs, haughty.  Then she spent a happy hour gnawing and licking and making yummy noises.  

And you?  What do YOU believe in?  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pretty things...

Here are some lovely things from around our holiday house to share with you.

The ancient hutch in the front room is laden with little lights and Christmas decorations.  My two favorites are here.  My daughter made figures of Mary, baby Jesus and two lovely angels when she was in high school.  I treasure them.  In the next photo is another prize... a nativity scene made by my friend Kathy; one of the first people I met when I moved to Memphis with our tiny infant.  Kathy was a lifeline for me during a lonely time, and I think of her often, especially when I carefully unpack these sweet ceramic figures every December.

The tree this year is decorated rather simply... white lights, little icicle ornaments, crocheted snowflakes and antique crystals (which I gleefully purchased at a variety of antique/junk stores.) It reminds us of starry night and snow and smells like heaven.

The bottom photo shows some knitting projects my daughter and I have been working on.  The purple and blue items are shawls we knit as gifts for some very special people, and the top, frothy looking item is a wonderful scarf which is still "in progress."

We had a visitor once who made my heart sing when she said, "Everywhere I look in your house there is something beautiful to admire."  I try to remember this when I am focusing on the dust bunnies and clutter and doggy nose prints on the windows.  There is so much pretty here to focus on instead.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Plenty and Grace...

This little sign hangs outside the door of our home.  I find it to be a wonderful, simple blessing.

This time of year our home is bursting with plenty.  The harvest of chickens, ducks, lamb, pork and (soon!) beef is tucked into the huge chest freezer.  A smaller freezer is full of squash, carrots, beans, blueberries and quart bags stuffed full of tomato sauce made on a steaming day in August. 
Now in December we've been scurrying around for weeks squirreling away gifts for each other for Christmas.  Thoughtful things that we hope will delight are wrapped with love and tucked under the boughs of a fresh evergreen tree.
Best of all there is the coming together each evening after a long day at work.  The ease and comfort of good companionship, pleasant conversation and companionable silences.  That is the grace.
How I love to be in this place. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011


The decking of the "halls" has commenced.  Today I gussied up a plain wreath I bought a few days ago.  I found these awesome hand-made felt birds at a local store for under $4. each.  I snapped up one of each variety and carefully wired them on.  Added a little sheer gold ribbon and voila!  A smile worthy door decoration. I hung a sweet little illuminated angel in the high garage window, and my favorite Christmas flag is snapping in the wind by the door.  

We also finished decorating the tree... going with a very simplistic theme this year. Normally we haul out every single ornament collected over our entire marriage, all the little hand made things from our daughters childhood, a mish mash collection of colors and shapes and sizes. This year we decided to go for a rather simplistic approach; white lights, white crocheted snow flakes, little sparkly icicle ornaments and a bunch of antique crystals from an old chandelier that I found at a junk shop.  It is very pretty!

There was much hauling of fire wood today.  I don't mind the job, but my knees do.  They ache after I have pushed a loaded wheelbarrow over the uneven ground from one side of the yard to the other over and over.  A basement stacked full of good hard wood, though?  That is decorating I can really warm up to!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Frosty mornings...

 This morning when the dogs and I streamed outside the world was coated in frost. We skidded over the deck and down the slick steps. 
Then we went for a stroll around the meadow.  The dogs were feeling feisty; leaping and dancing on the cold ground. Even Lilly, the ancient, arthritic Boxer, bounced and spun in the crisp air with her friend Dazzle poodle.  Canine ballet.

The chickens and ducks were less than amused about the cold ground and frozen water bowls.  I reminded them that this time of year is rarely as warm as it has been .  They flipped me off.  A few fistful's of sunflower seeds and some buckets of warm water, steaming in the morning air,  placated them. 
The bunny wisely hung out in the coop... on top of the deep bed of clean shavings.  Her bowl of rabbit pellets was nearby... along with  a carrot and some celery.  And a nibble of bread.  She LOVES bread. 

Some of us love frosty mornings. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let the season begin...

When I flipped the calender to December, I let the season officially begin.  I rebel against seeing Christmas glitz in stores in October, and do my best to let no carols touch my ears before the beginning of the month.  But today all bets were off.  My daughter and I donned matching red and green earrings shaped like the bulbs on a strand of lights, that FLASHED.  Yes, yes we did.  The dogs got dressed up in appropriate costumes, (much to their "delight") and we loaded the CD player at work up with seasonal music.  And the magic began a little bit... that feeling.  That feeling of happiness and anticipation and JOY.  The excitement of planning gifts for people I care about.  The plotting of baking goodies to share.  The delight of seeing people blossom a bit this time of year, become a little warmer, a little sweeter and more thoughtful.  It was a good day.