Saturday, October 23, 2021

Small Things - October 23, 2021


 "Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."

GLADYS TABER

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

1. Does anyone remember the Ideals seasonal and holiday publications? My grandmother had many copies, but as a child they didn't really hold a lot of interest for me.  There are a number of them available at The Archives, and I've been reading through the Thanksgiving editions this week. I've copied down several of the sweetest poems and read some delightful essays. If you're looking for something warm and cozy to read on a cool, rainy afternoon, I'd suggest spending some time in them.

2. If you've been hanging around here long enough, then you know I have a fondness for cartoons. They are a comfort to me at times, beckoning me back to the days when Saturday mornings from 8-12 were a reprieve from the world.  While I do subscribe to Boomerang through my Prime membership, there are some lovely cartoons to be found on You Tube as well. If you have littles in your life, pour some warm milk and maybe some freshly baked cookies and and enjoy!

Guess How Much I Love You
Based on the book by Sam McBratney, this cartoon is one of my favorites!  The beautiful illustrations come to live on the screen, and are just so sweet and lovely!

- Autumn's Here
- Autumn Warmth
Playing in the Autumn Leaves

3. And if you enjoyed those, here are a few others.  

Little Bear
Based upon the Little Bear books by Elsa Homeland Minarik, another beautiful children's book, come to life!

Clever Cricket / Leaves / Big Bad Broom
The Rain Dance Play / Your Friend, Little Bear / Fall Dream

4. I made these Chocolate Cayenne Cookies on Thursday and I absolutely LOVE them! I will tell you that I opted for 3/4 tsp. of cayenne, but something I've noticed is that they get a bit spicier the longer they sit. So I'd suggest 1/2 tsp. the first time. I've got my eye on these next, Maple Bacon Cookies, perhaps I'll make them today!

5. After coming to the conclusion some months ago that my coffee creamer was what was causing some of my gastro-intestinal problems, I've been looking for alternatives.  I've been making some simple syrups, and while they taste wonderful they are loaded with sugar! Then this week I came across this recipes for Snickerdoodle Coffee Creamer and I'm going to give it a try! I also found several other recipes, including Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer, here.

6. This time last year my husband and I were in the van and traveling the east coast.  We were in Woodstock, Vermont around this time, truly one of the most beautiful little towns I've ever visited. I came across this book, Hill Song, A Country Journal at the Archives this week.  It is set on a farm in Vermont and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Friday, October 22, 2021

My 2021 Thanksgiving Planner

 

Yesterday, on a whim, I made up a little THANKSGIVING PLANNER and I thought I would share it here with you! You can find the link, here

Please note that on the Thanksgiving Meal planner page there is a space labled "served on". That is where you can list what serving pieces you want to use on your table. I find it helps as I'm planning my menu to inventory my serving pieces and decide ahead of time which ones I'm going to use! 

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Early Preparations


In my entire life history of purchasing mugs,(and there have been many!), this one may most accurately embody me. If there was such a thing as a "spirit mug", you're looking at it. My favorite shade of green, pine trees and "homebody". It doesn't get more reflective than that. Only five dollars at the dollar spot at Target, which my daughter frequently reminds me is now known as "Bullseye", probably because most of the things you'll find there are now more in the $3.00-$5.00 range. No bother, $5.00 for two mugs is still a good price. The other mug that came with it is cute as well, black and covered with stars, another color and shape I like, so it was a win/win. I love it so much I almost bought two of them, and I may still. But something I've learned over the years is that even when something we love gets broken, it just makes room for the new. So I try to love and appreciate things in their season and while they last. 

There are only a few things I regret not holding on to throughout my lifetime, and one of them is, oddly, my Francie doll from my childhood. She was my most cherished doll and I sincerely wish I had kept her, but a as teenager who naturally believed that dolls were no longer "cool", I did away with such things and sold them all in a yard sale. It never occurred me then that years later I might still want to bring out such things and reminisce. I had a Liddle Kiddle that I loved, as well. I'm probably showing my age here, but maybe a few of you can relate! 

Other than mourning my lost childhood, I suppose, :), I don't have a lot to share today, and in fact from now until the end of the year I thought I might just write and share about the things that fill my days. I have ideas for posts I'd like to write, an entire notebook of them, in fact. But when blogging first began it was more like a journal, do you remember? You just documented your days and every now and then you'd share an idea or a recipe that others really liked. It was simpler then, warm and inviting. I've never lost that vision for this space, and I've never cared about numbers or algorithms. I tried all that, several times, and after this last attempt I've decided I'm done. My writings will attract who they attract, and bless who they bless, and even if that's only one soul then I will consider it a worthwhile investment of my time.

So I hope you'll stick around an join me as we move closer into the loveliest of seasons, the "Ember Days", as I now affectionately refer to November and December.  Two lights to lead us into the new year.  My days this time of year are filled with the warmest and coziest traditions, and I can't wait to share them with you. In fact, I did a thing yesterday and actually put up our tree. It's the earliest I've ever put it up, beating my previous record of November 1. I know it doesn't suit a lot of people, but I won't apologize. I needed it a little earlier this year, and for now it's just the lights, the wooden star atop, and tree skirt below.  I'll save the rest until November, but for now I'm warmed and filled by its lovely glow. 

