Saturday, December 29, 2018

My Word for 2019 - GLORY!

Since 2012, which is the first time I have a record of doing so, I have prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to speak a word over my life for the upcoming year. So far, these are the words I have received.

Surrender (2012) - In November 2012, I accepted Christ as my personal Savior.

Freedom (2013) - 2013 was a year of fighting for continued freedom from oppression/depression

Hope (2014) - In 2014 I began to have hope that I would live in full freedom.

Goodness (2015) - In 2015, God declared His goodness to me, and I learned that if you do not, at your core, believe that God is good, nothing else you believe matters.

Trust (2016) - 2016 was a hard year for our family.  Bill and I separated, and had the Holy Spirit not spoken trust over my life in late 2015, I am not sure I would have survived.

Joy (2017) - In late 2016 when I first began praying and asking the Holy Spirit for my word, I was anything but joyful.  Bill and I were still separated and I had every reason to give into the old demons of oppression and depression. But because the Holy Spirit had spoken joy over my life, I was held.  My mother passed away in the late Spring of the year, and I was faced for the second time in two years without a home or a plan, but God and joy, guided the way.

Rest (2018) - After several years of struggle, the word rest was a reprieve.  With the sale of my childhood home, I was able to take a year to simply be.  In that time the Holy Spirit did a mighty work, and Bill and I reunited after being separated for two years.

and for 2019, my word is GLORY!

I don't know why it seems odd to me, because it should come as no surprise that God knows me better than I know myself. And yet each year the word always takes me by surprise.  It is never what I expect it to be, or even what I would choose for myself.  But thankfully, "His ways are higher than our ways."

It happens almost the same way each time.  Some time around October I will begin to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His word for the upcoming year.  Typically after a while it will begin to show up, repeatedly, and my spirit will move in such a way that I simply know.  This year, however, was a little different.  It didn't show up repeatedly, but rather unexpectedly, but once I read it and felt that old familiar feeling, I knew.

I was visiting a few blogs that I read on a regular basis, when I came across this post, and as soon as I read the word "GLORY", I knew.  I didn't understand, at first, the word seemed odd, but when I read it again, the Holy Spirit began to reveal the word, and the why.

"Moses was overwhelmed with the responsibility of shepherding an entire nation of stubborn people. It was time to move them out of the temporary home they had settled into at the base of Mount Sinai and lead them into the Promised Land—a vast expanse of terrain that was already occupied by foreign people with large and powerful armies.

After begging for confirmation that God was, in fact, leading them into Operation Take the Land I Have for You, Moses asked for one more sign that God was with them:

“Show me Your glory!,” he whispered toward the end of Exodus 33.

“Okay,” God replied. “I’ll show you My glory by making all of My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you” (vv. 18-19, my paraphrase)"

- Jane Johnson

Like Moses, my life has seen many changes in recent months, and there are more to come. And have I mentioned I don't like change? Even change that is good is hard for me. I want to burrow in, stay settled, and if I do open myself to change, I'd prefer it be pleasurable. (I can hear God laughing!)

I think Moses must have felt the same way. When he envisioned the promised land, after years of leading a stubborn people through the desert, I'm sure it was more along the lines of "Hidden Valley", you know, that sweet little community you see in the backdrop of those commercials? But the land that God had promised was occupied, complete with armies ready for battle. It would be hard fought. God's promise was to be with Moses. in the change, in the battle, that His goodness would pass before him, that His name would be proclaimed, and to show him His glory!

Even though I was saved and began walking in freedom back in 2012, I've learned that salvation is not a one time event, but a life long process.  God, in His mercy, often brings us to repentance "at just the right time", and recently I have been convicted of some attitudes and behaviors that before now, I was unprepared to address, or maybe I was in denial. At any rate, the longer I walk in freedom, the easier it has become to identify the traps. These are the enemies that inhabit the land of my heart and soul, and that I must now battle to drive out and reclaim. A few of them established residence long ago and will be hard fought, but I am ready. Isn't God good?  I've been aware of these changes that I "should" make for awhile now, but in sheer stubbornness I have relented, "That's not really that bad.", "It could be worse, it's not as though I'm (fill in the blank with a sin I deemed worse than my own).  I've made all of the excuses, but as my daughter often says, "It is time to deal!".

I also mentioned the changes that have taken place in my life this year, and I know that with Kate growing up, that there will be more to come. Recently she's been talking with a couple of her girlfriends about the possibility of getting an apartment and moving into together.  She is working full time and going to college. It's odd really, because while I will A L W A Y S be a mother, in many ways I don't feel like one anymore, and nothing really prepares you for that when your children are young. Like Moses, I've been looking to God and asking, "Are you sure this is what my life is supposed to look like right now?  Give me a sign." I don't know what these "Winter Years" of my life will look like. Is it even Winter, or can I still claim Spring? I mean, I'm only 57? :). It's a little unsettling really, I know how I would like to live out the remaining years of life, but like Moses, I hear God saying that there is still work to do. My security is not in a little house in the country, or a meager but sufficient retirement plan, but in God alone. "Show me your glory". Not a sign that all will be well. Not a star to lead me to the destination. But in the struggle, in the unknown, in the change, show me your GLORY!

Shortly after confirming His word for me, I read this verse;

"The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."

~ Zephaniah 3:17

This is my verse for 2019.

