Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

Thank you for your support of Ordinary Days of Small Things!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Music of Christmas - Part Three

When I think of Christmas, naturally I think of my mom.  And while she wasn't really into all the decorating, although there was always a tree a few small items set about on the table, what mom loved about Christmas was the food, especially baking Christmas cookies. She also enjoyed going on drives after dinner to see the Christmas lights. 

We were blessed for most of the years of my childhood to live near a neighborhood that went all out at Christmas with every street having a different theme, like Candy Cane Lane (my favorite), and I remember a street with large oversized Christmas cards made out of wood depicting various Christmasy images. It was so much fun! 

Sitting by the tree and listening to Christmas music was something my dad loved to do, and Mom would always join in. But more than listening to the music Mom really loved watching tv, especially the Christmas variety specials that were popular in the day, such as The Bob Hope Christmas Special, The Dean Martin Christmas Show, and Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas. But of all the variety shows that mom enjoyed watching, especially at Christmas, there was one artist that stood out high above the rest, Andy Williams. My mom simply adored the man! She listened to his music year round, but she especially loved his Christmas music and yearly holiday shows. 

I was excited when I came across this video, posted on You Tube, which is a compilation of his Christmas specials from 1962 to 1973.


In addition to the yearly variety shows, Andy Williams had a number of Christmas albums and my mom owned several of them. But the one I recall with the most fondness is The Andy Williams Christmas Album.


This was another album that we listened to regularly at Christmas, and my mom's favorite song was Oh Holy Night. I would have to say on this album favorites are;

The Holiday Season

The Christmas Song

and

It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

I have many fond memories of baking with my mom.  After I got married and had children we typically celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. My mom usually made finger sandwiches, a couple of different kinds of dip and chips and TONS of different types of candies and cookies. I still have the recipes for the cookies she made, and her recipe for butter cookies is by far my favorite. 

BUTTER COOKIES 
1 lb. butter 
4 c. flour 
1 c. chopped pceans 
1 c. sugar 
1 Tbsp. vanilla 

Cream butter and sugar. Mix in flour until well blended. Stir in pecans and vanilla. Drop by spoonsful on to ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Two Lovely Picture Books For Christmas

HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

A grumpy little troll runs away from home because he doesn't want to do his chores. Rollo tries living with various woodland animals, but he finds out that there is no place like home, and returns to his family just in time for "the best Christmas ever." 




 Read it HERE









 THE WILD CHRISTMAS REINDEER

Little Teeka thought she had to be firm with the reindeer to get them ready for Santa's important flight, but when her bossy yelling only got their antlerstangled up, she knew she had to try something different.




Read it HERE








Also, at Jan's website there are a number of free printable resources to enjoy, including instructions for making these two lovely ornaments.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Celebrating The Winter Solstice - My Day

By the time you read this it will most likely be evening, the longest and darkest evening of the year. By now I will have filled this day with a number of small but significant rituals and activities, which in these empty nest years have become very much a personal day for me. I thought that perhaps I would bring you along on that journey, I hope you'll enjoy.

The sun rose this morning at 7:28 a.m and will set at 5:02 p.m., that's just a little over 9 and half hours of daylight.

My day began before the rise of the sun, I awoke around 6:00 a.m. made myself my favorite blend of coffee, Starbucks Peppermint Mocha with Peppermint Mocha creamer, yes that's a peppermint mocha overload, and warmed a slice of ham and cheese quiche I made for our breakfast yesterday, and as I ate I read, Grandmother Winter, by Phyllis Root, and then listened to Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, followed by The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfeffer. and finally The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson, which sadly, I could not find a very good reading of, the one I've linked is the best that I was able to fine, but the stories are all sweet just the same! I don't think I'lll ever outgrow my love for a beautiful picture book!

After my little "solstice storytime", I suppose you could call it, I began making our solstice soup, which this year is a recipe passed down to me from my mom, Santa Fe Chicken Tortilla Soup!

Santa Fe Chicken Tortilla Soup 
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
4 carrots, cut matchstick style
1 medium onion, chopped
3 whole boneless chicken beasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 (4 oz) can Mexican tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 c. frozen corn
6 c. chicken broth (3 cans)
Limes
Tortilla Chips, broken

Put oil, vegetables, except corn, and chicken into a large soup pot. Cook over medium heat until chicken is done; reduce heat to medium-low and add tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes. Add cumin, corn and broth; raise heat. Bring to a boil uncovered; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in juice of one lime just before serving. Serve with broken tortilla chips and lime wedges
This year I used a snowflake shaped cookie cutter to make tiny snowflake tortillas and then toasted them in the oven. It was a lovely addition something I now plan to do every year.

