Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Remember the old Steve Miller Band's Fly Like An Eagle?

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future . . .

Sometimes, minutes and hours can drag, but how is it that years, even decades, just fly?

I had a cancer scare this year. I'm incredibly thankful I'm healthy. But who knows what the future holds? I could live one more year. I could live 35 more years. No matter how long, one thing's certain . . .  it's going to go fast.

I want it to count. 

I'll never be famous. That's okay. I'll never achieve anything near greatness, at least in the eyes of the world.

I think more like Anne.

"I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. "I don't exactly want to make people KNOW more . . . but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me . . . to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born."

(from Anne's House of Dreams, L.M. Montgomery)

And, I do hope to receive a "Well done, good and faithful servant . . . " when I'm finished here.

How am I going to live in 2015? How will I live in the time left to me? Time does keep on slipping' . . .  and I want to live as if The Beautiful Matters.

Wishing you a beautiful 2015, dear friends.

End-of-year reflections

Sunday, December 28, 2014

I was in the grocery store yesterday, and the cashier wished me a "happy New Year." Wait . . . what?! We're still celebrating the twelve days of Christmas, remember? 

The Christmas tree is still up, and the lights are still twinkling on the mantel. We're watching Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. And there's still plenty of Christmas cookies to enjoy with a hot cup of tea.

A gift from my daughter, vintage Lady Carlyle by Royal Albert. Isn't she a beauty?

And, oh . . . new books to read now that all the preparations and celebrations have quieted down. 

This is a reflective time of year, though, with the old year quickly running out, and a brand new year on the horizon.

I have an uneasy relationship with New Year's resolutions. On the one hand, they're great for identifying goals and outlining plans. 

On the other hand, they seem to be easily broken, in my experience, and can leave me feeling guilty and defeated 'round about the beginning of February.

Maybe it's the word "resolution." It has sort of a "grit your teeth," "pull up your bootstraps" kind of harshness to it. How about "ideas,"  "dreams," "opportunities," "creative endeavors" . . . ? Those words seem synonymous with fresh starts, and practically sparkle with possibilities.

So I'm kind of thinking and reflecting, taking inventory of 2014, and planning for 2015, trying to set realistic goals while dreaming a little, keeping a balance between challenging myself and being flexible.

A new notebook and calendar, ready to be filled. What will 2015 hold?
One thing I was able to do in 2014 for the first time ever was read through the entire Bible. I also blogged about twice a week for a whole year. Both of these were new-to-me accomplishments. 

This year I know I want to get some regular exercise. I started a couple weeks ago, and have been doing workouts every day. I really have to do something, or I will be too creaky in the joints to play with my grandchildren someday. 

I've been "writing" a book for about three years, but during that time have really only worked on it steadily for about three months. The rest of the time has just been talk. I'd like to finish it this year.

I'd like to spend more time crafting -- knitting, scrapbooking, and other paper crafts. I feel like I'm a curator of beautiful things, showcasing them on my blog, but not as much of a creator of beautiful things as I'd like. 

I have other ideas rolling around in my head. It's a good week to read, ponder, reflect . . . and dream.

Are you taking some quiet time this week to enjoy the twelve days of Christmas? Are you thinking ahead to 2015?

Linking to Rose Chintz Cottage's tea party.

Merry TWELVE days of Christmas!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

It's finally here. The house has been decorated, the presents bought and wrapped (and probably already opened by the time you read this), the cookies have been made, and the Christmas feast has been prepared.

Carols have been sung and thanks and praise given to the One whose birthday we celebrate.

Now, just a gentle reminder from my heart to yours: don't be so quick to pack everything up tomorrow, or even this weekend. You've worked hard to get to this point; don't shut down the party so quickly!

five golden rings . . . 

I'm hoping you're not joining the hoards returning things at the mall this weekend, or out shopping and spending your gift cards quite yet. That you're not carting the tree out to the curb and cleaning up strands of tinsel, and wiping away every vestige of this holy day.

Relax and enjoy the afterglow. 

The original 12 days of Christmas referred to the time between Christmas Day and January 6, or Epiphany, the day on the church calendar when the wise men from the east's arrival is remembered. Some traditions, like the song, give gifts every day, for all 12 days.

At least take 12 days to enjoy Christmas cookies, drink tea, maybe read the new Christmas book.

We're oftentimes so quick to get on to the Next. Big. Thing. In this case, I guess it is January sales and Valentine's Day. 

My Victoria magazine came the other day, and I saw something pink and maybe Valentine-y on the front, and I quickly stuffed it under a pile of books. Plenty of time to enjoy that later, in January, on a dull, cloudy winter's day when I need some cheer and inspiration.

Right now, I have plenty.

And isn't that always true? 

Right now we have everything we need.