And speaking of tree skirts, I realized when I pulled ours out yesterday that I made this tree skirt six years ago, which seems impossible to me, but it's true. I recall that it was late in the season, just two weeks before Christmas, when I saw a similar picture on Pinterest and I just had to have it. Thankfully I already had all of the materials, and so I immediately set to work and I finished it in a day. Since I was short on time I didn't stitch the pieces to the skirt but opted for fabric glue instead, promising myself that after the first of the year I'd finish it properly. Well, as I said, it's been six years, and I still haven't finished it. Up until now it's held up well, but yesterday I had to glue a few pieces of snow back down at the edges, so I'm thinking if I want this to last, then this is the year. I had always planned a few more embellishments, anyway, like little wreaths on the door, finishing off the windows to make them look more like window panes with little candles to light them, so there's still lots to do

Well, I feel like I'm beginning to ramble, so I'll close for now. When do you put up your tree? I'm sure it's much later than I do, especially this year! But I know I'm not the only one, it was actually two or three friends on FB, one who's had her entire house decorated since September, than inspired to go with my heart and do what makes me happy. I can' control the madness in the world, nor would I want to, but I do have some say regarding the atmosphere in our home, and a Christmas tree is warmth and self-care at its finest! That's what I'm going with, anyway!


Monday, October 18, 2021

Monday Musings


A cup of tea 
A quiet nook 
A cookie and 
A picture book 
A lump of sugar 
On my spoon, 
Now that's a PERFECT afternoon. 

- EILEEN SPINELLI



 I had the loveliest weekend, filled with lots of movies, crafting and cross-stitching!

If the piece at the top looks familiar, it's because I've posted it before, or at least, sort of. The original picture shows these two pieces together, but the second one was, at the time, unfinished. When I ran across the picture, it occurred to me that I needed to finish it, but for one reason or the other I couldn't find it anywhere. I also discovered some noticeable errors in the original, and since it was no where to be found, I started it again from scratch early last week and finally finished it this weekend. I love how both pieces are similar and yet not the same. The original (with the coral house) has a spot in the family room and I'm thinking the other will make its way into my bedroom, which could do with a few embellishments.

The pieces in the bottom photo were all finished over the weekend, while re-watching Cranford. I also enjoyed watching Charley and the Angel (an old favorite!), and I watched Moon Spinners for the first time, though I fell asleep towards the end and still need to finish it. I didn't care for it as much, although it was nice to watch something I'd never seen before. I've also recently been taking in episodes of The Brady Bunch during my lunch hour. There are few sitcoms from the 70's that transport me right back to childhood like The Brady Bunch. It was my Friday night line-up, along with The Partridge Family, but I tried watching re-runs of it and I just can't stomach it.

I mentioned on Saturday that I was going to make an apple pie, and I did manage to get that done early Saturday morning. I've heard so many wonderful reviews on this recipe, so I was anxious to try it. But I'm sad to say, I didn't like it. I think it's the granny smith apples, which I've never cared for, so I might try it again with something sweeter. I ate one piece, and since my daughter is allergic to apples, the rest is still sitting in the pie plate. :/ I think next year I'll stick to my apple crisp!

I also made the chocolate salt dough that I linked in my post on Saturday as well. I have plans to make some cute little salt box house shaped buttons to adorn some future cross-stitching projects, but I was so busy actually cross-stitching over the weekend, that I didn't get around to it.  I have the dough keeping in an air-tight container and I'll be making them up some time this week.

The best thing about the weekend was that the temperatures finally dipped into the 40's and stayed below 70! I had the windows open, and still do! I had hoped to make up a big pot of vegetable beef stew, but I'm waiting for my friend to post her recipe. Instead I made One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese from Damn Delicious. Normally I love her recipes, but this one, in my opinion, was just "eh".  It got a lot of good reviews, but my guess those are homes with young children because I can see where they would like this. It's not bad, just not for me.

On the food side it might appear as if the weekend was a total disaster, but it didn't feel that way!  I think all the projects I was able to complete more than made up for it! So what fun things did you do this weekend? Have you tried any new recipes, read a good book or watched a good movie lately? Share in the comments!

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Small Things - October 16, 2021

"Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."

GLADYS TABER


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

1. This Country Christmas Tea sounds so good! A friend of mine posted about it on her Instagram account and I bookmarked it immediately!  I'm hoping to purchase some at the end of the month and I'll be sure to write a review.

2. And speaking of Christmas, I'm planning on making some tiny salt dough ornaments this weekend, as well.  But rather than just plain salt dough, I found a recipe for cinnamon and chocolate dough! I can't wait to give them both a try!

3. And now back to tea! Drinking a cup of tea in the afternoon is a regular part of my daily rhythm, although I do tend to fall away from it in late spring and summer. But I'm especially fond of it this time of year. If "tea time" is something you'd like to incorporate into the natural flow of your days, you might want to read this article.

4. Meagan's blog, in general is so lovely and packed with lots of cozy, autumn offerings, such as; Cozy Autumn: A Seasonal Autumn Playlist,  4 Autumn Essential Oil Blends To Give You All The Autumn Feels, Embracing The Season of Autumn, and there are several others. I've added her blog to my list of Kindred Spirits in the right side bar, in case you want to visit with her again!

5.. I've seen so many posts raving about this apple pie. I bought all the ingredients to make it this weekend, so I'll let you know what I think!

6. Have you ever made a sourdough starter? It's on my list of things I want to master. I'm hoping maybe this article will guide me a little, so that I can then make this bread!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Grammy's Cabbage Soup

Yesterday I shared that I made up a pot of this delicious soup over the weekend, but it's just so good that I think it deserves its own post. I've shared the recipe before because we often make it when celebrating The Winter Solstice. But I don't want it to get lost and make it difficult to find, so I'm re-posting it here today. We've been making this soup for years now and its become a family favorite! The thing I love about it most is how easy it is to make while still delivering that delicious flavor!  I encourage you to give it a try and consider adding it to your seasonal rotation! 