And for our dessert, I made up another recipe handed down to from my mom, Hummingbird Cake!

 Hummingbird Cake 
Mix well by hand;
2 c. sugar
1 c. Crisco oil
2 whole eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Then add
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 diced bananas
1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple
1/2 c. coconut

Mix by hand. Bake in a bundt pan for 1 hour at 325. Let cool before removing from pan. Or use an 8x12x2 inch loaf pan and bake at 325 for 45 minutes.

This cake traditionally calls for cream cheese icing, but I opted for something a bit simpler and just dusted it with some powdered sugar to resemble snow.  The cake itself is pretty moist, so it is fine without icing.

Typically on the Winter Solstice I make orange pomanders and dry oranges, as oranges represent the sun. But I ran out of steam today (battling some seasonal allergies), and didn't get around to making them. I did make a tabletop solstice spiral and placed white birthday candles in four apples, placing them at the four cardinal points. I lit them after dark and spent a few minutes in prayer and reflection. Unfortunately most of those pictures turned out a little dark, but it was beautiful.  I plan on leaving it up and enjoying it during my quiet time tomorrow, so maybe I can get a better picture then.

Tonight I'm going to watch another cartoon. It's an episode of Little Bear, Snowball Fight, Winter Solstice and Snowbound. I'll probably only watch the Winter Solstice episode because it is just lovely! If you have littles in your life, you should share it with them! Afterwards, if I can stay awake, :), I want to work The Christmas Oranges, which is movie I discovered a few years ago and is the sweetest addition to your holiday movie collection! I highly recommend it!
Overall, it's been a lovely day, and by far one of my favorite days of the year!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Little House Christmas

 If you grew up in the 70's, like me, then most likely you grew up watching Little House on the Prairie. It was a staple in our home, and still a favorite that I enjoy rewatching to this day.

Recently I came across some **free** books and other resources that I wanted to share with you here today. I realize Christmas is just a week away, but even if you don't use these this Christmas, you could bookmark them for next season.

❉ A Little House Christmas
In her beloved Little House books, Laura Ingalls Wilder describes some of the Christmases she and her family celebrate on the frontier. Even if they don't have much money for presents, they always have one another, and that's enough to make any Christmas merry. This lavish gift book gathers together five of Laura's classic Christmas stories from Little House in the Big Woods, Little Houes on the Prairie, and On the Banks of Plum Creek, and is illustrated with gently colorized versions of Garth Williams' original art. 

Available for **FREE** from the Internet Archives, just click the link below.





❉ A Little House Christmas - Volume II
The follow-up to the best-selling A Little House Christmas, here’s another chance to celebrate the special magic of the merry Christmases Laura and her family shared by the shores of Silver Lake, and during the happy golden years in De Smet, as well as Almanzo’s special Christmas days spent in upstate New York. With foil-stamped and embossed title type, a Christmasy green background and holly border, lavish cream-colored paper, and full-color Garth Williams cover and interior artwork, here’s a classic Christmas story collection that will be treasured year after year.

Available for **FREE** from the Internet Archives, just click the link below.



If you have younger children or grandchildren you might enjoy some of the My First Little House Book Series, including Christmas in the Big Woods, Winter Days In The Big Woods, and Sugar Snow.

IMBD TV is a free streaming channel available with Amazon Prime. All of the seasons of Little House are included and I'm linking below to three of the Christmas episodes.

- Blizzard (Season 3)


~ Enjoy!




Small Things


 In no particular order, here are six small things that inspired, uplifted or motivated me this week.

1. Find your word 2021.  I've been asking the Holy Spirit to speak a word over my life for the upcoming year for serveral years now. If you are interested in choosing a word for 2021, Susannah Conway has a free email course to guide you.  Sign up here.

2. I've added this book to my list to read in 2021, The Way of the Happy Woman: Living The Best Year Of Your Life by Sara Avant Stover. Have you chosen any books to read in the new year?

3. I've had this album almost on repeat this week, playing in the background. I discovered it last year and I just love listening to it in the days leading up to Christmas.

4. I came across this recipe this week, which sounds interesting, Pine Needle Shortbread Cookies. I've never made anything that included pine needles, but I gathered quite a few last week and I might give it a try. You can also make tea, which is a good source of Vitamin C.