We don't need anything newer or better or shinier than. just. this.

December tea

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My husband's birthday was last week, and I surprised him with this beautiful teacup. I found it last summer when we were vacationing up north. 

A teacup probably wasn't on the top of his wish list, but he was gracious about it, and even said he liked it. (I did get him another present, too.) 

My mom always paints birthday cards for us, and she painted this card for my husband. On the back it says, "Hope yew have a Happy Birthday." Get it?

Because my husband prefers pie, we had homemade apple pie instead of birthday cake.

So, of course, I've already borrowed his teacup for tea. These salted caramels are amazing.

My nephews in Colorado (aged 8, 11, and 13) participate in a young entrepreneurs' marketplace every year where they sell products they have made. This year, they sold gluten-free baking mixes and granola, so they sent us a box for Christmas.

We are not gluten free, but half the ladies in my book club are, so these will be great to make up for book club nights at my house.

They also sent scone mix, waffle mix, granola, and granola bars.

Wyatt, of "Wyatt's Wonderful Waffles" is eight years old.

All our children are home, and I am one happy mama. Not much to do now except cooking and enjoying their company.

 Thank you all for being such dear and encouraging friends this year. I have so appreciated reading your comments and getting to know you. I'll be around this week, but mostly I'm going to concentrate on family and celebrating Jesus' birth. Blessings to you and yours, xo Deborah.

(Linking with the tea party over at Rose Chintz Cottage.)

Christmas morning coffee cake

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our Christmas morning tradition goes something like this: no presents allowed until Mom and Dad get a cup of coffee. And Dad makes a fire. Only then can we open stockings together.

(Now, of course, all the 20-somethings want their coffee first, too.)

After stockings, we put baby Jesus in the manger. 

the manger has been empty all through Advent while we wait . . . 

Then we put candles on the coffee cake and sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. We'll fill our plates with coffee cake, some egg casserole (made ahead and put in the oven as the coffee brews), and maybe some fruit, and pour another cup of coffee. Then we all settle back in front of the fire and the tree to open gifts together.

this is going in the freezer for Christmas morning

Happy Birthday Jesus Coffee Cake

1 c butter
2 c sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 c sour cream
3 c unsifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
dash of salt


2/3 to 1 c sugar (1/2 white, 1/2 brown)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 c chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs and the vanilla and cream until fluffy. Add the sour cream, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix the topping ingredients together in a separate bowl. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Sprinkle with some topping mixture, then batter, then topping for the middle. End with a batter layer. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes.

Can also make in two loaf pans. Bake for 40 minutes.

Freezes well.

Are you wondering where I got these adorable sheep?

They come from Kathy's (of Spot On Cedar Pond) etsy shop. She makes these sheep from clay and wool from her own Jacob sheep. Her sheep are pictured in the photo above.

When my daughter saw these, she said they seemed to be looking up. Well, of course. They want to hear, just like the shepherds, what the angel has to say.

When our children were little, we had another tradition of "catching" each other doing something kind. If one of us caught another, for example, sharing a toy, he or she could put some straw in a "manger" we had. Our kindness toward each other would help to prepare a nice, soft bed for the baby Jesus.

this little doll, made out of a sock, wasn't originally intended to be a baby Jesus, but is perfect for this manger

yes, the proportions are a little off here . . . the cow is kind of small . . . 

What are your some of your Christmas traditions?

An old-fashioned Christmas tea

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sandi at Rose Chintz Cottage has invited us to join her for "an old-fashioned Christmas tea" this week.

I am using some family heirlooms today; that's what makes it "old-fashioned" for me. But just the fact that we're sitting before the fire with tea and sugar cookies seems old-fashioned as well. We're not on our laptops or cell phones, or running to the mall; just slowing down and un-plugging is a way to enjoy some old-fashioned comforts.

First, a peek at our tree, with lots of decorations handmade by my grandmother.

Next to the tree is a table set before the fire for tea.

My grandmother made this tablecloth. I remember we used it when I was growing up, and now our family is enjoying it.

My mother made this fun little tea cozy . . . 

These cups were my mother-in-law's. Sometimes we use them for eggnog with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Today, we're drinking Constant Comment decaf, probably my favorite non-caffeinated tea.

And what better to go with tea than a little plate of sweets and some salty cashews (Mr. Beautiful's favorite)?

A friend taught a group of us how to make baklava on Saturday. We each made a pan to take home and bake.

Just look at this yumminess . . . 

And speaking of Mr. Beautiful, here is a rare shot of him, just before we headed out to his company's Christmas party last Friday night.

can you see where he gets his name?

But back to tea . . . in the spirit of all things old-fashioned, I've pulled out my Christmas stocking from childhood, also made by my grandmother.

Some vintage Christmas hankies . . . 