So here's to change. To uncharted territory. To driving strongholds from the land. To seeking out His goodness. To proclaiming His name. The Lord, who is in our midst, C L O S E, rejoices over me with gladness, quiets me with His love, and rejoices over me with singing.  Here's to

G  L  O  R  Y!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Tools for Planning in 2019

Today I'm sharing my favorite planning resources for 2019. I originally considered sharing a variety of choices, but the internet is flooded with posts similar to this, that a simple Google or Pinterest search will provide for you. Instead, I'm limiting this post to the resources I either have used in the past, or plan to use again this year.  But if you're looking for other options, you'll find more than you need here!


This will be my third year to use the chalkboard style calendar from Botanical Paperworks. I typically download it about this time each year and save it to my computer. Then at some point during the last week of the month, I'll print out the calendar for the upcoming month and hang it on my refrigerator.  One year I kept three months at a time at easy glance, but I didn't like the busyness of it. In most months there are two calendars, the current month and the upcoming month, displayed for about a week, but then after that I take the previous month down that there is only the current month displayed.  I like to keep things on my refrigerator to a minimum, so this is what works best for me. 

from Botanical Paperworks


from Paper Trail Designs

In years past I've downloaded and printed a number of planner pages, and truth be told, I seldom used them. Every year I tell myself that this will be year I'll be more organized and actually use a planner, and I'll typically spend half a day, downloading, printing, hole punching and setting up a system.  I'll even use it . . . . for a bout a week.  I think my record for actual use is right at two months, and even that wasn't consistent on a daily basis.  

This year I've decided a simple spiral notebook might be a better plan, but I am going to borrow from the layout of the weekly planner page (to the left) and the daily planner pages (below)


from Paper Trail Design

If over the course of a few months I see that I'm being consistent and that the layout is working for me, then I may print a months worth of pages and see how it goes.  But until I find that I am committed to using the format and layout, I'm going to spare myself the time and expense of all the printing and compiling. I do have a planner I intend to use for blogging, but it is digital.  I've never used a digital planner before, but so far it seems to be working. So devising some sort of digital planner might work for me as well, I'll just have to wait and see. In the past I've preferred pages I could see and touch, but as I mentioned, my track record for actually putting them to use is poor, and that's a lot of time and money wasted for something I may not use.


from Paper Trail Designs

A weekly meal planner and grocery list, however, is something I think I could really benefit from printing out and using, or I may opt to simply use this format and include it in my spiral notebook.  Now that Bill and I are back together, I need to include his dietary preferences, and he has also helped me to see that I have a tendency toward making too much food.  It's been a struggle, because I have a lot of meals that I enjoy making and eating, but it doesn't often occur to me that most recipes are written to feed a family.  Bill has specific dietary needs related to his health, and Kate is a bit pickier with food, and/or is often not at home. Frequently I will make a meal only to discover that I'm the only one who will be eating it, FOR A SOLID WEEK! :). Some meals can be frozen, but then there's the little problem I have with remembering to check my freezer inventory before planning to make more meals that will then also have to be frozen! This is an area I could definitely use some improvement in. I need to a.) get better at condensing recipes, say halving them, or perhaps even only making a fourth of what is called for, and b.) learn how to freeze things better so that they aren't ruined by freezer burn (a common occurrence), and then incorporating what I do freeze into the menu rotation.  If I can succeed in both of these areas, it will save me a lot of time, effort and resources, as well as cushion our budget a little.


I have a system for keeping track of my budget that has worked well for me for years now, so I don't see the point in fixing what isn't broken, but if you're looking for a simple, straight forward tool for tracking a personal or household budget, the format below should do the trick!

from Paper Trail Designs

In the weeks to come, as I put my ideas for planning into practice, I'll keep you updated on how they are working. I am sure that I will have to tweak things a bit until I get it exactly the way I want it, which is one of the reasons why I believe pre-printed planners have never worked for me.  Every time I commit to one, I quickly discover that it doesn't include everything I need. I've toyed with the idea of making my own planner for several years, but once again, until I've consistently worked with a format long enough, I don't even know what I want it to include. That is why I am hoping this year by mapping it out in a spiral notebook, it will reveal exactly what I need! In the mean time, if you have a system or resources that work well for you, please share!  It could be just the element I'm looking to incorporate!

Until then,

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Wonder of Winter

The wonder of winter is . . .
building snowmen; gathering around a crackling fire;
creating play forts from every blanket and pillow in the house;
sipping hot chocolate; sweet kisses under the mistletoe;
ponds turned over to ice rinks; beautifully wrapped packages; 
the solitude a heavy snowstorm brings; twinkle lights
that glitter from rooftops; candles lit to usher in the glow
of what is to come. . .

Friday, December 21, 2018

Winter Solstice 2018

Winter arrived at 5:23 p.m. in the Northern Hemisphere tonight, and I celebrated the occasion, albeit a **bit** untraditionally, I was able to incorporate a few of my favorite things.

My plans were originally much more involved, but. . . .life.  You know how that is, right? With Kate working full time this year, and being in college, her time is very limited, so it has been difficult to coordinate everyone's schedules. With that, we decided to break with tradition and instead of making Grammy's Cabbage Soup, we decided to combine two traditions into one and watch A Christmas Story and order Chinese. But then at the last minute Kate was invited to a party and Bill texted to say he had to work late, so that even our revised plans were revised, once again. I ended up eating a roast beef sandwich and didn't even turn on the t.v. I'll admit, I was more than a little disappointed at first, but in the end it turned out fine.