5. Becky O. Cole of Nature and Nourish is one of my favorite discoveries in recent months.  I came across this post on her blog earlier this week, and I love the idea of choosing a theme for each month to focus on in your journaling. I hope she'll write additional posts for the upcoming seasons.

6. When I was compiling A Winter Idyll and pulling together favorite recipes and resources, I came across this point, Cranberry Self Care, which includes a recipe for cranberry orange muffins which I am considering making for our winter solstice breakfast, there's also diy instructions for a a cranberry sugar scrub and a recipe for cranberry maple bourbon smash, which sounds wonderful!





Friday, December 18, 2020

My Gift To You
A Winter Idyll: Self Care and Pleasant Pastimes For The Holiday Season

 

Last year I decided to make up a little something as a gift for you, my readers, who have faithfully supported my ventures here. Many of you were appreciative and truly seemed to enjoy, A Cup of Cheer: A Selection of Seasonal Beverages. So this year I wanted to do the same thing and I've compiled something that I hope you will enjoy equally as well;

A WINTER IDYLL:
Self Care and Pleasant Pastimes For The Holiday Season

It's a small collection of craft ideas and recipes including bath salts, body creams, a recipe for a scrumptious stew that you could slow cook all day while watching old Christmas movies, and to help you I've even included a list of some of my favorites, perhaps even a few gems you aren't familiar with, and there are other lovely things, as well. It isn't much, just a small token of my gratitude and appreciation for the all the lovely comments you've left this year, especially since posting here has become more difficult with our transition to traveling full time.

You have no idea how excited it makes me to come here and find that one of you has downloaded my season keeper and shared how you're using it and how much it has blessed you! That just makes my day! My objective here has never been to garner a mass following, but rather to bless the lives of perhaps one or two with my offerings, and I hope this little gift blesses you as well. You'll find the link to the download below, and just in case you missed last year's offering, I've included a link to it as well.

I'm sure I'll be popping in again this coming week, thought it's going to be a busy one so perhaps not with quite the same regularity, but I'm already thinking ahead to the new year and have plans for some wonderful posts that I hope to get working on and get a number of them scheduled so that the time lag between when we have signal and when we don't won't be so long.

With that I pray you and your family are safe, healthy and blessed this holiday season, for you have truly blessed mine!

Download 
A Winter Idyll

Download 
A Cup of Cheer




Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Music of Christmas - Part Two

This is me, Christmas, 1962. I was 13 months old and this is my first ever picture with Santa Claus. That Santa, though. Not the jolly old elf you often see depicted in ads from that time. As young as I was you can see the look of hesitation on my face. It reminds me a little of the expression on Macaulay Culkin's face when he splashed the aftershave on his face, right before he . . . . SCREAMED! :)

This was taken at Cox's Department Store in downtown Fort Worth, Texas.  My first three pictures with Santa were taken there, afterwards at Montgomery Wards after a new mall was built closer to our home. I actually still remember the elaborate set up that Cox's set up, and this was back in the day when most department stores throughout the country decorated their store windows with holiday displays, much like the one below. Awww Christmas in the 50's and 60's, perhaps I'm showing my age here, but at least in my lifetime, there was never a more magical time to a kid. Some of the holidays songs, movies and television specials came out of that era that we fondly enjoy to this day
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer made his television debut in 1964, A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 1966. I also loved the holiday specials hosted by Bing Crosby and Andy Williams, there were Christmas staples in our home for many years.. Though they were released before I was born my favorite Christmas movies are all from the 40's and 50's, Christmas in Connecticut (1945), It's A Wonderful Life (1947), and a little known gem released that same year, It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947), and finally White Christmas (1954).

Part of what made these tv specials and movies so enchanting was the music, and that was certainly true of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sung by Gene Autry. Though the song and album was released 15 years before Rankin Bass immortalized the story in 1964. But it was because of this holiday special and my fondness for the song that I was introduced to Gene Autry. My dad bought me the album one year for Christmas and it quickly became my all time favorite. That album was played so many times during the holidays that I eventually had to staple the cover back together. And while I loved Rudolph, there were a few other songs on this album that quickly became my favorites, including Here Comes Santa Claus, Up On The Housetop and Santa Claus is Coming To Town. From then on and perhaps to this day Gene Autry was the voice of Christmas, or at least, the Christmases of my childhood.