And lest you think it is all old-school red and green around here . . . I've got a little aqua and pink sparkle happening out in the foyer.

This makes me smile every time I walk past it.

I hope that you're enjoying some old-fashioned delights this December . . . making Christmas cookies, listening to Christmas carols, reading a good book, stringing popcorn, visiting with loved ones . . .  and enjoying a quiet cup of tea. 

Project 333: Round 2

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I'm entering "Round 2" of Project 333, my second three-month period of wearing 33 items only. It has been a great experiment for me, and I am hooked. If you're not familiar with Project 333, just google it; there's tons of info out there, or check out some of my previous posts, like the one here.

I am switching out a few things, including my skirts. They will go into my warmer weather closet. It's just too cold here in Michigan; I'd rather "spend" my quota on more pants right now. I only had two pair of pants and two skirts for the fall; not enough bottom pieces. I will have six, maybe seven, pair of pants/trousers/jeans this round.

I also got rid of a couple things, including a cobalt blue skirt that just didn't fit in with my color palette of navy, gray, lavender, pink, and white. Yes, I'm staying with that color palette (with one exception, keep reading); I love it.

I still have dresses to wear for dinner out or church. I'll wear the two sleeveless ones with a cardigan or jacket, tights, and booties.

Love the collar on this gray dress . . .

This is a dress I had made. I know, exciting. I will share about this in an upcoming post.

And I bought a few new things.

 I have been keeping a list of items I'd like to add to my wardrobe, and doing a lot of online window shopping over the past few months.

I hit the jackpot on cyber Monday.

My favorite find? Wide-legged, high-waisted trousers. Why, oh why, have I not discovered these before? They are perfect for my body type. If you have a small waist and curvy hips, do yourself a favor, and get some of these.

from the book The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style by Kim France and Andrea Linett (no, I didn't get white)

In a world of skinny jeans, these are a breath of fresh air. No worries about the dreaded plumber's butt (shudder). No muffin top. No looking like a drumstick! Just a smooth, beautiful line, and oh so comfortable.

I will wear these with footless pantyhose (for warmth, smoothness, and no visible panty line) and a pair of stacked, chunky heels. In the summer, they will look great with a wedge sandal.

another great 50% off cyber Monday find from Talbots

On top, I'll wear a silk, tie-neck blouse maybe with a short cardigan (very retro chic) or a slim bateau neck tee.

Speaking of silk blouses, I found a beautiful soft pink one on sale at Ann Taylor. I thought I had a pink silk blouse, but it really wasn't pink; it was a peach color that looked terrible on me. I found it for three dollars at a consignment store, and snapped it up when I saw it was silk. It has been hanging in my closet for about three years; I've only worn it twice.

peach on left, replaced by pink on right

Now I can replace it with one I will wear all the time.

Another beautiful silk blouse on sale from J. Peterman. A lovely lavender shade, but it is way too long; it hits at the widest part of my hips. It will be easy to take off about five inches from the bottom, so it can be tucked in my high-waisted trousers or worn loose over a pair of jeans.

I cropped the photo to envision this shorter

I will probably do this alteration myself. But I have found a great tailor in our small downtown that I take more complicated things to. I learned a few years ago what a difference tailoring makes. Ten or 20 dollars spent having something altered can make the difference between leaving something sitting in the back of your closet or reaching for it several times a week.

I have pockets removed from my trousers and the sides stitched up. Gaping pockets right at my widest part is not the best look, and if I can't find pocket-less pants, I do this. Right now I am having a pair of Target dress pants hemmed and the pockets removed. Spend money to alter a 27.99 pair of trousers? Yes! They'll go from so-so to perfect.

I love to go in my closet now and see all these beautiful colors together!

that new pink blouse looks peach in this picture, but it's not!

I have to admit that there is one little snag in this perfect wardrobe. One pair of the (two) wide-legged trousers I got is brown. Mostly because the only two colors offered that I liked were indigo and brown. Now that I know how much I like this style, I can be on the lookout for them in navy and charcoal for next year.

But the brown will go with some extra brown pieces I have hanging around. I have a couple brown cardigans, two pair of brown boots, a brown coat, etc. So the browns will have a little corner of my closet. Hopefully, the nicely curated part of my wardrobe won't laugh at them or make them feel like outsiders.

I will let the browns eventually die out through attrition, but in the meantime, I will enjoy some "brown" days. I do think my lavender and pink tops will go nicely with the brown high-waisted trousers and cardigans.

Remember: when you have a nicely curated, minimalist closet, you can get dressed quickly and fuhgettaboutit. You'll have more time to attend to the people and things that you love. It's a win/win idea.

Next time I'll list all 33 items, so you can get an idea of how I'm doing this for winter, and tell you about my bespoke dress.

Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs