Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

fruit platter I made for book club Monday night

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. I'm thankful for all of you! I'm going off-line for a few days, and will be around to visit soon.

Getting in the mood

Saturday, November 21, 2015

It's finally starting to feel a little holiday-ish around here.

Our trip to Hawaii in October, and the unusually mild weather this fall here in Michigan, has kept me in prolonged summer mode. A wake-up call that Thanksgiving and Christmas are rapidly approaching came in the form of an email advertisement recently: "looking for a last-minute holiday gift?" What?! I hadn't even started!

But yesterday, I did do a little Christmas shopping, and enjoyed a peppermint mocha coffee at the mall. We went to see a local production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. And then, this morning, we woke up to snow.

Yes, now I'm in the mood.

Adding to the overall ambiance is a huge turkey stalking our suburban backyard ("the size of a small child!" my daughter exclaimed after it startled her, strutting past the basement window as she was walking on the treadmill). 

I'm making a favorite coffee cake to freeze for next weekend's gathering. I picked up some lovely golden tapers and candlestick holders for the table. Presents are being squirreled away in hidden corners. We have six cords of wood neatly stacked, ready for loads of cozy evenings by the fire.

My grandmother made these placemats for me back in the 70s. Can you tell? I love to use them in the fall. She also painted the black tray with golden leaves and acorns.
In September, I'm certain that it's my favorite time of year. But, I always re-think that when we come to this season of family and friends, of pots of steaming tea and books and cozy bathrobes in front of the fire, the excitement and memories evoked by preparing recipes that have become part of family lore (sausage stuffing, anyone?, or great-grandmother's Scottish shortbread),
the pulling out of seasonal linens and dishes (Johnson Brothers Friendly Village for Thanksgiving) . . . 

Mostly, what I always hope and strive for, with varying degrees of success depending on the year, is a quiet and peaceful heart to reflect on our many blessings and to prepare space for our Lord Jesus in the midst of the busyness and excitement.

In an increasingly violent and unpredictable world, it is a privilege, maybe even a duty, to offer our loved ones a haven of rest. A place to relax, feel loved, and enjoy a deep sense of security. No, it won't be perfect, but any efforts in this direction will surely not be in vain.

Linking with No Place Like Home.

Keeping the enemy out

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I have been waging a war for several years around here with the squirrels. These are the greediest, boldest bunch I've ever seen. They have totally taken over my bird feeders, holding them hostage as my little chickadees, finches, titmice, and others have to fend for themselves as able.

When the squirrels are feeding, everyone else must keep their distance. Those squirrels settle themselves down, I swear practically tucking a napkin in and taking up fork and knife, and gorge themselves on seed half the day, emptying my feeders with alarming rapidity.

My attempts at banging on the kitchen window, yelling at them, rushing at them across my deck, stick in hand, have proven a futile waste of energy. They do manage to stop their single-minded devotion to appetite to gaze at me, blinking with slightly bored annoyance. I'm no real threat. If I do chase one off and into the woods behind our house, he's back within 30 seconds, continuing his feast.

I finally did what I should have done long ago, and that was to get some squirrel-proof feeders.

These feeders will pay for themselves in two weeks, no kidding, with the amount of seed we're saving.

The squirrels are now completely flummoxed, trying to figure out why their gravy train has left the station. They look, scratch themselves, peer around the feeder, and finally leave, rather dejected looking. I have absolutely no sympathy.

The littlest birds are the winners here, enjoying a safe haven and a steady source of food. I get to enjoy their presence from my window, and we all feel much more relaxed.

Well, the analogy here, though rather crude, is obvious, I hope, given the recent horrific events in Paris and throughout Europe.

Would that we could "screen" the migrants, so that the innocent and needy can get through, those fleeing for their lives from ISIS in Syria. The evil ones, the ones intent on doing harm, need to be blocked. It seems cruel to turn everyone away (which I've done, analogously, by taking the bird feeders completely down in frustration), yet it is foolhardy, suicidal even, to let everyone in. There has to be a way to protect the innocent and thwart the plans of the evil. 

Would that it was as easy as my bird feeder solution.

And while I'm on my soapbox, we need to do more than #PrayForParis. While I agree that prayer is powerful, I wonder if all this outpouring of sympathy is where it will end. Everyone lights candles, and then goes on next week to the next thing (except, of course, the families of the victims. Their world is forever changed.). The good Lord gave us brains to do something as well.

Let's pray that our leaders will get to work on a real solution so that these tragedies, which are becoming all too common, will cease.

Linking with No Place Like Home.

Fruit compote and staying cozy

Monday, November 9, 2015

I had five sadly aging pears and a couple of starting-to-wrinkle apples on my kitchen counter this morning. A visiting friend of mine, my daughter, and I had just finished our protein waffles for breakfast, lamenting the passing of berry season, when we could sprinkle raspberries and blueberries on our waffles with abandon without spending a small fortune.

An aha moment.

A warm apple and pear compote, perhaps with a few cranberries thrown in, would be delicious on our waffles tomorrow.

I chopped up the fruit, added a few cranberries (not too many because I didn't want to add any sugar), some lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and a little water.

The house was filled with lovely, spicy, homey-cozy smells as the fruit mixture simmered gently.

Will taste so good tomorrow morning. It was 30 degrees (F) this a.m., with a thick layer of frost on everything. Comfort is key these days.


Speaking of comfort, I've abandoned any notions of being stylish in the evenings around here. After a few years of feeling much warmer than usual (you ladies of a certain age will know what I mean), I am back to my normal, always-cold-in-the-winter mode.

