Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Beauty and Wisdom of Winter

HAPPY WINTER SOLSTICE, FRIENDS!

“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

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Celebrating The Winter Solstice - 2022


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

- SUSAN WASINGER, Mother Earth Living


UPDATED FOR 2022! 
A compilation of several of posts from previous years.
WARNING: This post is LONG!

Enter, the winter solstice, which will officially arrives one week from today on Wednesday, December 21, at 4:48 p.m. This day is one 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, but there is just something about the winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year, that is special to me.

We have observed this day over the years with various, simple celebrations, but as the girls have grown up, my celebrations have become much more personal in nature. Building upon the traditions of the past and adding a few new, "just for me" touches,  I have made the observance and celebration of this day, for the most part, very much my own.  And so today, I thought I would take some time to share some of these traditions, both past and present, in the hopes that you might be inspired to indulge in your own celebrations. I will warn you now, this post is LONG, a repost and compilation of two previous posts from a few years back. I mentioned before that this is one of my favorite days of the year, so I've collected a number of ideas for celebrating, but all of these are just suggestions.  There is really no way you could do it all, even we don't, but I think it's nice to have a variety of ideas to choose from. So now, before I get into how to celebrate, lets first begin with why.

The winter solstice 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.  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.

"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

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!

THE BATTLE OF THE HOLLY KING AND THE OAK KING
One story tells of the battle of the Holly King (The King of Winter/Darkness) and The Oak King (The King of Summer/Light). This battle takes place twice a year, on the summer and winter solstice, At the summer solstice (around June 21—the longest day and the shortest night) the days begin to shorten and the Holly King defeats the Oak King and reigns supreme in the dark times (or days getting shorter). But in December, following the winter solstice, the days begin to lengthen and the Oak King conquers the Holly King and reigns during the light times. As odd as this may sound, and you may, perhaps think they have it backwards, but the truth is that the winter solstice actually welcomes summer, as with each successive day the light gradually increases and the days become longer.  And then in the summer the opposite happens, and the days following the summer solstice gradually become shorter.  So as you can see, our ancestors needn't have feared that the sun would not return!

Though I have never done so, I've always thought it might be sweet to make a couple of peg dolls in the form of the Holly King and the Oak King a have them displayed somewhere on a shelf, perhaps.  You can then share the story of the battle of the two kings with your children or grandchildren, and then the reigning king could be replaced on the shelf and the other tucked away until it is time to battle once again.

"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
 A SOLSTICE HOUSE BLESSING 
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.  It might 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 for young children. Then when the sun sets, I light the candles and allow them burn for awhile, our own little celebration of the return of the sun.

 CALLING IN THE FOUR DIRECTIONS
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. These songs are now compiled together in a single playlist, linked below.

East
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, made all the more delightful this year, as we moved into our new home this past summer which is completely surrounded by woods, and will make 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 decideto 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!

In years past, I always made a big pot of Grammy's Cabbage Soup, but for the past two years I've opted for another of my favorite recipes, Santa Fe Chicken Tortilla Soup.  It's a special recipe because it came from my mom's collection, and the bright yellow broth that it creates is perfect for the solstice.  Last year I cut flour tortillas with a snowflake cookie cutter and crisped them in the oven to top off our soup and it was lovely!

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.  You can find the recipe, here.

❅ 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. 


❅ WINTER SOLSTICE AND FOUR CARDINALS PLAYLISTS
Last year, as part of our solstice celebration, I compiled two lovely playlists. You'll find them here and here, if you're interested.




 SOLSTICE CRAFTS

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

SOLSTICE LANTERNS
This year I plan to make a solstice lantern, and **maybe** I can even entice Kate to join in the fun! I came across this idea several years ago, and since then have come across so many lovely ideas. There are several feast days in the Liturgical that feature "light", and lanterns are prominent in those celebrations. So it seems only fitting that making a lantern for the return of the light is fitting.

Sophie makes several variations of beautiful lanterns, and has an entire section with tutorials in her stories.
This link is actually for the saltdough snowmen, but I love the idea of cutting out simple paper snowflakes and adhering them to a glass jar. Perfect for the solstice!
But this is the lantern that is drawing me in this year, I plan to make it this weekend! I also love this idea for a winter solstice hiking stick, perfect for the solstice walk I mentioned yesterday.

WISHING CONES
This is a new-to-me craft that I've seen come up several times recently, wishing cones.  The idea is to write out your wishes, goals and intentions for the coming year, roll them up and then carefully secure them in a pinecone. The cone can then be tossed into the fire, perfect for a solstice bonfire, and released. Some do this for New Years, but I've seen it come up in several posts on solstice celebrations. As a Christian I will pray over my intentions, and since we live in an apartment, I'm not sure about the ability to place mine into a fire, so I'm unsure what I will do.

And now onto the books!

  BOOKS FOR CHILDREN (AND ADULTS, TOO!)  (All links to Amazon are non-affiliate)

Dear Rebecca, Winter Is Here
by Jean Craighead George

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

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


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

and towards the end, is this lovely passage;

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

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

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

 The Shortest Day
by Wendy Pfeffer

The Winter Solstice
by Millbrook Press
Also available at the Archives

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

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

The Story of the Snow Children
by Sibylle von Olfers

The Tomten
by Astrid Lindgren

by Dorothy 

by Richard Heinberg

 LOVELY VIDEOS ON YOU TUBE

Little Bear: Snowball Fight / Winter Solstice / Snowbound - I own this on digital and I still watch it every year!

The Snowman - another annual watch!

Guess How Much I Love You - So many memories from this book, and now a lovely cartoon!



 A MOVIE PERFECT FOR VIEWING ON THE SOLSTICE

- The Christmas Oranges - if you've never seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to see if you can find a copy from your library or purchase it to add to your collection.  A movie the whole family can and will enjoy. It doesn't have anything to do with the solstice, but I like it because oranges are prominent in the story and also associated with the solstice.

And now, my friends, I will close.  Today I hope to finally get around to baking some cookies!  I pray that your day is blessed and that you have been inspired to indulge in your own celebrations!  And if you have your own traditions for celebrating the solstice, please leave a comment and share them with us!

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

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Cozy Diffuser Blends For The Home

"Stay at home my heart, and rest. Homekeeping hearts are happiest."

- HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

The temperatures were in the 40's this morning, delicious! I lit the candle in the little pot bellied stove early today, to bring a semblance of warmth to the room. I try to reserve this ritual for times when we gather a as a family to enjoy spending time together, but in this season I find it hard not to long for it more often. My dream is to have a wood stove some day, both for heating and cooking, but who knows if that will ever be?  So for now I take joy is this small thing.

I've been experimenting recently, creating cozy scents for my diffuser and thought I would share a few of my favorites with you today.

❊ COZY HOME
- 4 drops lemon essential oil
- 4 drops orange essential oil
- 4 drops peppermint essential oil
- 4 drops rosemary essential oil

❊ HOME SWEET HOME
- 4 drops fir essential oil
- 3 drops orange essential oil
- 2 drops cinnamon essential oil
- 2 drops vanilla essential oil

❊ LET'S STAY HOME
- 3 drops cedarwood essential oil
- 3 drops lavendar essential oil
- 1 drop orange essential oil

I've been slowly growing my collection of oils.  Thankfully I prefer "cozy" scents like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla, and orange plays prominantly in my favorite blends so I keep plenty of these on hand, especially in this season.  I'd like to learn how to produce my own oils and I've added that to my list of things to do in the new year, but now store-bought will do. If you use a diffuser and have a favorite scent, be sure to let me know in the comments.  I have a growing list I want to try and I am always looking for a new favorite!

And now is time to tend to the needs of the day, my friends!  Keep it cozy, and I'll meet you back here soon!

Monday, September 5, 2022

The September Re-Set

"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin."

ZECHARIAH 4:10

We moved into our house on July 1 and almost every day since has been packed to the brim from sun up to sun down.  We painted, removed a propane gas fireplace from the 60's, added a pergola to the back patio, built raised beds in preparation for our garden next spring, replaced a microwave, washing machine and dishwasher (they were all on their last lest!), not to mention unpacking, organizing, living in the space and re-organizing, and it's been grand! We are absolutely IN LOVE with this space and are still a little in awe at the goodness of God and His provision. This house and land is so much more than we ever dreamed possible, and every time I walk through and realize this is OURS, I almost have to pinch myself to believe it!

I can not wait to share pictures of the updates we've done, but since I'm a little OCD you'll have to be patient.  I don't want to post them here until everything is JUST right, and I still have some things I want to tweak. But, if you follow me on Instagram you can get a little sneak peek here and there.

In the evenings, when my body couldn't take another step, and my mind couldn't handle the thought of making one more decision, I cross stitched, as you can see in the picture above. This week I'm going to start making curtains for our kitchen and dining area, and this weekend I'm going to put out all of our autumn decorations.  I've got a few little seasonal projects in the works that I hope to get finished by then, but if not, it doesn't officially begin until the 22nd.  Our first autumn in our new home and we are literally surrounded by trees, so it should be beautiful!

Today began my Sepember Reset, which is something I've done in years past, but this year has felt especially needed. I actually do this every quarter, but there is something about September that is a little different because in reviewing my yearly goals, this is the point where I have to seriously evaluate and determine what I think I can actually complete by the end of the year, especially in light of the busy holiday season quickly coming up. To be honest, since I literally would have never dreamed we would buy a house and acreage this year, most of my goals were small by comparison. But a lot of them also got put on the back burner because as you know, buying a house and moving is a major life event! It has taken every bit of my time and energy for several months now, and probably will for the remainder of the year. Not that I'm complaining. But I was ready to be at a place where things were settled enough that I could get back to my weekly routines and seasonal rituals and actually live in my house. So I made it my goal to start today and I'm happy to say, that while I didn't get to everything I did get about 75% of my to-do list checked off! I was little disappointed that I wasn’t able to accomplish more, but I was encouraged by the verse above that the Lord is pleased with my "small beginnings”!

One of the weekly rituals that we re-instated today was OLD MOVIE MONDAY, and we kicked it off with a selection that we hadn't watched together in years,  Follow Me Boys with Fred MacMurray.
It's one of those wonderful feel good stories about a man who settles down in a small town, volunteers to become the local scout master (to impress the girl who becomes his wife), and ends up making a lasting impression on several generations of young boys. I love just about anything with Fred MacMurray in it! I grew up watching My Three Sons and I was happy to discover that you can catch an episode of it here and there on MeTV, which we get through our Frndly TV subscription, and that, my friends, is the best $8.99 I spend every month! If you're  a classic TV and sitcom fan, like me, then I can't recommend Frdnly TV enough! No kickbacks for me here, just sharing something I love!

If you've never watched Follow Me Boys, you can rent it for $3.99 through Amazon, here, but you can actually buy it on DVD for just a dollar more, here, and I personally believe its a good one to have in your family movie collection. (Links are non-affiliate!)

And now my friends, I'm going to do a little reading before I turn in for the night, and tomorrow is a full day of errands!  But I'll be back soon with more updates, and I hope you'll join me right here!


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

THE AUTUMN DAY KEEPER - NOW AVAILABLE!


Good evening, friends! It's been awhile, and as you know with good reason, we bought a house!

Since July 1, when we closed, it's been non-stop painting, renovating and moving and while there are still a number of "finishing touches" to work on, I finally feel ready to resume posting here on a more regular basis. I've missed you, and this space and I'm feels good to be back!

As nothing about this summer has been normal or routine, I'm also ready to establish some routines and resume life as normal here in our new home, and I've resurrected a few tools to aide me in the process that I thought I'd share with you, as well.