It wasn't until after dinner that I decided I wanted something a little sweet. So I and make myself a cup of tea and enjoy some gingerbread. Even the gingerbread was store bought this year. That is just how crazy things have been, and thankfully it tasted pretty good! Rather than making lemon sauce, which I still may get around too, I just dusted it a little with some powdered sugar and cut up a clementine to go along with it.

For my tea I chose Craving Crusher again!  It's such a beautiful tea and has such a lovely flavor, and I loved the combination of the slightly tart tea with the sweet gingerbread.  But what excited the most was using my little cast iron kettle, which I gifted myself this past weekend.  My girlfriends and I went on a day trip to Charlottesville and while we were there we stopped in at World Market.  I've been on the hunt for one of these little teapots for awhile now, and I was so excited when I found this one!  The little base you see is for a tea light, which you use to keep your tea warm!  It's almost as lovely just by itself! I wasn't sure how well the tea light would work, but I ended up spending some time catching up on some of my favorite blogs. and the tea was warm enough to pour myself a second cup!  It's such a lovely little piece. and I'm so happy to have it! The beautiful red cup and plate came from World Market too!  I had never been to one before this past weekend, but I will definitely be back!

One tradition that I did keep was making a solstice spiral, which you can see in the very first picture at the top.  I used clementines for my candle holders this year, and added the little white pumpkin to the center. I love how natural it looks, and I thought the winter white pumpkin was fitting as autumn has now ended. The wooden base you see in the center is a table top labyrinth, adorned with greenery around the edges.  I just love the way it turned out, and it looked especially pretty when I lit the candles earlier this evening.

Even though I wasn't able to accomplish everything I had hoped to, and in spite of the fact that our lives and traditions are changing, it was a lovely day. And now I think I'll relax for the rest of the evening, maybe do a little cross stitching and watch a Christmas movie!  Here's wishing you a lovely weekend, and a warm and happy Winter Solstice!

Until then,

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas Long Ago

"Frosty days and ice-still nights,
Fir trees trimmed with tiny lights,
Sound of sleigh bells in the snow,
That was Christmas long ago.

Tykes on sleds and shouts of glee,
Icy-window filigree,
Sugarplums and candle glow,
Part of Christmas long ago.

Footsteps stealthy on the stair,
Sweet-voiced carols in the air,
Stocking hanging in a row,
Tell of Christmas long ago.

Starry nights so still and blue,
Good friends calling out to you,
Life, so fact, will always slow...
For dreams of Christmas long ago."

- Jo Geis, Christmas Long Ago

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Plans For The Winter Solstice - Part 2

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Good Saturday morning, my friends, and welcome! Today's post is a continuation of my previous post, Plans For the Winter Solstice - Part 1, where I discussed a few of the ways we have celebrated this lovely day in the past, and how I am carrying on those traditions into the present.  Today I am going to continue on that theme, and share with you some ideas for a few crafts you can make, and books you can enjoy reading together to add to your festivities.  I'll also include the recipe for Grammy's Cabbage Soup that I mentioned in my previous post, but now, on to the crafts!


One of my favorite crafts to enjoy on this day is making orange clove pomanders. This is such a
lovely craft, and they look so pretty when you place several in a basket along with a few little springs of greenery. One little trick I'll share with you that makes studding them with cloves a little easier, is to mark your design with an ice pick or perhaps a wooden skewer, and then insert the cloves into the holes.  These are great fun to make, and they smell absolutely wonderful! I usually dust mine with a bit of ground cloves as well, and the fragrance is just divine. They look equally as pretty tied up with a length of red ribbon and hung in just the right spot. I plan to set out a few in a little basket, as well as tie up one or two in some black and white checked fabric strips for a little primitive touch.


This year I plan to make a solstice lantern, and **maybe** I can even entice Kate to join in the fun! I came across this idea several years ago, inspired by this post. You will find the instructions for how to make them there, but I am going to variate a little in making mine.

Instead of sequins, I plan to use shapes cut from black construction paper. Following are links to the templates I plan to use. There are a number of designs for stars, here,  and here are a few for the moon, and finally, here is the one I think I'll be using as my pattern for the sun. My thought is that I will print the templates out and trace around them on the construction paper. If you need to adjust the size of the images,  just right click on the image and save it as a picture and then insert them into a document and adjust the size. I hope that makes sense. If you happen to have them, stickers might be another option, especially for the stars, and you could use scrapbook paper to make the shapes, as well!

I also plan to add a wreath of greenery around the top, and perhaps, a handle. I thought it might be nice to take the lanterns and go out on a solstice evening walk. I know I discussed this idea in my previous post, so you could either choose to time your walk just as the sun is about to set, or even later in the evening when it is dark.  The lanterns would also look lovely without a handle, sitting on a shelf or to adorn your dining room table while you enjoy a hot bowl of Grammy's Cabbage Soup! Here's the recipe.


1-2 pounds of pork, roast or loin
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices (2 cups)
 2 medium stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
4 cups chopped cabbage (about 1 medium head)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 cups water
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (you can use less if you don't like it too spicy!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes, undrained

Mix all ingredients in 3 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 9 hours (or high heat setting 4 to 5 hours) or until pork and vegetables are tender.

And now onto the books!


❅ Dear Rebecca, Winter Is Here
by Jean Craighead George

This little book is my absolute all time favorite for sharing with children on this day.  But who am I kidding? I read it again on the winter solstice every year, and probably will again and again!