Last week I mentioned my dad's love of Christmas and for turning out all the lights, lighting up the tree and listening to Christmas music. Typically we would listen to one album all the way through and more often than not my dad let me or my brother choose, and this album was one we both chose often. I still own the well worn gem with the stapled cover, though these days I listen to almost all of my music on Spotify. But in honor of Gene and the fond memories of those cozy nights by the tree, here is my all time favorite Christmas song from my childhood, Up On The House Top by Gene Autry. What was your favorite Christmas song when you were little?



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Monday, December 14, 2020

**NOW AVAILABLE**
The Ordinary Days of Small Things Winter Season Keeper
With New Seasonal Goal Setting Supplement!



Ordinary Days of Small Things
WINTER DAY KEEPER


**NEW THIS YEAR**

Ordinary Days of Small Things
WINTER GOAL SETTING SHEETS


This year I've created a little something that I think will serve as a nice supplement to the Season Keepers, Goal Setting Sheets! 

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that it does little good for me to WANT to live my life and spend my days intentionally and productively if I don't make a plan and write things down! Now, that being said, and I'm being completely transparent here, there have been many times when I've devoted a large chunk of time to sitting down and writing out all of my goals and intentions, closed the cover and that was the last I looked at it, until the next season rolled around! But this year things have been really different for me, not only because of the pandemic, which has taken a toll on everyone's life. But for me personally, my husband I transitioned from a brick and mortar home to living full time and traveling in a van. To say that I've lost my rhythm is an understatement. I'm really needing to establish some routines and structure to my days and in true fashion, I'm developing some resources to aide in that and that is the purpose for this supplement.

I'll be sharing more in the coming days about how I plan to use this to give you an idea of the thought behind why I included the things I did. I've purchased and downloaded a number of such resources over the years but as is common in most cases, it never really encompassed everything I had in mind. And so I borrowed, tweaked, combined and made it my own. Who knows I may revise it yet again before the Spring edition comes out? However, ff you download it and use it, I would LOVE to here what works for you, what doesn't and any ideas you have for things to add. The same for the Season Keepers! 

I will have the seasonal phonology wheels ready to download later this week. I realize we are WELL in to December and I apologize for that. I don't know why but I had it in my mind that this didn't need to be uploaded and ready until the first day of Winter, when in fact I should have had it ready just after Thanksgiving. So if you're one of my faithful followers who looks forward to these resources, my apologies! I'll do better in the Spring!

~ Enjoy!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Beauty and Wisdom of Winter

“Winter, while it can be one of the hardest seasons to embrace, has a lot to teach us about true beauty and wisdom. Stripped of her flowers, leaves, and warmth, the earth reveals her naked self through her skeleton branches and barren ground. She becomes completely simple, having discarded everything but the bare essentials. Her scarcity and fierceness command our respect and attention, and, without apology for not being a warm and gracious hostess, she retreats into frozen silence.

When we look to nature as our teacher, we see that she’s reflecting back to us a prolonged opportunity to hibernate and renew. Arriving with the shortest day of the year on the winter solstice, December 21 (June 21 in the southern hemisphere), winter slowly grows brighter from this day on as the sun’s presence gradually beams stronger and stronger until its apex on the next summer solstice.

Hanukkah, Advent, Christmas, and Kwanza, along with many other holidays and rituals, celebrate the return of this light. We’re reminded to connect with the sun within us, which is the bright potential of our souls, even amid the darkness and the holiday frenzy. We also celebrate New Year’s, a call to reflect on the past, appreciate the present, and dream about our future.

This truly is the time of year to go inside and ripen in our womanly wisdom before stepping out into the world again. Use the darkness all around you to explore your inner world. There you will find that flame inside of you that can never be extinguished. You can only make this descent when you commit to stillness, solitude, and deep soul-searching. You must become quiet, less social, more introverted, and–despite the negative connotations in most cultures–lazy. Just as fields need to remain fallow at times for their soil to stay fertile, we need to leave our innermost beings barren of new projects, adventures, and activities.”

If we don’t take time each year for deep rest, then authentic healing, rejuvenation, wisdom, and softening are not possible. It takes so much energy to burst forth into the world and to birth something new. This winter, treat yourself like a pregnant mama. Rest, nurture yourself, rebuild your vital life force, and prepare for the coming of new life. And if you don’t live in an area with a pronounced winter season, you need to be more disciplined about getting quiet. This is also an opportunity to listen to the subtler rhythms of nature. Yet while nature’s saying one thing, society’s saying another.“

 - Sara Avant Stover 
The Way of the Happy Woman



Saturday, December 12, 2020

AVAILABLE MONDAY, DECEMBER 14
- The Ordinary Days of Small Things Winter Daybook

 

Small Things

In no particular order, here are six small things that inspired, uplifted of motivated me this week.

1. Out of the Ordinary Podcast with Lisa Jo Baker and Christie Purifory.  In particular Episode #102 - What Home Smells Like (I plan to elaborate on this in an upcoming post!) What are your favorite podcasts? I'm always looking something new!

2. A Christmas Handmade, **FREE** download packed full of Christmasy crafts and recipes for the season.

3. This recipe for Winter Solstice Brew. I just might have to make some up!

4. These recipes for body scrubs, perfect for the season and Christmas gift giving!

5. Cultivating Christmas 
The Christmas edition of The Cultivating Project is up! This is one of my favorite websites and their Christmas edition does not disappoint!

6. Old Time Radio - Christmas Episodes 
Here's something fun, old time Christmas radio shows from days gone by!








Friday, December 11, 2020

Ordinary Days of Small Things - The Four Cardinals Playlist
A Winter Solstice Companion

If you recall, I mentioned in this post of a new solstice tradition that I was made aware of, Calling To The Four Directions. A friend of ours has graciously allowed us to park our van on his land through the month of December, and we are surrounded by wide open fields. As such,  I am hoping that be able to go on a solstice walk somewhere close by and spend some time in nature.

Ultimately, my dream is that one year I will be able to make a large solstice spiral as I mentioned in that same post. But regardless of the size or location, I am planning to spend some time in nature even if it's just sitting outside our van with a small tabletop spiral, my bible and . . . MY PLAYLIST!

Yes I've made another playlist! I linked to the songs for each of the four cardinal points before, but to make things a little easier, I decided to make another stand alone playlist so that if you do decide to listen to the music you won't have to come here to find it. You can follow, favorite and I think even download my playlists on Spotify, although I think to download you do need to have a premium account?

I also found a few other songs and decided to add them as well. I chose songs that seemed related to the them of the four cardinal points, and I'm pleased with the end result. I hope you'll enjoy it!



 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Ordinary Days of Small Things Winter Solstice Playlist


Dawn
 Ola Gjeilo

Rain Into Snow
William Coulter

First Snow
Ola Gjeilo

The Coventry Carol
The Choir of Royal Holloway

Winter Bourne
Paul McCandliss

Home
Ola Gjeilo

Asleep The Snow Came Flying
Tim Story

Wintertide
The Choir of Royal Holloway

Across the Vast, Eternal Sky
Ola Gjeilo

Snowfall Lullaby
Barbara Higbie

What Are The Signs
George Winston

The Wexford Carol
Carducci String Quarter

Days of Beauty
Ola Gjeilo

Moon Lake
W. G. Snuffy Walden

Still, Still, Still
Winter Music Experts

Cradle Hymn
Kim Andre' Arneson

Song For A Winter's Night
Sarah McLachlan

Winter Moon
Robbins Island Music Artists

Midnight Snowfall
David Arkenstone

In a Bleak Midwinter
Sarah McLachlan

Winter Dreams
David Arkenstone

Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice

The Day's Last Light
Seamus Egan

Season's End
Robbins Island Music Artists

Year's End
Michael Manring




Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Return of the Light - Celebrating The Winter Solstice
Updated Post With New Ways To Celebrate!


"The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, 
bursting forth into unexpected glory.

 - GARY ZUKAV

The Winter Solstice will arrive at 8:30 a.m. (EST) on Monday, December 21 this year. In astronomical terms, it is the single moment when the sun reaches its southern most point in the sky (or its northern most if you live in the southern hemisphere).The world 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. it means, literally,"sun stands still", and for three days at this time the sun appears to rise and set in the same southeasterly position on the horizon before beginning its gradual incline north once more. It's a spiritual event as much as an astronomical one, heralding the rebirth of the year and the return of the sun.

It is generally considered to be the start of winter, and the three winter months are reckoned as December, January and February. However, the "solar winter" - the period with the fewest hours of daylight and the weakest sunlight - stretches from November 1 to February 1 with the solstice marking Midwinter. It is the shortest day and the 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. But while it is the shortest day of the year, it is not the date of either the earliest sunset or the latest sunrise. The earliest sunset occurs around Little Yule or Santa Lucia Day, December 13, and latest sunrise around the New Year at the beginning of January. 

"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."

- Richard Heinberg, Celebrating the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony

The Winter Solstice is a day that holds special meaning to me, if for no other reason than I LOVE winter! I've always said that autumn is my favorite, but to be honest, I think I love winter equally as well. Of course Christmas isn't far behind, and I hold it with fondness, but there is just something about this day  that is special to me.

We have observed the solstice over the years with various, simple celebrations, but as the girls have grown up and moved away, 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 is only the beginning, there will be more! Did I mention this was one of my favorite days? But before I get into the how to celebrate, let's first begin with why, and if you will, a bit of a disclaimer.

Many years ago, for 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. And while there are some in christian circles (my circle) that would warn that such customs stem from pagan beliefs, I would argue that life itself has been washed in the bath of such beliefs (sin), since Eve first tasted the apple at Eden. Any ritual or tradition is made whole/holy simply by means of its focus and intent. My goal, based upon my personal belief in and relationship with Christ, is in a sense to "redeem" these customs by making Christ the ever present focus of my rituals and celebrations. But this is simply what seems right for me, you may, based upon your own personal beliefs adapt or omit any of these ideas as you see fit. My intent is neither to condone what some may seem as sinful, or to force my personal beliefs upon anyone. I would simply admonish (in love) that we each "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before God." Mine is not to judge, and I would request that same grace be extended.  Ours is simply . . . to love. 

And now, on to the celebrations!

❅ A SOLSTICE HOUSE BLESSING 
(NEW THIS YEAR!)

Blessing the house is a traditional winter practice, filling the house and its inhabitants with spiritual light at the time of greatest darkness. I have adapted to the following blessing, originally recorded by Scottish folklorist Alexander Carmichael in 1900), to suit my personal beliefs and faith. Such blessings were used in the Scottish Highlands and Islands until the last century. Usually at the Winter Solstice. 

All hail, King Jesus, blessed is He,
The light of the world, who comes to dispel the darkness!
We ask for prosperity upon this dwelling, 
On all that you have heard and seen.
Bless this house and all that it contains, 
from rafter and stone and beam;
Deliver us to God from pall to cover,
Be the healing of men therein,
Be you in lasting possession of this house,
Bless us with health about this hearth,
And fill our hearts with joy!

❅ SOLSTICE BONFIRES

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 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.  They will help to make your start up a little easier, and the fire starters themselves are quite lovely!

❅ THE SOLSTICE SPIRAL

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 if there are children in the home. When the sun sets, I light the candles and allow them to burn for awhile, our own little celebration of the return of the sun.

❅ CALLING IN THE FOUR DIRECTIONS
(NEW THIS YEAR!)

This is a tradition that I just discovered this year. It is designed to help you feel a connection to the landscape around you, by taking time to look to the horizon at each of the four cardinal points: north, east, south and west. If you make a solstice spiral (above) and make it large enough, you could mark the cardinal points with the apple candles. For some, the four directions are associated with the four elements, north - earth, east - air, south - fire, and west - water. Taken as a whole, along with the fifth unseen element of spirit, you have all the ingredients of creation held in balance and in harmony.  Though I have not taken the time to do so yet, my goal is to choose four verses from scripture that seem appropriate, and to speak them aloud as I face each cardinal point, followed by a simple prayer asking God for His blessing upon creation. I am also considering having these songs ready on a playlist, and playing them as I pray and meditate.

- West

❅ A WINTER SOLSTICE WALK

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 plentiful with woods, and it makes for a lovely setting.  Last year I went early in afternoon to soak in the last rays of sunshine before the early darkness set in.  But this year I am considering taking it 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 decided 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.

❅ GINGERBREAD WITH LEMON SAUCE

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.

Gingerbread
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup hot water

Lemon Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Dash salt
Dash nutmeg
1 cup half-and-half cream
2 large egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat shortening, sugar, molasses and eggs until well blended. Combine next five ingredients; add to molasses mixture alternately with hot water.

Pour into a greased 13x9-in. baking pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, for lemon sauce, combine first five ingredients in a small saucepan until smooth. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolks; return all to pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Gently stir in butter, lemon juice and zest, increasing juice if needed to thin sauce. Serve with warm cake. Refrigerate leftover sauce.

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. As I have come across many addition lovely ideas for observing the solstice this year, my plan is to follow up with other ideas and expand upon a few I've already mentioned. Many of them, while destined for the solstice, need not be limited to observance on one day, and I think fitting for the beginning of the season and the new year!

Until then, my friends! 

"All blessings be upon you,
And all those you hold dear.
As the Yule log burns,
And friends gather near."

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Music of Christmas

"Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, 
until it becomes a memory."

- DR. SEUSS

This picture is of my daddy taken during their first Christmas in their new house. I love this picture for all the things it entails, my daddy, who I adored, and that it was taken by their Christmas tree, because my daddy LOVED Christmas!

Almost all of my favorite memories from my childhood are associated with Christmas, and I credit my dad for that. I loved my mom dearly, but in all honesty I think Christmas was more of a nuisance for her. I'm not really sure why. She waited until the last possible moment to put up the tree, and some of my not so wonderful memories of the season are of her, frantic and frustrated over a string of twinkle lights that was no longer working. She was the type to sit and go through every bulb until she found the pesky culprit, something she passed on to me in my younger years until I realized it was NOT worth my peace, and better to just take a few minutes to drive to Walmart and buy new. It's been years since I've fussed over such things, but back then I'm guessing you also couldn't buy a new strand of twinkly lights for under $3.00? What mom may have lacked in Christmas spirit she made up for when it came to being frugal and practical, :).

But my dad was just the opposite, and I was and am just like him when it comes to the holidays. In my mind the tree cannot go up early enough! In fact, this is the first year I can recall in many that I didn't put ours up until after Thanksgiving, and that is all due to the fact that this year I am decorating a small van. This year our tree is VERY small, but lovely all the same. I'll post a picture of it soon, once I have it exactly the way I want it. :)

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the music, and my love for it was definitely passed down from my dad. To be honest I think I could listen to Christmas music all year round, and confession, I'm known to! Not with any regularity, but there are times when nothing else lifts my spirit quite like O Come, Come Emmanuel by Casting Crowns, Noel by Lauren Daigle (a newer favorite from the past few years), or some of my favorites from my childhood like Here Comes Santa Claus or Up on the House Top by Gene Autry. I love them for the uplifting, cheerful mood they evoke, but I think more than anything, I feel close to my daddy whenever I listen to them.

I have a very vivid memory of being with my dad during the Christmas season. The album I will be referring to (see below) was released in 1965, so I would have just turned four years old. We were in an auto parts or tire store, in fact when I looked it up I think the store is still there all these years later! I don't recall what we went there for, but once inside there was a large display of Christmas albums that was put out annually by The Goodyear Tire Company. In 1965 they released Volume 5, and on that particular day my daddy purchased that volume and added it to his collection. Memories are a funny thing. I forget SO much its often frustrating, but I remember every detail of that day. What I was wearing, the smell of the shop, the display of albums, and my daddy taking one and placing it on the counter and purchasing it. It many ways it feels like yesterday, and is so vivid that I could almost believe that I could step right back into that moment at will.

One of the things my dad loved to do during the holidays was to turn out all of the lights, light up the tree and listen to his Christmas albums. There were several Christmas albums in my dad's collection, but out of all of them this is the one that stands out the most in my memory, I think we listened to it more than any other.  It was this album that made me fall in love with the music of Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Doris Day and so many others.

Originally I thought about creating a Christmas playlist, I even made up the cover art! But now I've decided that rather than do that I am going to post links to the albums that were in my daddy's collection, beginning with this one. Any song I would have added to my playlist would have come from one of these albums, anyway, and posting them . . . well, like I said, my dad feels close. So I hope you'll enjoy them. Some of the links will be to You Tube playlists and others to Spotify.


Top Five Favorite Songs From This Album:

O Holy Night
Andy Williams

Caroling, Caroling
Anna Marie Alberghetti

Some Children See Him
Diahann Carroll

Silver Bells
Doris Day

It's Christmas Time All Over the World
Sammy Davis




Monday, December 7, 2020

Christmas At Home


"Now I look forward to our Christmases at home, and enjoy our parties. On Christmas night I have a dinner party of eight or ten. I like Verona to spend Christmas with her family, but she leaves everything superbly ready. As there's all the rest of the year to be original, I serve a classic English Christmas dinner, which is a delicious meal if you do it right. I can get a natural, healthy, free-range turkey (so different from those intensively mass-produced things one finds throughout the year). I use a Normandy stuffing: half crumbled chestnuts, the other half a mixture of diced apples, celery, leek and a few breadcrumbs, the whole bound with beaten egg; a little sausage meat at the other end. I infuse the milk for bread sauce in advance, leaving it for some hours with onions and cloves, bayleaf and nutmeg, salt and pepper, so only the bread crumbs have to be added near the time. Gravy I prepare in advance too from the giblets. We use Majestic potatoes for roasting, for Reg's special sprouts, lightly cooked so they are fresh and firm. The rum butter and brandy sauce I have also made in advance, to accompany Verena's delectable pudding, rich and dark, but light. She is always toasted in her absence over the Christmas pudding. Oddly enough we use for the pudding, an old wartime recipe of my mother's - we know its wartime because it includes the historic phrase, "Raisins are not included, as there is no issue of them this year."  We use them, but apart from that, I see no reason to try another recipe. Then the Stilton with our own celery; then dessert - fruit in the olive-world corbeille we brought from Venice, nuts in the little baskets I brought from Annency in my school days, sweets in the silver dishes my mother had on her dinner table in India and on the pink dyed damask tablecloth a centre piece of silver jewry work on pale pink satin, which she brought home with her and somehow hung on to through all the years of packing and unpacking trunks. So all my life is there. With a light fresh first course - this year melon balls and chicory and prawns in sour cream, Ralph offers vodka, we have champagne in the hall by the fire before dinner. With the main course and the Stilton he serves Beychevelle - but alas, alas we have now finished the Beychevelle!"

from Home is My Garden - December
by Dorothy Hammond Innes

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Sentimental Sunday

 


"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 Christmas-time."

 –Laura Ingalls Wilder

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Small Things


 In no particular order, here are six small things that inspired, uplifted or encouraged me this week.


2. This lovely book, The Night The Stars Sang, available from The Internet Archives.

3. My Spotify Advent playlist from last year.  Be watching for new playlists this week!

Are you a member of You Version/Bible.com?  Add me as a friend!

5. This post featuring words from Maria Von Trapp, Where Did Advent Go?

6.


Monday, November 2, 2020

Soul Rest


This past week I started a short, one week devotional, Soul Rest: 7 Days To Renewal. The subtitle reads, Reclaim Your Life. Return To Sabbath.

Just yesterday we were forced out of a quiet, beautiful little campsite due to the threat of rain, snow and 40 mph wind gusts. It wasn’t the rain or snow as much as the threat of high winds that influenced our decision. Walmart parking lots seem more favorable at the moment, without the threat of falling trees.

I was sad to leave, as we were really enjoying the beauty of the late autumn forest and the especially the quiet. Constantly being on the go and with little to no time alone has left me a little weary. Don’t get me wrong, I am thoroughly enjoying all the wonderful places we have visited, and depending on the mood of the country following the election tomorrow, we hope to spend some time in and around Boston for my birthday. With that, I am learning to find rest in smaller pockets and in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life, EVEN when boondocking at Walmart!

This devotional has been so good and has prompted me to begin practicing what I call my rest reset, which is just ten minutes (preferably, sometimes it’s shorter) to just close my eyes and sit in silence. I got the idea from my reading on the first day of the devotional and I want to shares little of it it here with you.

“In our fast paced culture, we are constantly in motion, whether it’s our always-packed calendar, always racing mind, or always connected technology, we aren’t very good at resting. At the root, many of us are consumed with working, performing, and longing to earn respect, position, authority, value and love. Whether we attempt to receive these things from people or God, this striving causes us to become tired. Soul tired. The only way that we can begin a journey toward rest is to give ourselves permission to stop.”

The author goes on to suggest that you need to be intentional and find a few quiet moments, and it is further suggested that ten minutes is a ”reasonable amount of time to hope for.” It would be best if you could find a place that is restful, but in a pinch you should try to find a way to create stillness in the midst of your regular flow, such as drinking a cup of coffee or eating breakfast without the aide of technology. The key is not to allow anything to populate the time that you have set aside to be still and quiet.

I’ll be honest, I found this more difficult than I imagined it would be. Isn’t it amazing how dependent we’ve become upon our devices? It’s especially hard for me, living in the van, as the very devotional encouraging me in this comes through an app on my phone! It even warns that there will be the temptation to minimize the importance of being still and encourages the reader to be diligent. The first day I began this practice we were camping by a steam with a small waterfall, so while finding a restful spot was easy, my mind kept racing with a million thoughts. Then I realized I had my eyes closed and when I opened them to take in the beauty, it helped to still my heart and soul. Today, boondocking at Walmart, that may prove a bit more challenging.

What about you? Do you regularly engage in times of stillness? What do you find is your biggest struggle or distraction, and what have you found that helps?