The AUTUMN DAY KEEPER has been updated and is ready to use! I've also included the Goal Planning Sheets and Phenology Wheels which covers September-November 2022.  So if you've used this resource in the past or if you're new to my blog and want to try it out, just click on the links below to be directed to the FREE downloads!

ORDINARY DAYS OF SMALL THING AUTUMN DAY KEEPER

AUTUMN GOAL PLANNING WORKSHEETS

(*NOTE* I noticed a small error on the last page of each month of the goal planning sheets today that I have now corrected.  If you downloaded and printed them before today (8/31), you can follow the link above  to the corrected version and re-print the last past of each month.  Sorry for the inconvenience!)

AUTUMN PHENOLOGY WHEELS

I'm also working with another resource I've adapted THE SEPTEMBER RESET which I'll be sharing more about in the coming days.

Our house is in the country, located within the boundaries of The George Washington National Forest, and at present, reliable wi-fi is a little hard to come by. But that's the trade off for a peaceful, rural setting like this and to be honest, I don't mind nearly as much as I thought I would! We have service, but all it takes is a sprinkle and we're down for several hours at a time, which I view as an invitation to slow down a litle! That being said, I think between the good days and trips into the city from time to time I'll be able to post here with a bit more regularity that I have over the past few months, and I hope you'll join me!

If you do download and use the AUTUMN DAY KEEPER I hope you'll be sure to let me know how you liked it! It's been a wonderful tool for living seasonally and with intention for myself and others over the years, and I hope you'll find it helpful, as well!

Until then, friends!


“The true way to live is to enjoy every minute as it passes, 

and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies.” 


- LAURA INGALLS WILDER


Wednesday, July 6, 2022

For Such A Time As This

When I was in the first grade, my teacher used to hand out pieces of manila art paper for us to draw pictures on. Some times what was drawn was specific to a lesson, but very often we were given the freedom to draw anything we wanted.

My pictures often included many of the same things, my family, pets, my friends, flowers, our home. But there was one element that was almost always included that puzzled my teacher and my mother alike, snow capped mountains. They stood majestic in the background of almost every picture I drew, so often that my teacher once asked how long I had lived in Texas (I was born there and at the time, had never lived anywhere else), or if I had family that lived in the mountains (I did not). She was so puzzled by the frequency of my including them that I recall her even pointing them out and asking my mom about it when we went for open house that year. My mother explained she was just as perflexed as she was, as at six years of age the furthest I had been from home was Oklahoma, and there were certainly no mountains between our home and there.  After that my mom would frequently comment asking why I kept drawing mountains. I’m not sure what my answer was, why I drew them or where I had even seen them, all I remember is that I loved them and longed for them even then.

Fast forward a few years to a Saturday afternoon when I was probably in 4th or 5th grade. My dad was watching The Wide World of Sports, as he did most Saturdays, and I can vividy recall sitting on the floor in the same room doing homework. I looked up at a commercial for a car, which I am now convinced was filmed driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was in the fall, and when the car passed down the road the leaves danced behind it. I was mesmorized and remember looking up at my dad and saying, “Some day I’m going to live where the leaves dance behind your car.” My mother tried to explain it away, telling me there was probably someone on the side of the road with a bag full of leaves that they threw behind the car, but I wasn’t convinced. Thirty years later I would take a drive on the parkway myself, as I have many times now, and I can attest to the fact that the leaves do often dance behind your car. No props needed.

The first time I drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia deep inside me I knew that I was home. All those tender young years before when for no apparent reason I wanted to include mountains in my drawings, and to live where the leaves danced behind your car, I see now as the hand of God, instilling those dreams and desires into my heart to lead me here. 

A few years ago I traced my father’s family back to Germany, where their last name was spelled Hutzel. Johann George Hutzel, immigrated from Germany and settled in Frederick, Maryland in 1739. His son, Ludwig Lewis Hutzel, later settled in Wythe County, VA. Ludwig was my Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather. So my moving back to Virginia in 2001, was, in a way, returning to our family’s roots.

On Friday, July 1, we closed on a house on 1.84 acres located in Big Island, VA. Big Island is a “Census Designated Area” located within the boundaries of the George Washington National Forest, it is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Though we don’t see as much snow as some mountain regions, the higher elevations are often coated at the top with snow that you can see from the valley below. They look very much like the mountains I drew and dreamed of as a child. And the Blue Ridge Parkway with its dancing leaves? It's less than 10 minutes from our house. 

Everything in my life from the time I was six years old has brought me to and prepared me for this moment. I’ve come full circle, and have never felt more secure, blessed or intentionally placed. The divine hand of God has gently guided me here all these many years, “for such a time as this”, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I rest secure knowing that same gentle hand will continue to guide me, as He has always so faithfully done.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Small Things - 6.25.22

"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.

I absolutely love this and plan on typing it up (and personalizing it) and posting it on my refrigerator door. I also signed up for their free 20 day devotional, Making Your Home Glorious.  You can find it at the top of the page.


I've followed The Cottage Fairy on You Tube for smoe time now, but I think her latest video is one of my favorites.

4. I've really enjoying perusing the contents available at The Thankful Homemaker, and I particularly enjoyed this episode ofher podcast, EP 79: Homemaking Matters: A Good God Working Out His Purposes in the Midst of Our Ordinary Days

5. Emily P. Freeman (one of my favorite people!), is doing a Psalm Summer series. She just did Psalm 91 (my life Psalm!), and it's wonderful!

6. This article took me back, to Cox's Department Store in downtown Fort Worth, and the one time I ate there with my then mother-in-law.  Before that day I somehow never knew the restaurant existed, but to be honest I never recall my mom shopping at Cox's.  But I do remember their elaborte window displays at Christmas time and they had the best Santa Claus! I think my first three pictures with Santa were taken there, before the mall opened near us, and the stores downtown slowly faded away. Department Stores hold such a special place in my memories from childhood. Did you ever eat lunch in a department store restaurant? 

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Gentle Arts

“For the gentle arts are just that, gentle.  They do no demand to be practiced. No one is obliged to pursue them. They have not been taken up by any government department and regulated and repackaged with health and safety messages and warnings. They are a matter of individual and personal choice. They can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest and the ability to thread a needle, break an egg, choose a color or wield a pair of scissors. They don’t require complicated skills, qualifications, training or equipment. They don’t take up much space, create dirt and mess (although you may find yourself leaving the house covered in little threads or fibers) or impinge on others’ lives.

What they do require, though, is a conscious choice to do something “old-fashioned’ and “quaint”, to choose not to buy and consume endlessly, but to make and create for a change.

The gentle arts are not all-or-nothing decisions though. Fortunately, there are no legal guidelines about how much is good for you. So you can consider yourself a practioner whether you decide to bake a cake or knit a sock once in a while, or live a life packed with quilting and stitching. It’s the awareness of the worth of the gentle arts that counts, the ability to see that the feminists of the 1970’s were misguided when they thought that teaching young girls to devalue domesticity constituted progress.

Just as its possible to combine the gentle arts with all sorts of lifestyles - full time work, part-time work, unpaid work - so it’s possible to combine a range of skills. Many how-to craft books catergorize readers as knitters or quilters or embroiderers, without considering the possibility that they may be all of these, and more. Anyone who likes knitting may enjoy crochet, those who work with a needle may love hand-quilting  or embroidering, an embroiderer may want to bake cakes as a subject for a textile piece. And so the connections go on to create a world of colorful tactile possibilites that are limited only by your reluctance to try something new.”

- JANE BROCKET
The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art and the Comforts of Home

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Four Scriptural Images of Home

Making a home involves constructing and maintaining an environment in which people can flourish in ways in which God desires for people to flourish. Four images, each of them rooted in Christian scripture and tradition, suggest themselves as ways in which Christians can picture what home is for and thus some of what might be involved in making a home.

❈ AN INN
"In the first place, a home is an inn. An inn is a place where a traveler can find a meal and shelter for the night, usually in the company of other travelers. It is a modest sort of place, offering simple accomodations to people of modest means, and with normal, forseeable human needs. Joseph and Mary sought refuge at an inn when Mary's time of delivery drew near. The Good Samaritan took the man who had fallen among theives to an inn, where he cared for the man. So also should a home be a place where it is safe to be if you are hungry or tired, or sick, or a new parent, or newly born yourself, for that matter, because meals and beds and the care that goes with them are available there as a matter of course.

❈ A SANCTUARY
A home is also a sanctuary. A santuary is a place to set apart for encounter, whose separateness exists for the sake of relationship. When God led the people of Israel out of Egypt, he commanded them to build him a sanctuary so that he could dwell in their midst. The psalmist sings of entering the sanctuary of God and having his despair turn to confidence as he encounters God and God's renewing comfort. A sanctuary, in other words, is not a cocoon whose inhabitants dwell in splendid, inpenetrable isolation. A sanctuary has boundaries that are meant to be crossed. A home, likewise, should be a place with a door that can be opened and closed. A place whose very separateness serves to foster relationship both within and across its boundaries. 

 A CITY
A home is a city. Again and again in scripture we find God's desire for human flourishing expressed in terms of a city, from the earthly Jerusalem of the prophet and psalmist, to the heavenly Jerusalem of Revelation. A city is an active place, there are a lot of people there, and they are busy with a lot of things. A city is very different from a suburb, the central notion of which involves getting away from other people and the everyday commotion of urban life. Often we can be surprised when running a household involves more or less continuous activity. We shouldn't be. The life of a city ebbs and flows with the hour and the season, but it never ceases altogether; so it is with the life of a home.

❈ A CASTLE
And finally, a home is a castle. When scripture describes the dwelling place that God designs for himself and for humans, it does so in terms that call to mind the rich ceremonious beauty of a castle with all its pomp and pageantry; the tabernacle, with all its rich fabrics and woods, the jewel-encrusted New Jerusalem. This kind of labor-intensive richness is out of fashion nowadays; and we want everything to be quick and easy, or we think we do. But there is something in the human soul that longs for beauty beyond necessity. Of course, it is easier not to make the bed. But there is a substantial difference between turning down a neatly made bed in the evening and lying down in a mess of sheets left from the night before. To be beautiful, a home need not be luxurious in size or in contents. The beauty of a well-kept home may arise simply from structure and ritual and attention to detail, things that can be present even in the most modest of homes.



- MARGARET KIM PETERSON
Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

A Longing For The Comforts Of Home

"One of the most fundamental of human longings is the longing for home. We long for a place that feels like the right place, where we belong,  where we ourselves are longed for and welcomed.  And for all its spiritual and psychological dimensions, this longing is physical and material as well.  We want there to be a place where waiting for us is a room, a bed, a chair, a meal - the things that meet the basic needs of embodied things like ourselves.  We want “the comforts of home”, not just somewhere away from home - a fancy hotel, say - but at home, where, we sense, they are supposed to be.” 

- MARGARET KIM PETERSON
Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life

Life is busy right now, and about to become even busier for a season.  I'm still not at liberty to be more specific, but keep checking back, especially around the first of July!  I'll be able to share more then.

In the mean time, I've immersed myself in all things homekeeping, especially vintage housekeeping, which still resonates so deeply with me. I can't get enough of images like these, the sweet scenes of home and a wife and mother tending to the needs of her family.  Don't get me wrong, I don't judge or begrudge any woman the right to pursue a career, that's just not at the heart of who I am and feel called to be, and as such, its what you'll always find this reflected here in this space.

Growing up, I was blessed to have a mother in the home. My mother didn't go to work until I was in high school  and it was a great comfort to me.  Regardless of what may have been happening in my life, knowing my mother was home and available to me at any moment grounded me, I suppose you could say. I liked knowing she was there and would be there to greet me any time I returned. Though our relationship wasn't perfect, her choice to be a stay-at-home mom is a gift I will always treasure, and it greatly influenced my life as a young girl.

Something I enjoy is perusing the plethora of vintage housekeeping books that are available on the Internet Archives. While nothing replaces the real deal of holding a book in your hand, since there is no way I could or should own every book that catches my eye, the archives serves as a useful tool.

A few favorites I've come across are the Mrs. Beeton's Books. Her first book, Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, published in 1836, was an instant success. There are actually what look to be a number of updated and revised versions at the archives, including;


and this one looks interesting,


I just love perusing these old texts, which are often filled with practical, as well as a lot of out-dated but still fun ideas. If you enjoy vintage housekeeping, too, I encourage you to spend some time searching them out on the archives.  I often do an initial search on Pinterest, which usually provides me with a number of images of covers and titles and then seek them out on the archives. I find them quite fun, like stepping back to a time when life seemed simpler.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Happy Summer Solstice!

"In the summer, the days were long, stretching into each other. Out of school, everything was on pause and yet happening at the same time, this collection of weeks when anything was possible."

SARAH DESSEN


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Small Things - 06.18.22

"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;

A new to me blog that I discovered recently.  Pop over and say hi!

2. This instrumental rendition of Oceans.  I had this on repeat for hours one day.

3. Anyone else old enough to remember The CBS Children's Film Festival? Growing up, Saturday Mornings meant hours of cartoons, until around 1:00 p.m. when the Film Festival aired.  It was basically foreign films for kids, but I loved it!  Originally hosted by Kukla, Fran and Ollie, it aired from 1967 to 1984 (I had no idea!). I've been able to find a few episodes on You Tube, as well as the theme song, which I can still hum like I just watched it yesterday.

4. Really enjoyed reading this article,  Let Us Be Lost, Always. In fact, Dappled Things is a treasure trove!


6.  I received this book as a gift for Mother's Day this year, *A Lovely Life: Saving Simple Joys In Every Season by Melissa Michaels and I am really enjoying it.

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Thursday, June 16, 2022

From My Reading - Sacred Time: Embracing An Intentional Way of Life

Tucked quietly behind an office building on a busy city street, is a quiet little park surrounded by stone walls. 
Lush with vines and a variety of ground coverings that thrive in the shade of a giant pine tree, a single picnic table
invites you to enjoy a moment of respite amidst the bustle of the busy world. It is an invitation to sacred time.

LEXINGTON, VA

"We live in a breathless world.  Everything around us seems to move at faster and faster speeds, summoning us to keep up. We multitask, we organize, we simplify; we do all that we can to keep on top of the many demands on our time. We yearn for a day with more hours in it so we can complete all that we long to do. This rushed and frenzied existance is not sacred time.

Sacred time is time governed by the rhythms of creation, rhythms that incorporate times of rest as essential to our own unfolding. Sacred time is time spent being present to the moments of eternity available to us whenever we choose to pause and breathe.

In sacred time, we step out of the madness of our lives and chose to reflect, linger, savor and slow down. We gain new perspective here. We have all had those moments of time outside of time when we felt as if we were touching eternity, bathed in a different kind of rhythm.  Touching eternity brings cohesion to our lives and reminds us of the goodness and surplus of living because it honors the rhythms of the soul.

The clock with its forced march is not the only marker of time. Our calendars with their five and ten year strategic plans rob us of our future as we desperately try to cram things in. Each slow, mindful breath, the rising and setting of the sun, the expansion and contraction of the moon, the ripening and releasing of the seasons - these mark a different quality of time and invite us into a deepened and renewed way of being."

- CHRISTINE VALTERS PAINTNER, from Sacred Time: Embracing An Intentional Way of Life