I am going to share two passages from this book with you that illustrate why I love this particular one so much!  Among other things is that it is presented as a letter between a grandmother and her granddaughter, a sweet sentiment that makes the read all the more lovely!

"Dear Rebecca, I turned on the lights to eat breakfast this morning and put on my coat to go outside. Winter is here. It was brought by by little hands of darkness. Each little hand is a few minutes long. In summer they began bringing winter.  They pulled the night over the edges of the dawn and dusk and made the days shorter.  On June 21, while you were cooling under the house, winter began."

and towards the end, is this lovely passage;

"I light the fire in my fireplace.  You sing jolly songs with your friends. And while you are singing, summer begins. On the 22nd of December, little hands of light begin to push back the edges of the darkness minute by minute. Before very long, you will take off your shoes and and jump over bluebells. I will eat my breakfast outdoors in the sunshine. The birds will return as the days grow longer. The frogs and turtles will come out of the warm mud, and the next thing you know, I'll be writing. Dear Rebecca, summer is here!"

Oh my! I don't know if these words move you as they move me, but they just thrill me!  Perhaps it is grounded in my love of the changing of the seasons, or memories of my own grandmother, though I don't recall her ever writing me a single letter! But I think at the heart of it, it is the kind of grandmother I hope to be. Sharing snippets of my day, things I observed in nature, quotes and passages from books, with my own grandchildren, even in letters! They may find it fun when they are young, or leave the letters unopened in their teens, perhaps. But I do hope they will keep them, and that one day, when they are older, they will be able to return to those sweet sentiments and meet with me again, even after I am gone. I don't mean to sound glum, I really think the idea is lovely. I know I love having things that once belonged my grandmother, and if I had personal letters, that would be all the sweeter!

But now, before I forget, here are a few other books we've enjoyed over the years, all of which are lovely to share with the littles in your life, or even for yourself!  I know for me, I will never grow too old to enjoy a beautifully illustrated picture book!

❅ The Shortest Day
by Wendy Pfeffer

❅ The Winter Solstice
by Millbrook Press

❅ The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales From Around The World For The Winter Solstice
by De Capo Press

The following titles do not focus on the solstice, but make lovely reads on this day.

 The Story of the Snow Children
by Sibylle von Olfers

❅ The Tomten
by Astrid Lindgren

And now, my friends, I will close.  I do have a few other books, more along the lines of the history and how to celebrate line and geared more toward adults, that I want to share with you, but I am going to wait and share them on Monday.  Today I hope to finally get around to baking some cookies, and I need to get an early start!  I pray that your day is blessed and that you have been inspired to indulge in your own celebrations!  And if you have your own traditions for celebrating the solstice, please leave a comment and share them with us!

Until then,

Friday, December 14, 2018

Plans For The Winter Solstice - Part 1

"Early nightfall. Crisp mornings. The sharp silhouette of leaf-bare branches. Orion marching across the evening sky. These are some familiar signs of winter. We often speak of turning inward during these darker months, becoming quiet and introspective, staying home more often, sleeping longer. Yet there’s another side to winter that contrasts with our natural inclination to rest and contemplate—a side that insists we shop til we drop, eat and drink more than we care to, and rush around busy airports. Regardless of our spiritual or cultural heritage, if we live in North America today there’s a good chance we find ourselves caught up, perhaps involuntarily or out of habit, in a commercial swirl known as “the holidays” that leaves us depleted in more ways than one."

- Susan Wasinger, Mother Earth Living

Enter, the winter solstice, which will officially arrive on December 21 at 5:23 p.m. For reasons I can't really explain, this is, perhaps, my favorite day of the year.  There are many days that hold special, personal meaning to me, and this is definitely one of them! I love Christmas and all that it entails, but there is just something about the winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year, that is special to me.

We have observed this day over the years with various, simple celebrations, but as the girls have grown up, my celebrations have become much more personal in nature. Building upon the traditions of the past and adding a few new, "just for me" touches,  I have made the observance and celebration of this day, for the most part, very much my own.  And so today, I thought I would take some time to share some of these traditions, both past and present, in the hopes that you might be inspired to indulge in your own celebrations. I will warn you now, this post is LONG, and it's only Part 1! Did I mention this was one of my favorite days? But before I get into the how to celebrate, lets first begin with why.

The winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year, meaning there are less hours of daylight and more hours of darkness on this day than on any other. This is in contrast, of course, with the summer solstice when there are more hours of daylight and less hours of darkness, the longest day of the year.  The word solstice comes from two Latin words: sol meaning "sun" and sistere meaning “to stand still” because it appeared as though the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky. Many years ago, in fear that the days might be becoming darker and that the the sun might never return, our ancestors began observing a number of customs that were designed to hopefully entice the sun from departing.

I love what Richard Heinberg has to say in his book, Celebrating the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony

"This longest night of the year, followed by a renewal of the sun, demonstrates the cyclical order of the cosmos. In this way, celebrating the solstice can be a beautiful remembrance that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing."

Following are some ways that you and yours can celebrate this lovely day,  just as our ancestors have done for many years. I've included some personal notes on how we/I have celebrated and will continue to celebrate. Rituals and traditions ground us, at least they do for me! No matter how the dynamics and make-up of our family may change, ("always changing") with children growing up and moving on, traditions remain the same, and with a little thought and tweaking, the old can become new again, (always renewing)!


One story tells of the battle of the Holly King (The King of Winter/Darkness) and The Oak King (The King of Summer/Light).  This battle takes place twice a year, on the summer and winter solstice,
At the summer solstice (around June 21—the longest day and the shortest night) the days begin to shorten and the Holly King defeats the Oak King and reigns supreme in the dark times (or days getting shorter). But in December, following the winter solstice, the days begin to lengthen and the Oak King conquers the Holly King and reigns during the light times.  As odd as it seems, the winter solstice actually welcomes summer, as with each successive day the light gradually increases and the days become longer. And then in the summer the opposite happens, and the days following the summer solstice gradually become shorter, welcoming winter.  There is a lovely children's book that I'll reference in my follow up post, that it explains it so beautifully! I can't wait to share it with you!

Though I have never done so, I think it might be sweet to make a couple of peg dolls in the form of the Holly King and the Oak King,  adorned with a little holly crown and perhaps another made of tiny acorns.  You could display them on a shelf, perhaps,  and share the story of the battle of the two kings with your children or grandchildren.  The reigning king would then take his place of honor and reign over his respective season, while the other is tucked away until it is time for battle once again.


Many traditions include a bonfire, and this is one that we observed a few times over the years.  The idea is that the offering of warmth and light might appeal to the sun to warm the earth once again. One custom suggests that each person write down one habit they want to rid themselves of in the coming year and throw it into the bonfire. If you do decide to build a bonfire, it might be fun to make up some of the these spicy fire starters in the days before your celebration. It willt make your start up a little easier, and the fire starters themselves are quite lovely!


The solstice spiral is one my favorite observances for this most special day, and is a celebration of the return of the light!  Solstice spirals are popular in Waldorf schools, and you can read about that, here for context.

I do a much smaller table top version for my observance, using apples with white birthday candles, and in a pinch, I have also used tea lights and the presentation was just as lovely. I typically set it out on the kitchen table the night before so that it serves as a sweet reminder that we are cycling into a new season. This helps to build the anticipation, especially for young children. Then when the sun sets, I light the candles and allow them burn for awhile, illuminating our own little celebration of the return of the sun.


This is a new tradition that I began last year and I plan to make it a regular part of my observance. Thankfully we live in an area that is plentiful with woods, and it makes for a lovely setting. Last year I went early in the afternoon to soak in the last rays of sunshine before the early darkness set in. But this year I am considering going out about thirty or forty five minutes before sunset. I like the idea of returning to the warmth and shelter of home, lighting the candles on my solstice spiral, and then enjoying a festive meal, which I'll share more about below!  If you do decide to make your own solstice spiral, large or small, going on a walk might also serve the purpose of collecting some greenery. And now, about my meal plans!

Traditionally, I always make a big pot of Grammy's Cabbage Soup.  Everyone in our family loves this hearty soup, which I really consider more of a stew, it's much heartier!  Although I was considering trying out this recipe, Crock Pot Cranberry Orange Pork Tenderloin, I think I might save it for the new year and stick with tradition. There is just something about keeping the menu simple that appeals to me, and I like the **homeyness** of a pot of stew. I think I'll find a nice loaf of bread and serve it up with a cheese spread. Once I have the particulars of my menu figured out, I'll post more about that.

But regardless of the main course, it wouldn't be the winter solstice without gingerbread and lemon sauce! Gingerbread conjures memories from my childhood, when my grandmother would make it for me every time we visited! I especially enjoy it during the long winter months, and traditionally make it for the time each season for the winter solstice.


Ginger is a favorite solstice and holiday spice, and gingerbread is a favorite from my childhood.  My grandmother made it for me often, and I always think of her when I make it today. And though I enjoy gingerbread throughout the year, I traditionally always make a loaf on the winter solstice.  Here's the recipe I have used for years.

 Butter (for the pan)
 Flour (for the pan)
 2 cups flour
 1 cup molasses
 3/4 cup buttermilk
 1/2 cup sugar
 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
 1 egg
 1 teaspoon baking soda
 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 1/2 teaspoon salt Confectioners’ sugar (for sprinkling)

 1. Set the oven at 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square pan, and dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.

 2. In an electric mixer, combine the flour, molasses, buttermilk, sugar, butter, egg, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.

3. With mixer set on its lowest speed, beat until blended, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.

4. Transfer the batter to the pan. Bake for 1 hour or until top springs back when pressed lightly with fingertip. Cool on a rack. Cut into squares and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with lemon sauce.

 2/3 cup sugar
 2 tablespoons cornstarch
 1/4 teaspoon salt
 2 cups cold water
 1 egg, lightly beaten
 Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons

 1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt.

2. Slowly add the water and egg. With a heatproof spatula, stir constantly until the mixture just comes to a boil and thickens.

3. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the lemon rind and juice.

 4. Serve with gingerbread.

And while spiced cider has been our traditional beverage of choice, this year I'm giving serious consideration to this recipe for winter lemonade!  I may do dual service and enjoy a cup of cider over tea earlier in the day.

Another observance I began last year is eating dinner by candlelight.  In todays world, illuminated by  gadgets and technology, and faces aglow with constant media all hours of the day and night, the winter solstice is an opportunity to pause and give tribute to the natural rhythms of life.

And NOW, I am going to close and I will continue in a second post with some ideas for crafting, books to read and enjoy, as well as the recipe for the soup I mentioned above!  Two recipes in one post is just making this too long, even for my "wordy" self.

Until then, my friends!  I pray your day is blessed!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tuesday Afternoon Tea (On A Wednesday)

I stopped for a few minutes this afternoon for tea. which was rescheduled from yesterday, because when your husband wants to spend the afternoon Christmas shopping with you, you don't turn him down.  I was beginning to think it wouldn't happen today, either, and while it wasn't exactly the setting I prefer for tea, I simply had too much to do to get my hand made Christmas gifts finished.  I have two boxes going out to family members this week, and then on Sunday my girlfriends and I are taking a trip to Charlottesville and sharing in a ~~**COZY CHRISTMAS**~~ gift exchange.  I can't wait, not only to spend time with my girls, but to visit Trader Joes, Wegmans and Whole Foods! 

Today I made my tea in my favorite tea steeping cup from Tea Forte (non-affiliate).  I just love this cup, so much that I have the one pictured,  which is called cranberry, and I also have the cherry blossom design. I've got my eye on another one as well, pistachio, which is a lovely green and just happens to be on sale right now.  My choice for tea today was another blend from The Spice and Tea Exchange, Cinnamon Plum and it was SO good!  I didn't have any special treats, as I still haven't been able to get any baking done! I hope that I will finally be able to do a little on Friday. And finally, the lotion you see there in the corner is just lovely, and you can believe it, I got it at Dollar Tree? I'm going to go back at some point this week and see if they have any more because I really like it, and what's not to like when its only a dollar, right?

And now I must be off. I think I'm going to cozy up in bed under some warm blankets and cross stitch for awhile.  But I'll be back soon and we'll catch up then!

Until then,

Monday, December 10, 2018

On A Monday

We are still digging out from yesterday's history making snow storm.  Local meteorologists say it was the largest December snowfall since 1908, with most places in our area seeing a foot or more of snow. Bill measured it when we went out yesterday and it was right at 11", but I know it continued to snow for a good while after that, so I'm guessing we probably ended up somewhere in the 12" - 14" range. It was absolutely lovely, and in all honesty, I was hoping it would linger a bit longer. But with most of the major roads being passable today, Bill went in to work. Kate, however, being 19 and having never driven on snowy roads, was able to negotiate her work schedule and spent the day working on school. She's got one more week in this semester and she'll be able to fully engage in and enjoy the holiday season a little more. Knowing she had a busy day ahead, I made up a batch of her favorite cinnamon rolls this morning. Nothing special, just Pillsbury, but they are SO good! I may have had one or two myself, ;).

Last week she and I went out and did a little Christmas shopping and American Eagle had their flannel shirts marked down to 50% off. I could not resist, and while purchasing this one means I will need to eliminate something else in my closet, this one was just so lovely it was definitely worth it! I also came across these absolutely beautiful socks, also on sale. I am such a sucker when it comes to flannel shirts and socks! It's kind of an obsession. But honestly, aren't they both just beautiful? They are so warm and soft! It's made today truly ~~**COZY**~~, especially with my favorite fleece lined leggings. I got them at Target back in September and I hope to get a black pair, soon.

I did a little decorating over the weekend and put up the greenery. I'll be sharing more pictures in the days ahead, but this particular shelf is in my bathroom.  I decided this year to put all of the snowmen in the bathroom and I just love the way it turned out. I also did some crafting, and this morning I began work on a cute little bunting. I'm not sure yet if I will keep it for myself, or give it as a gift, or perhaps I'll just make two? They work up rather quickly, so maybe I will. I do have a number of things left to make for my annual gift exchange with my aunt, and I'm taking part in a "Cozy Christmas Gift Exchange" with a few friends. I won't post pics of those until after they've received them, though. What fun would there be in that?

And now I must be off.  I've got a meat loaf in the oven and mashed potatoes on the burner waiting to be mashed up. I pray that you will have a blessed evening, and I'll see you back here tomorrow for Tuesday Afternoon Tea!

Until then,

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Advent Snow 2018

"I like misty autumn mornings, and cold snowy winter nights.
Rainstorms give me inner peace,  thunder sets my soul aright.

I care not for summer, days too long, the heavy heat.
Give me candlelight evenings, early darkness, a silent street."

- Natalia Crow

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The First Snow of the Season

We had our first snow of the season yesterday, just a dusting, but it was lovely watching it fall,  just the same.

Bill and I actually saw some snow in early November when we were on vacation, which I have yet to post about!  But it's not the same as when you are snuggled up at home and able to take the time to really take it in. This is one of the things I love about living in Virginia. Though we may not get as much snow as the New England states, you can almost always count on at least one or two decent storms. And speaking of, we may get that a bit earlier this year, before Christmas even! They are calling for a possible 6-12 inches on Sunday and into Monday. The temps have dropped into the 20's in the morning here and are barely making it into the 40's, which I LOVE!  But the low next Monday and Tuesday is 17 and 18, respectively! That's pretty cold for these parts, at least in December.  But I'm not complaining! There's nothing like a few flurries to make the Advent/Christmas season more festive, and even a few inches is better than none!

Yesterday I had written and even posted a "Holiday Gift Guide", which seems popular with a lot of bloggers. But after I posted it something kept knawing at me. It just didn't seem genuine, and not like me to write a post crammed with a bunch of affiliate links! I deleted it this morning. Something about such a post seems a little laden with greed, "Buy stuff from me!". It's not even that I have an aversion to affiliate links, and I'm even including one in this post.  Still, an entire post dedicated to it just didn't set right with me. I suppose other bloggers are fine with it, and that's ok, it's just not me. Though I would love for this space to generate a little income, eventually, I'm going to leave that in the Lord's hands and keep my affiliate links in check. If its a product I love and it fits naturally into the post, then great, otherwise, I'm keeping with my main purpose for writing, to encourage and inspire others to be intentional with the choices, slow in their pace, and gather moments like treasures to fill the storehouses of our hearts and minds!