Also, if you are ever looking for a recipe, just scroll through the links in the right side bar to "Come To The Table", you'll find the links to my most recently posted recipes under that heading, and there is a link at the bottom that will take to you to all of the posts with that label! That being said, if you're ever looking for something and having trouble finding it, just leave me a message! That's how this recipe got its own post! :)

❊ GRAMMY'S CABBAGE SOUP
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. 

 *My original recipe was made in the crock pot, which you are welcome to do, but these days I typically place the pork roast, onions and water in a large pot. I think bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about an hour to make a rich broth. Then I add the remaining ingredients and just let it hang out on the burner for several more hours to let the flavors meld and until the pork pulls apart easily with a fork. Check the water often to make sure the broth isn't cooking away. Add more as needed (I add chicken broth to maintain the flavor). Taste before serving and season as needed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Savoring Sunday
And My Favorite Adaptation of Little Women


This past Sunday was a lovely day. It was overcast and cloudy, and even though the temperatures are still too hot for my liking, the cloudy skies made for a perfectly cozy day.

I belong to a wonderful online community of women, Hearth and Home, and our founder, Heather, is encouraging us to savor these October Sundays, and share about it. Savoring Sunday has been a long standing tradition in our home, so it wasn't hard for me to participate or come up with a plan for what to do, but I do appreciate the reminder to be especially mindful now that we're into October and the scenery is changing.

So on Sunday I put together one of our family favorites, Grammy's Cabbage Soup, early in the day and let it hang out on the back burner most of the morning and into the early afternoon. Thanks to Heather's inspiration as well, I had already "Blessed The Weekend" on the previous Friday, and as such, had a full tin of snickerdoodles to carry us through as a treat. I don't know what it is about this cookie, but I always associate it with autumn and make them around this time every year. Then I made up a cozy spot on the couch, gathered my cross stitching and craft supplies, and set upon deciding what to watch.

I've been working my way though a stack of movies that we watch annually, but on this particular day I decided I wanted to watch a period piece and that led me to Little Women. I first watched the most recent adaptation because I do truly love Saoirse Ronan's portrayal of this most beloved character, but once I was finished, the PBS Masterpiece version came up as a suggestion and since it had been awhile since I'd watched it, I made that my next choice.  Before this, the 1994 adaptation with Winona Ryder had long been my favorite. And while it still remains dearer to my heart than the most recent offering, after watching this adaptation again, it may now have won my heart.


To begin with, I'm not sure there has ever been a more perfect casting than that of Maya Hawke as Jo, and I was blown away when I discovered that this film was her acting debut. Saoirse Ronan did an excellent job in the most recent adaptation, but there is just something about Maya's offering that is more balanced. Just the right amount of grit and gumption, coupled with the soulful and sweet. And speaking of Jo, there  casting of  Jonah Hauer-King in the role of Laurie, was, in a word, perfection! The casting of Laurie is one I have long been critical of, second only to Amy, which we'll get to in a minute. But I have to say that one of my great disappointments with Greta Gerwig's offering was the choice of Timothée Chalamet to portray Laurie. Maybe in a few years when he's aged a little, but at least in my opinion, he looked like the "little" boy next door.


As for the casting of Marmee, once again I believe the PBS version hit the nail on the head with Emily Watson. In a discussion of the various versions of Little Women at Hearth and Home, one of the other members commented that she didn't care for the 1994 adaptation because it just felt like Winona Ryder pretending to be Jo. But I actually found that portrayal a bit more believable than Susan Sarandon, and most definitely, Laura Dern, as Marmee! Emily Watson, who I have loved since Miss Potter, was perfectly cast in this role and brought new life to the character, as well. Her presence at Beth's bedside while she lay dying was particularly moving.

And while we're on the subject of Watson, another horrible casting in the most recent version was that of Emma Watson as Meg. And don't get me wrong, I love Emma Watson! I just don't think period pieces are her forte, or perhaps it was just this particular piece. I absolutely loved her in all of the Harry Potter movies and especially in Beauty and the Beast, talk about making a character step off of the pages! But as Meg, not so much. Perhaps it was the writing, but she seemed merely a shadow behind Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh. In contrast, I found Willa Fitzgerald's portray of Meg in the PBS Masterpiece adaptation, divine!


And then there is Beth (pictured below, right). With Beth's character I'm not sure I'd say I've ever disliked the portrayal or found it miscast, at least, not in the three versions I've mentioned. But I'm going to be honest here and say that the three adaptations I've mentioned are the only ones I've ever watched.  I just can't abide the thought of Katherine Hepburn as Jo or Elizabeth Taylor as a blonde Amy, but to be fair, I probably should at least watch them? But with the PBS Masterpiece version, one of the things that I did love was how much the they all looked like they really could be sisters. I mean, just look at that picture at the top of this post? If you didn't know it was a movie still you could honestly believe they were a family.

In this adaptation, the writer's gave the character of Beth more depth. No longer just the sickly sister withering away in the shadows, but a beautifully talented musician who struggles with social anxiety and is afraid to leave home. As someone who struggles with this on varying levels myself, this endeared her to me even more. Annes Elwy did a beautiful job in this role!

And as for Amy, who is portrayed by Kathryn Newton (pictured in the group photo at top), I will say this. The four sisters looked close enough in age that I found Amy's brattiness a little easier to bear and a bit more believable. Prior to this I had always felt that the 1994 adaptation got it right when they cast two actresses in the role of Amy, but Kathryn is the only actress who made the portrayal of Amy almost seamless.