Old Pueblo Traders

I got this robe in blue.  It's chenille, and super soft. I love how it buttons. No ties coming undone and gaping openings. It's not super attractive, but when it's 20 below outside, I just want to be warm. It will be so cozy.


Thank you all for your kind comments on my hair. I feel encouraged to stay the course! Another two, or three at the most, months, and all the blonde dye will be gone. And I'm re-thinking the idea of growing it out. So many people have told me they like my shorter hair. Who knew?

You all are the best.

Linking with No Place Like Home.

Super short purple-y, yellowish gray hair

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Ugh . . . I really don't want to post this picture of me with my latest haircut.

I probably took 20 selfies trying to find one I wanted to post. This still isn't it.
As you know, I've been trying to get rid of the hair dye and go natural. So many people told me not to do it, but I forged ahead anyway. Now, for the first time, I'm wondering if they were right.

I'm trying to tell myself it's the cut. We were trying to get rid of most of the rest of the blond that was looking so fake yellow next to the gray. Hence, the super short cut.

My hairstylist added a little purple to tone down the remaining blonde. It was supposed to wash out. So now I have gray, purple, and yellow. Lovely.

I'm hoping it will look better when it grows out a little. I've never cared for the spiky, shaved gray look myself. (Super easy to take care of, though!)

Maybe when it grows out a little, I'll have something like this . . .

Isn't she beautiful?

So what do you do when you hate your hair?

Smile. A lot.

My husband and I are taking ballroom dance classes. When we went Saturday, no one there said anything about my hair. It was obviously very different than it had been when they all saw me last. And you know how we are, ladies. The lack of a comment means they all hate it, right?

Well, I just smiled and had fun and enjoyed myself anyway, figuring a droopy, pathetic look wouldn't improve things. I ended up having fun. Just avoided looking in the full-length mirrors on all four walls.

I went to the grocery store later, and pasted a little smile on my face. Not a big, goofy one. Just a small one, as though I were secretly pleased about something. And you know what? That little trick -- "fake it 'til you make it" -- really works. I had a happy little time, all by myself.

I do hope that I will like this better when it grows out more. I really don't want to color it again after all this.

If I do stick with it, I think the color will look really pretty with this dress.

I got this for a family wedding coming up in the winter. I love this blue. Very hard to find.

After my hair grows a little, I will probably be ready to do a final hair post, showing the whole progression from bleached blonde to all natural.

Thanks for letting me share. 

No place like home

Monday, November 2, 2015

Happy November to my dear blog friends! 

Every week, I join Sandi at Rose Chintz Cottage for her tea party. Which is one of the reasons you see so much tea here. But I'm excited that she is changing her party from Tea Time Tuesday to No Place Like Home, a blog party where we can share all things home-related. Whew! I have a lot of teacups, but I was running out of ones to share.
Okay . . . I haven't completely run out. Here's my new (to me) Royal Albert November chrysanthemum teacup.
In honor of this new focus, I'd like to share some of my own thoughts about home, and specifically, why I have chosen to be a homemaker all these years. I gave up a career as a technical writer when our first child was born because I wanted a slower, more home-centered life for myself and my family. I've never regretted it.

I've always thought that a home should be a sanctuary, a place of respite from the storms of life, a shelter for our loved ones.

There's a lot of beauty and goodness in the world. I try to take the time to look for it. But we all know the world can also be dangerous, harrowing, stressful, and lonely. Besides the wider conflict and issues, our own days can be filled with rude and unkind co-workers, traffic snarls and delays, looming deadlines, pressures to perform and conform, and a myriad of other stressors that deplete and weary us.

When my loved ones, both family and friends, enter our home I want them to feel that, for the time being, they can lay their burdens down. That they are welcomed and loved, pampered and fed.

Some of the ways of doing this include cooking lots of favorite, homemade meals, putting fresh, clean sheets on the beds, arranging flowers and candles on the dinner table, and building a cozy fire in the evenings.

But these aren't the most important things. 

When push comes to shove, it's always better to order pizza or scramble some eggs, and spend the time and energy saved listening and loving.

This is one gift I feel I have been able to give by being at home. The gift of time.

Children and friends need a listening ear. Even more important than delicious, home-cooked foods or nicely decorated rooms, is a mom and friend who takes the time to sit and really listen. Not to lecture or advise, but just to listen.

Yes, beautifully arranged flowers, softly glowing candles, freshly baked muffins . . . these are a privilege for the homemaker to provide, and they add a wonderfully homey touch. But it is time and love that most make a home.

I had to be on bed rest for all my pregnancies. One Christmas, when I was pregnant with our second child, I was unable to do any decorating or baking at all. I remember sitting on the couch with our three-year-old daughter, looking at the Christmas tree, hastily put up and decorated by my overworked husband, ornaments crooked and unevenly spaced. I could see hairballs from our golden retriever gently scudding across the hardwood floors. Dinner had been canned soup. I had no idea what shape the kitchen was in or how much laundry was piled up (so thankful for a faithful husband and friends who lent a hand).

I told myself that, Lord willing, I would have years to cook and clean. Right now wasn't the time. My daughter didn't care about fancy cookies or neatly stacked piles of clean laundry anyway. She was just happy to have my undivided attention there on the couch, to have a mom who wasn't distracted by all the details of daily life.

As evening fell, we sat with my husband in the darkness looking at the twinkling Christmas lights. Cuddled together, we told stories and sang Christmas carols. We relaxed into the deep peace of home.

I have thought of that Christmas many times since when I have gotten myself all stressed about having things "perfect." What's that saying? "People don't care what you do, but how you make them feel."

This is home to me. Not perfection, but comfort and safety and love.

Joining Sandi for No Place Like Home.
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