With that, the first snowfall of the year is always a memory I gather and treasure. And I am always reminded of a sweet book that I bought many years ago that that I often shared with Kate when she was little, While The Bear Sleeps: Winter Tales and Traditions by Caitlin Matthews. (Affiliate Link)

It includes a story called, The Winter Cabin - A Story for The First Snowfall. The story itself is from Russia and it follows a Little Red Hen kind of format, about a group of farm animals who build themselves a warm cabin in the forest one winter.  I suppose some might find it a bit underwhelming. But it's the sweet memories of Kate's childhood and thinking back through the many "first snowfalls" over the years when we read this story together, that I love most. It didn't always happen. There were plenty of years when I opened it up to discover that we had missed it. But when we did, it was always a special time.

Even now, with Kate turning twenty next year, I still gather from my storehouse of memories, and celebrate again these special moments. It's one of the beautiful things about motherhood. Your children remain your children forever in your heart. It's a sweetness you carry with you for the rest of your life. Some day I hope to share a first snowfall and this story with my grandchildren, and eventually I'll pass this book on to Kate, perhaps, or gift her with her own copy! I'm not sure however old I may become, that I won't long to return again to these sweet stories!

In the picture below you can actually see some of the snowflakes falling (and I'm not referring to those computer generated ones floating across the screen).  I sat out on the porch for awhile and just took it all in.  It was a lovely morning, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that we are indeed blessed with a bit more this weekend!

Until then, my friends, be blessed!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tuesday Afternoon Tea - A Slow, Sacred, And Personal Advent

Good Tuesday afternoon, my friends, and welcome to Tuesday Afternoon Tea.  I am so glad that you have joined me here today, and I pray that you will leave blessed and refreshed!

This week I felt a bit more prepared than last, and while I still haven't got around to baking anything, Kate and I do have plans to spend some time making some cookies tomorrow, so I'll set aside a few favorites for next week.  This week I opted for my beloved Maple Leaf Cookies from Trader Joes.  You really just can't go wrong with them!  At least, in my opinion anyway.

I decided this week to meet two objectives during my tea time, and I am actually considering **trying** to take time for tea, reading and reflection every afternoon during Advent which is now upon us!

You may remember that I mentioned that I had planned a "Personal Advent", in my post yesterday, and to set aside some time each day to reflect on the meaning of this beautiful season!  We have a family display of Advent candles that we light each Sunday night (I'll share more on that later!), but I wanted something separate and smaller just for me.  I did this last year and it was such a lovely time of personally preparing for the coming of the Savior, and it really helped to center me in the midst of the hustle and bustle that accompanies this time of year.

Last year I just used four little votive candles in glass jars, but this year, with a little inspiration from Monica, I used vintage jello molds and some little white votive candles that I already had on hand.  I then tied a little strip of gingham around each one and put them all on a little black tart plate. I am so pleased with the way it turned it!  It is just lovely! And the best thing is, I already had all of this on hand so putting it together was so simple. Next week I hope to have some fresh greenery to add to it!  I'm planning on trying to get out tomorrow to gather some.

As for the tea, well, this was perhaps the highlight this afternoon!  Last month while Bill and I were on vacation, we spent a couple of hours in Asheville, and I happened upon The Spice and Tea Exchange! The company is based out of Florida, but they have store fronts across the United States. I've actually been to three now, as I stopped in at another location in Gatlinburg, and I've visited the location in Williamsburg numerous times.

But while I was at the store in Asheville, they were serving samples of the most beautiful ruby red tea I had ever seen and it tasted just as good!  It's called Craving Crusher, and I have to share a picture of the loose tea leaves and I also tried to capture the beautiful color, but the picture really doesn't do it justice!

It's a blend of peppermint, hibiscus and white licorice root, the perfect infusion, and did I mention how lovely it is?  It was just perfect, and it's caffeine free to boot!  I set it aside specifically for this season and it did not disappoint!  I like it so much, I'm going to order a few more of the little 1 oz. packages to have through the winter and also as a little Christmas gift.

Once my tea was ready, I made up a little tea tray with the advent candles and a favorite tea mug and saucer.  I actually have four of these and I just love them.  I call them my "breakfast" dishes, since the plates are rather small, but in all honesty, I rarely if ever use them.  For the most part they just sit on a little corner shelf in my kitchen and look pretty.  But I took down two plates, cups and saucers today and I think I might leave them set out on the tray to inspire me to use them and add a little beauty to our breakfasts!

Here is the tea tray with the first Advent candle lit.

I had the lights down, and the lighting in this little basement apartment is not very good anyway, so I apologize that the pictures are rather dark.  I often consider doing something to bring in more light when I am taking pictures, but I usually think about that right about the time I am ready to photograph something.  The fact is, we live in a lovely little basement apartment and it's dark and cozy in here! This is my beautiful life! 

As I enjoyed my tea and cookies, I read a devotional that I've had on hand, Journey Through Advent With Mary.  I've had it for a number of years, but when I tried to find it again to link it, I couldn't remember where I found it. It isn't a book, it was a series I found on a website and I copied and pasted it into a document and saved it.  But, I did find something similar here.  I perused it briefly and it looks good, as well!  Maybe I'll save it to enjoy next year! After the devotional I took a few minutes to quietly reflect upon the words of Lauren Daigle's song, Noel, which is so moving!  It is one of my favorite worship songs to listen to during this season.