And finally, Aunt Jo, and again I am going to tip my hat once again to PBS and Angela Lansbury. While I did fine Meryl Streep's portrayal amusing, something about her just didn't set right with me. I also loved Mary Wickes portrayal in the 1994 version. She has been a favorite of mine, especially as the busy body housekeeper in White Christmas. Prior to this role I wasn't much of a Lansbury, fan, but as Aunt Jo I thought she did an excellent job!

I'm sure many of you have read or watched Little Women and you probably have a favorite adaptation, too. But if you've never seen this particular version I would encourage you to watch it. If you have Prime it's available to watch at no additional cost. I'd love to hear your take on your favorite adaptation, character? This is at the top of my list of favorite books and movies and I love discussing it! Pour yourself a cup of tea and join me in the conversation, won't you?

Monday, October 11, 2021

From the Archives: Santa Fe Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today I am pulling a recipe from the archives, one that I posted back in 2019.  As soon as the weather turns just the slightest bit cooler, this soup is one of the first that I make! It's a long standing family favorite, and it's so good!

Santa Fe Chicken Tortilla Soup, is a recipe that has been in our family for a L-O-N-G time and is a family favorite. My mom made this recipe for years, though I am not sure where she found it originally.  She had a number of those self published church cook books, and most of the recipes you find in them are top notch!  So perhaps it was in one of those. At any rate, this is my go to chicken soup recipe. Just enough spice to give it flavor, but not so much that it's too spicy for those with a more sensitive palette.  In fact, I usually throw in a splash of cayenne when I make up a batch.

I've been nursing a head cold (allergies), most of the week, and while I love this recipe, it's the perfect remedy if you're under the weather, especially with a cold or the flu.  I like to make up a big batch and then freeze them in individual portions to have on hand in the event that one of us comes down with something, especially this time of year.  In addition to being flavorful, it's also SUPER easy, which is a great thing if you are feeling a little less than your best but still need to put dinner on the table!

So without further delay, here is the recipe!

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 can Rotel 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.

I encourage you to put this one on your rotation this fall and winter!  Once you've tried it, you'll be hooked!

~ Enjoy

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Small Things - October 9, 2021

"Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."

GLADYS TABER


In no particular order, here are six small things that have inspired me this week!

1. Your Autumn Hygge List, and the website in general, That Scandinavian Feeling.

2. Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts. I was never a big pop tart fan, but I might be tempted to try these.  Also, if don't know Lisa, get to know her! I love EVERYTHING about her and her blog. EVERY-THING!

3. I love this idea for keeping a Dinner Diary. I think it could come in really handy, especially for people like me who often try a recipe, love it, and then proceed to never make it again, or years later when I recall that I made that before and loved it. But maybe it's just me! :)

4. 24 Ways To Have A Cozy Autumn, and the website, Cozy, Simple, Calm. I haven't had a lot of time to peruse it, but come one, the name alone?

5. The Cozy Burrow, another "cozy corner" of the web that I discovered this week. I particularly enjoyed her posts on "Stillness", which is her word of the year. I hope to spend more time here soon and have added her to my always growing, seemingly never ending list of Kindred Spirits. If you ever get bored, here, just click on one of those links. They are all wonderful!

6. And it was because of Kate, that I discovered Your One Word, which I now plan to devour and put to use in January when I choose my word for the year.  I've already begun to pray about it and I'm thinking I'm going to stick with my word for 2021, which is SEEK. I just don't think God is done with that one yet, but then I felt the same way last year about my word for 2020, which was DWELL. So maybe I'll contemplate both of them for 2022? At any rate, I love what I'm seeing at this site and I'll definitely be spending some time here over the next month. 




Thursday, October 7, 2021

On My Autumn To Do List
- Caramel Apple Butter

Whew! How is it Thursday already? Anyone else? October is hands down my favorite month of the entire year and I'm trying hard to slow down time a little and savor every minute of it, but this week it's been a little difficult.  But today I pulled out my list of things I want to do during Autumn and moved on to the next thing on the list Crock Pot Caramel Apple Butter. It sounds so good and fingers crossed it tastes the same! I fourthed the recipe because my daughter is allergic to apples so I'm likely the only one who will be eating it. Have you ever made apple butter before? I love just about anything I can throw in the crock pot and leave it to work its magic!

Other than that, there's really not a lot else going on today, and for that I am thankful! I have a number of other things on my Autumn To-Do List, including finishing up a few things like straining my fire cider!  I've had a bit of an earache/sore throat (typical this time of year) for the past few days and I think it's time to benefit from my efforts! 

I'm also excited about a package that is due to be delivered today, Snowbound with Betsy and Merry Christmas from Betsy, which if you recall, were the only two books in the series I hadn't read.  Well, as luck would have it, last week I finally found two paperback copies for a decent price and ordered them immediately! I would have much preferred hardcover like the other books in the series, but I'm just not willing to pay the prices that people are asking. In the end I decided that a paperback copy and being able to read the complete series was better than not having them at all. That does mean that I'll be putting the copy you so graciously loaned me earlier this year back in the mail very soon, Pam! Once I realized I was now going to be able to read the entire series from start to finish, I quickly began re-reading the rest of the books from the beginning. I'm currently on Betsy and the Boys, trying to time it so that Snowbound and Merry Christmas will actually fall close to Christmas, but we'll see. They are very quick reads, so it may be much sooner!

It's been overcast and cloudy this week, which I actually LOVE because of the way it makes our little apartment feel so cozy! Now if those darn temps and humidity would take a hike and it actually felt like Autumn, that would be lovely! I try not to fuss much, and remind myself that come February/March I'll be wishing for days like today!

What are some traditional recipes you make this time of year? Anything on your Autumn To Do List, and what are you currently reading?  Let's chat in the comments and savor this lovely season together!

Monday, October 4, 2021

Twelve Things In Tribute To My Grandmother On Her Birthday

My paternal grandmother, Irene Hooper Hutsell, was born on this day in 1902, and to honor her I thought I would share twelve things about her.

1. Her family once owned a significant amount of land in Keller, Texas and what is now South Lake. But when her father died when she was eight years old, her mother sold most of it to support herself and her three children. 

2. She did not have a middle name. 

3. She grayed very early in life (attributed to scarlet fever) and always seemed old to me. By the time I was born she had a full head of silvery white hair. She was 59 the year I was born, the same age I am now. 

4. She could grow anything, and had beautiful vegetable and flower gardens. A trait that sadly, did not pass on to me 

5. She lived her entire life in Keller, Texas. The house she lived in throughout my lifetime is now the parking lot of a Baptist Church. But at the back of the property where the house used to stand, is a patch of grass that was never disturbed, and every time I visit Texas I make that trip, take off my shoes and bury my toes deep into that soil. 

6. She had false teeth that never fit right and were prone to slipping out of her mouth. Because of that, she would grit her teeth in public when she spoke, giving her a stern demeanor. But the minute she got home, she would take them out and her entire composure changed. She had a soft, wrinkly smile and wild hair. That’s the way I prefer to remember her.

7. She never learned to drive.

8. She was an excellent cook and I have several of her recipes. I will never be as good as her, but that’s a trait that did pass on to me. 

9. She never had much and her house was very old, but I learned how to make any home inviting by her example. Her home was always cozy, and warm. 

10. I was born on my grandparent's 39th wedding anniversary, November 11, 1961.

11. She LOVED magazines and always had several on the coffee table that she was perusing. She cut out the Betsy McCall paper doll from McCall's magazine every month and would have it waiting for me to play with when we came to visit!

12. She was a devout member of the Church of Christ and “disowned” me in 1982 when I married a Baptist. She didn’t have anything, so she basically never spoke to me again. I’m a lot like her in many ways, and just as stubborn, so I told myself I didn’t care and went on with my life. When she died I found out that she kept a picture of me in my wedding dress beside her bed. I also learned a few years ago that her grandfather was a Baptist preacher and her own mother (his daughter), was raised a Baptist. I often wonder how her grandfather felt about his daughter leaving the Baptist church, maybe he disowned her, too? At any rate, if I allowed myself to linger long in regret, not mending that relationship would be one. She’s one of the first people I hope to see again in heaven. We have a lot of time to make up for!

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Grandma!

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Small Things - October 2, 2021

 "Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."

GLADYS TABER

In no particular order, here are six small things that inspired me this week!

1. If you enjoyed the Brambly Hedge videos I shared with you yesterday, I found more!

2. I love this recipe for Hot Apple Cider Cinnamon Spice Mix, it's wonderful with apple cider or plain apple juice! Perfect for this time of year! She has a recipe for Gingerbread Spice Mix, as well!

3. Here's another recipe that sounds so good, Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal! It's like dessert for breakfast!

4. I realize that not all of my readers celebrate Halloween, but if you do I found some wonderful books at the Archives to give you lots of ideas! 

5. I love so much about Calico and Twine, but particularly enjoyed this article, filled with suggestions for simple ways to savor this lovely season!

6. Frond & Feather is another lovely blog and the photography alone is worth perusing! But this week I happened across this lovely article and knew immediately that it would make the list of small things this week!

Also, see that little coffee cup in the picture above? I found another one exactly like it at a thrift shop this week for $1, so now I have a set! **SWOOON**!

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Books of My Childhood - For The Love of Cozy Homes


I finished reading A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration and the Meaning of Home by Henry Cole, on Thursday.  It's a lovely book about a little mouse that lives in a great house on a plantation and befriends a young boy who carries her around in his pocket. Celeste faces several trials and adventures in the story, but has a gift for curating a safe and cozy home wherever she finds herself. At one point in the story she ventures up into the attic and comes across a doll house, just fit for a mouse, and temporarily makes it her home.  Here's a passage from the chapter that I think is just lovely!

"Celeste began straightaway to clean and make order of her new home. Now that the house was bright and cheery, and its contents easy to see, she could open drawers, explore cabinets, shake out linens, polish brass, shine crockery and sweep floors.

And that she did. She made a small broom using feathers from. the old mattresses, and a rag from a bit of mattress ticking. Soon the floors and the walnut staircase glowed. She dusted and polished the chandelier and glass cabinet doors.

An inventory of the dining room cabinet revealed a lace tablecloth, four china plates with matching cups and saucers, and a china serving platter. In one drawer, Celeste found several tiny serving candles, partially melted from the summer heat in the attic.

She pulled one of the chairs from the living room out on to the windowsill. The missing pane afforded her the chance of catching a passing breeze, and from her perch she could see the comings and goings of the plantation below.

Celeste felt contented after days of hard work. She straightened one last picture, fluffed up a sofa cushion, and then at last made her way to her bedroom."

- A Nest for Celeste
by Henry Cole

I don't know about you, but being a lover of homekeeping and creating cozy spaces for myself and my family, this just speaks to my soul! I could envision myself stepping right into that scene and helping Celeste set everything to right. I thrive on bringing order to chaos! This particular book was one that I discovered while homeschooling my girls, but the book that began it all was one I received when I was probably about six years old.

It all started with  Miss Suzy, which is the tale of little gray squirrel "who lives all by herself in the tip tip top of a tall oak tree." To this day I dream of living in a tree house, and I'm apparently not alone (I like #15 and #28). Like Celeste, Miss Suzy was forced for a time to take up residence in an attic doll house, where she discovers a small box of wooden soldiers who come to her aide in recovering her lovely tree top home. I don't want to give too much away in case you've never read it.

"Miss Suzy liked to cook, she liked to clean, and she liked to sing while she worked. Every morning Miss Suzy made herself a bowl of acorn pudding. And as she stirred it around she sang, "Oh I love to cook, I love to bake, I guess I'll make an acorn cake". After that she swept her moss carpet with a little broom she made from acorn twigs. Then she dusted her firefly lamps and rinsed her acorn cups and put her whole house in order."

- Miss Suzy
by Miriam Young

Reading those words is like coming home, so precious and familiar. They sweep me right back to the tiny bedroom in the north west corner of my childhood home where I first discovered this delightful story. If i could point to a moment when my love for all things homey and cozy was first instilled in my heart, it was upon reading this delightful little story. If you've never read it and don't want to bother with purchasing a copy or finding one at the library, I found a lovely reading of it, here.

I have many fond memories from my childhood of seeking out small spaces, which for a time was a corner of our garage, and transforming them into the most magical places. I recall when Cinderella was banished to the attic, and Rapunzel to the top of the tall tower, how lucky they were to be able to make a home in these more secluded, rustic spaces, and to keep company with the field mice and the birds. Though quiet honestly, on the few occasions when a mouse did make its way into our home, I was not welcoming! For a time, I did have a desire to keep a tiny mouse in a cage complete with a teacup, but as I've grown older I'm more content to imagine the adventurous lives they lead in the forest.

There were other books throughout my childhood, and in raising my girls that I've loved for their cozy depictions of home and coziness. Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, in my opinion is one of the most descriptive of the series when it comes to painting the scene of coziness.

"There were slabs of tempting cheese, there was a plate of quivering head cheese, there were glass dishes of jams and jellies  and preserves and a tall pitcher of milk, and a steaming pan of baked beans with a crisp bit of fat pork in the crumbling brown crust.

Almonzo ate the sweet, mellow baked beans. He ate the bit of salt pork that melted like cream in his mouth. He ate mealy boiled potatoes, with brown ham gravy. He ate the ham. He bit deep into velvety bread spread thick with butter, and he ate the crisp golden crust. He demolished a small heap of pale mashed turnips, and a hill of stewed yellow pumpkin. Then he sighed and tucked his napkin deeper into the neck back of his red waist. And he ate plum preserves and strawberry jam, and grape jelly, and spiced watermelon rind pickles. He felt very comfortable inside Slowly he ate a piece of pumpkin pie.
"

- from Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Chapter 2 - Winter Evening

That passage makes me hungry just reading it!

Some of my daughter's favorite books that likewise depict cozy scenes of home is the Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem.


Which tells the story of the seasonal adventures of a community of mice who live in a little township called Brambly Hedge. I think I may have shared these links before, but they were made into a tv series in the UK, and you can find them on You Tube, Winter Story, Spring Story, Summer Story, Autumn Story.
I'm planning on watching Autumn Story over the weekend! I don't know if any of you are cartoon lovers in your adult years, but as with so many of the things I love, including old movies and old sit-coms, cartoons evoke that simpler time of my life as a child and in raising my children. And while I don't live in or dwell too much on the past, in this day and age, with how quickly the world is changing, there is just something about watching them that is like pulling up a soft warm blanket to shelter and cover me from the cold world.

And finally, I want to end by sharing another of my daughter's favorite cozy home books from her childhood,  TumTum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn. Here's a passage from the opening chapter.

"Once there were two married mice called Mr. & Mrs. Nutmouse, and they lived in great style. They had a big rambling house with a ballroom, and a billiards room, and a banqueting room, and a butler's pantry and just about every other sort of room a married couple might want. (There were thirty-six rooms in all.)

The house was called Nutmouse House, and it was situated in the broom cupboard of a small home dwelling called Rose Cottage. A broom cupboard might not sound like a very grand place for a home, but this broom cupboard was special. It had creamy white walls, mottled red tiles on the floor and a tiny sash window hidden behind a curtain of honeysuckle."

- TumTum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall
by Emily Bearn

And I'll simply leave you with that little morsel to wet your appetite for more! The book is filled with such depictions as it whisks you away on Mr. and Mrs. Nutmouse's adventures. It was one of the last books that I recall from Kate's childhood. She was eleven years old when it was first published and we discovered it one day on a trip to Target. I fondly recall reading it together under the big oak tree that stood at the side of our little farmhouse, images of a real cozy home where we lived happily for many years.

Our apartment today, while an apartment in a larger city, is perhaps not equally as cozy, but cozy just the same, and these books are the inspiration for it all! Are you a cozy home keeper, and are there any books from your childhood or even today, that inspire you with their words and sweet scenes of home? I'd love for you to share if you have one or two to recommend. I'm always eager to learn of a new book I might not be aware of yet, and I love to find kindred spirits who've lingered long over the pages of their favorites! Let me know if any of the titles I've mentioned are ones that are familiar to you, and if not, then if you enjoy reading children's literature for yourself or to share with your children or grand children, I can't recommend any of these titles enough! They are a sweet balm for the soul, and I hope you will find delight in them!


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October is Here!


 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A September Re-set: The Rhythms of My Life

"I'm such an autumn person.
Give me a quiet cozy spot 
with a view of the changing trees 
on a crisp, late September day, 
a warm drink and a good book 
and I will be in glory."