For my reading this week I chose The Cozy Issue of Bella Grace magazine, which I have decided I may save for after the first of the year and enjoy it during the deep, cold days of January.  That will be something to look forward to!

I also picked up a little book at the end of the Christmas season last year, Stories for Christmas by Alison Uttley. Heather at Beauty That Moves, first introduced me to this lovely book, and I read a few of the sweet stories in the weeks after Christmas last year.  But since I discovered it so late in the season, I decided to tuck it away and save it to be savored this year.  It's a lovely little book, composed of twelve stories of magic, enchantment and mystery.   Today I read the forward for the first time, and I just love the way it creates such a lovely setting for embarking upon the stories themselves.

"Christmas was the climax of winter for the country people during Alison Uttley's childhood. Ribbon and ornaments were carefully kept from year to year, holly and ivy and other greenery were gathered in the woods for decorations; few presents were bought, for most were handmade, and the traditional Christmas food was cooked or made at home.  It is natural then that many of Alison Uttley's stories should be about the festival and preparations for it.  Many of them begin on Christmas Eve, "that night of mystery when strange things can happen", the night that Santa Claus leaves the far north in a sleigh piled high with presents, drawn by nimble-footed reindeer, to visit the children of earth, and the wild creatures, too; the night when fairies fly abroad as well angels, where there is magic entwined in mystery, when visions may be seen in church, a lonely cottage or dark forest; the night when all creation is united in the joy of the Nativity.  And this joy is everywhere - beside the cottage fire, in field and woods and in the heart of snow itself - the kingdom of Jack Frost"

Such a beautiful reflection of a simpler time in days gone by.  In this season of Advent I hope to try to capture of bit of this simple, slower approach to the season.  In fact, I have supplies sat out as we speak to spend an evening crafting and making a few gifts.  I think I'll watch Little Women, or perhaps Meet Me In St. Louis, which I actually prefer at Halloween, but it is just as lovely at Christmas.

And now, as this post has become quite long!  I'll close. But I wanted to leave you with this image of the first candle of Advent as it illuminates the darkness that surrounds it!  I think it is so lovely and such a sweet symbol of the light that we can shed to those who are struggling in their own darkness, whatever the reason, especially during the holiday season.  I pray that we each would find some small way to share the light and the good news of the Savior who will soon be among us!  The whole world waits in expectation!

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” 

 ― L.R. Knost

Until then, my friends, have a blessed evening!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Slowing The Season and Self Care During The Holidays

Recently I've found myself a bit unsettled, which is perplexing to me. I know that this season can be
quickly lost in the hustle and bustle of all that it has become and forgotten for what it is.  But with the observance of Advent and the beginning of the Lord's Year, I feel blessed that I have these rhythms to ground me.

For me I think it has more to do with the changes that are taking place in our lives.  My baby is all grown up with a busy life and social schedule of her own.  But on the other hand, Bill and I are reunited again and will be spending the season together, and for that I am truly blessed.  Yet all of this, both the sad and the joyful, present change, and if I'm honest, change isn't something I've ever weathered well.

Even though by nature you might call me a dreamer or romantic, at my core I crave order and consistency, and in the absence of either, I can begin to become a bit unfurled.  Our lives are changing. We are embarking upon being "empty nesters", contemplating a life of travel and adventure for a few years or more, which is sad and exciting all at the same time.  In some ways I feel silly for even hesitating when I consider traveling and seeing this great country, but inwardly my heart longs for connection to a place, for home, and the familiarity and consistency of living out my days surrounded by the people and things that I love.  But even that isn't guaranteed.  I know from experience, life often takes our children far from us. Tomorrow isn't promised, and the important thing is to live your best life now.

I contemplated this over the weekend, realizing that with Kate working full time and in school, that our traditions will already have to bend a bit, to accommodate for her absence and time constraints. And while it's sad, and deep down I know its all good and will work itself out, I knew that in order for me to navigate these changes well, I needed a plan.

And so I devised a Holiday Self Care List. A little "personal rewards system", if you will.  Intentional outings and activities that I can look forward to each week that will help to soften the effects of the changes that are taking place in our lives.  Perhaps some of them will even become "new traditions", we shall see.

I haven't narrowed all of them down, but I did pick up some fingernail polish last week, a deep ruby red, and I think I might set aside a night to watch a few favorite old movies and give myself a manicure and pedicure.  I also recently purchased The Cozy Issue of Bella Grace magazine that I have yet to peruse.  I still have some crafting and decorating I want to do, and my traditional holiday baking. And Bill and I have made plans for several fun outings during this time as well, the most exciting of which is spending a day in Historic Grandin Village, having lunch at Taaza, my favorite Indian restaurant and then taking in a matinee showing of Mary Poppins Returns.

I'm also planning to do my own personal Advent, aside from the candles and scriptures that Bill and I are reading together. I did this last year, typically  in the afternoon, and it was so meaningful.  I plan to write a separate post with pictures of our Advent candles and I'll elaborate more on my personal Advent, then.

And now the duty of the day is calling.  I made up this cute little printable (above), to help me think through my "self care" plans during this season, and I'm making it available here in case, like me, you find yourself searching for some small meaningful ways to slow this beautiful season.  Just follow the link below!

Until then,