I posted this late last week on my profile on FB because it so perfectly depicts how I feel about this lovely season! Autumn and winter are equally my favorites, both for their varying beauty, but also because the first leads up to the holiday season (which I LOVE!), and the latter falls into this lovely, quiet season of rest. But another thing happens in autumn that I love equally as much, my thoughts return to home! Not that home is not always forefront on my mind, but for me, September has always signaled a time for new beginnings, and probably for you as well! You can't start school every year for twelve+ years of your childhood and not be left with that sense of nostalgia! Blank notebooks, newly sharpened pencils! It's probably why I restock my office supplies around this time every year!  

But for me September is also a return to rhythm and ritual. After the long, hot days of summer when I'm more inclined to relax and simply let each day unfold (its own beauty!), it is time for a bit of order and semblance. A time to reflect upon what is working and what needs tweaking as we finish up the end of the year. Some like to do this towards the end of December, and I do that, as well. But as I've grown older I've discovered that things run a little more smoothly if I take time to review and reset every quarter.

With that I thought I'd share a little about how I plan out (or at least create the illusion of a plan) my days, weeks and months. I'll be sharing more specifically on this topic in upcoming days, but for today I just thought I would paint a broad picture of how I begin my planning, which is grounded in rhythm and the natural flow of life. Keep in mind that I am a nearing 60 year old wife, mother and grandmother, currently living with my youngest adult daughter while my husband is traveling the country. So not quite an empty nester (although I moved in with her this time!), and in a bit of a transition stage. All that to say, that my stage of life is definitely different than others, but what I want to share with you today is foundational and adaptable, regardless of where life finds you. So let's begin.

Rhythm Of the Day
In a perfect world, and I do occasionally have perfect days, there are strong markers that signal both day and night, with anchors throughout the day that keep me grounded and centered. This means I wake up at the same time, and that I have a morning routine to begin each day. Typically I eat my meals around the same time, at 10, 2 and 6. I realize that 10 may seem a little late for breakfast, but that's when I get hungry so I've just adapted to it. Lunch is usually more of a light snack, if at all and I very often skip it all together. But there is just something about dinner at 6 that sets my world aright. If the rest of the day falls apart at the seams, if I have dinner at 6 it's like a reset and I can finish the day in peace. I also have set times for when I do daily tasks, with my "work day", so to speak, ending around 4. If I haven't already done so I'll prep for dinner and take some time to read or maybe listen to a podcast. I like a LOT of margin in my life because it allows me to be flexible. After dinner, I'll shower, change into something comfy and then the rest of the evening is open and free for enjoying my favorite things, like watching old movies, cross stitching, or crocheting. Usually, some time around 9:00 or 10:00 my head will being to nod and that's my signal it is time for my evening routine and bed. Every now and then I'll actually believe I might get on my computer for a bit or even watch another movie, but realistically that never happens.

Rhythm Of the Week
Much like my daily rhythm, my weeks don't always go as planned, and that's ok! Remember, I said I like a LOT of margin! But when things run smoothly every day has its task. I have assigned rooms for cleaning each day, and then on Friday's I'll give it all a quick touch up to carry us through the weekend. I'm a homebody and I don't like to get out much, but my daughter is a social butterfly and gets antsy sitting at home, so we try to find the balance. But left to my own, I would get out once, **maybe** twice a week, typically Wednesday and Friday I like running errands in the middle of the week and then once again before the weekend because I prefer not to get out at all on Saturday and Sunday, unless there's a special event going on. Weekends are just too busy and I hate traffic. For many years Sunday was my sabbath, but recently I switched that to Saturday. In all honesty they probably both count, because observing the sabbath for me is primarily only doing things that bring me joy. That means that I might still cook a meal (though usually in the crock pot), or bake, or go to a coffee shop. It's different every weekend and I'm not rigid about it, which for me is the whole point. 

Rhythm of the Month
If you've been around here for very long you know that I love living seasonally and any reason to celebrate, even small, silly, things. Realistically that usually means that once or twice a month I'll bake something special, watch a movie that we only always watch in (insert month here), or something along those lines. I usually sit down at the end of each month and look ahead to the next and plan out a few fun things to do. Sometimes they happen, sometimes they don't.  This month we celebrated the Autumn Equinox with our traditional serving of Frito Pie. In years past we've watched October Sky, but this year I'm bumping that to October 4 which is the day that Sputnik was launched, a key element in the story. It was also my paternal grandmother's birthday, so that makes it equally special. This year we didn't watch a movie, my daughter is currently re-watching a series from her childhood so I joined her for a couple of episodes. But the Frito Pie remained stable and grounded us in tradition, and that was enough.

Rhythm of the Year
The rhythm of the year are for those special occasions that happen annually, like birthdays, anniversaries,  and of course the holidays. In our home we also celebrate the solstices in summer and winter and the equinox in spring and autumn. For me personally, that also means  observing The Year of the Lord, including Advent in late November leading up to Christmas, and Lent in late winter leading up to Easter.  There are other feast days spread throughout the year as well, such as Saint Nicholas Day in early December, and one of my favorites, which is actually tomorrow, Michaelmas, or The Feast of the Archangels. As with everything, I often have grand ambitions for observing more of these holy days, but the reality is that most of the time they get overlooked. I used to beat myself up over it, but these days I consider it a celebration if I acknowledge it before it slips by. This is an area I'd like to improve in over the coming year, so we'll see how it goes.

Rhythm of the Seasons
And then of course, there is the natural flow of the seasons and all the wonderful reasons to love and to celebrate each one. Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons! I look forward every year to when the markets will put out their grand displays of mums and pumpkins. I start looking early for just the right one, preferably with a long stem! We bought our pumpkins for the season last weekend, and then I'll probably pick up a few more closer to the end of October to keep through Thanksgiving.  I love winter for the cozy setting in ushers in, and the instinctive desire to hibernate! My late autumn and winter wardrobe is my favorite, all my sweaters, and socks and my boots! Typically in Virginia we will see snow a couple of times during the season, sometimes just flurries and sometimes 16", you never know.  I've lived here long enough now to know that if the storm comes up from south and we're lucky, it just might stretch far enough into Virginia to pack a punch. It's one of the reasons I'd love to live a little closer to the Tennessee border, which sees a lot more snow.

Another way I celebrate the seasons is with the observance of Ember Days. Ember Days are part of the observance of The Year of the Lord, though for whatever reason I don't hear many people speak of them. I first learned about them about ten years ago and something about it just resonated with me. The Ember days are observed for three days, four times a year and is a time to focus on God through His marvelous creation. My observance typically includes a time of prayer and fasting, spending time in nature, and concludes on the last day, which is always Saturday, with a special meal.  We just concluded the autumn ember days, and while my observance this year was little low key, it was beautiful just the same.  The winter rotation, or Advent Embertide, is coming up on December 15, 17 and 18 and is actually considered the first rotation in the Year of the Lord which begins on the first day of Advent. I've never shared about how I observe these days here in this space, partly because it includes fasting and that is something that I like to keep private. But it isn't a sin to encourage others to consider this spiritual practice, so I think I will. If you're not familiar with the Ember Days and that sounds intriguing, then be on the lookout for future posts.

So there you have it. and before this post turns into a short story, I'll wrap this up here. Rhythm is the melody that carries the song of life, but it requires stillness and quiet to hear it. But like any sweet melody, once you have heard it, you never want it to end. It is a challenge for sure, especially in this day and age, with all-the-noise that fills our days. I encourage you to set aside some time to find it. Your rhythm will obviously look different than mine, but the song will be just as sweet! Rhythm grounds me. It brings order in the midst of chaos, it calms and stills me. It is an anchor in the swelling sea of life. It was founded by God from the beginning of time, and it exists for those who seek it.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

When The Hidden Beauty of Life Breaks Through


"Our lives are filled with moments like these — ordinary moments when the hidden beauty of life breaks into our everyday awareness like an unbidden shaft of light. It is a brush with the sacred, a near occasion of grace.

Too often we are blind to these moments. We are busy with our daily obligations and too occupied with our comings and goings to surround our hearts with the quiet that is necessary to hear life’s softer songs. There is no shame in this. We are only human, and the demands of life make a raucous noise. But we must not let those demands drown out the quieter voices of the spirit. We must take the time to stop and listen, knowing that the voice of the spirit speaks more often in a whisper than a shout. For spirituality is far more than religious practice. It is a cast of mind, a leaning of the heart, a willingness to see the shadow of the divine mystery in all people and all things. It is feeling the presence of God in every encounter, and seeing the reflection of the divine in the face of every person we meet on the street. "


- Kent Nerburn
Ordinary Sacred: The Simple Beauty of Everyday Life

Saturday, September 25, 2021

From My Reading
- Excerpt fromThe Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill

"There is a smell in the air, the smell of autumn, a yeasty, damp, fruity smell, carrying a hint of smoke and a hint, too, of decay. It fills me with nostalgia, but I do not know for what. It is a smell I love, for this is and has always been my favorite season. They said as I grew older that I should recoil from it, the winding down of another year, the descent towards winter, the end of summer pleasures, that I would begin to shift my affections towards spring, when all is looking forward, all is blossoming and greening and sprouting up. But I do not do so. Spring often promises what in the end it never pays, spring can cheat and lie and disappoint. You can sit at the window and wait for spring many a weary day.

But I have never been let down by autumn, to me it is always beautiful, always rich, it always gives in heaping measure, and sometimes it can stretch into November, fading but so gently, so slowly, like a very old person, whose dying is protracted by peacefully, in calmness."

- Susan Hill
The Magic Apple Tree


Small Things - September 25, 2021


"Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."


GLADYS TABER

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

1. If you're looking for ways to use up the last of your blackberries, this Skillet Pear and Blackberry Crisp looks yummy!

2. Read this on FB this week and loved it! "I saw a post the other day by a lady who said she always grabs vintage casserole dishes when she sees them at thrift stores or yard sales and uses them when she brings a meal to someone! She said often they are cheaper than disposable ones and the family can either keep for themselves or pass on to someone else who needs a meal in the future! So in the spirit of reduce, reuse, renew & recycle... I thought this was a neat idea worth sharing!"

3. Create A Culture of Slow: 8 Ways To Transform The Pace of Your Home

4. Pay Attention To The Beauty That Surrounds You

5. Do you read The Simple Things magazine? I own several digital issues (though I prefer the real deal). I started buying magazines digitally while I was on the road last year and found them a suitable alternative to all the space the printed editions required.  These days I take a trip to Barnes & Noble about once or twice a month and peruse the contents while I'm there taking note of anything I find interesting in journal I tote along exactly for that purpose. But one of the things I've always loved about this publication are their playlists.  I've discovered several artists this way that I'm sure I wouldn't have found otherwise. You can find the Autumn Playlist, here.

6. Small Things  I've been reading Ginny's blog for several years now, though I'm not sure I've ever shared it with you here. This week she reminded me of a book I've had on my Kindle for almost five years now but have never read (I do this with hardcover books, too! Can you relate?). Anyway, the book is called The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill. It's on my list of things to begin this weekend, including copious amounts of tea, crocheting and cross stitching!