Teacups and roses

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thank you to all who shared wedding planning advice with me. This is such a fun time for my daughter and me, and I'm thankful for your interest and suggestions.

I'm surprised you all are even visiting me these days. I'm woefully behind on visiting and my twice-a-week posting schedule has slowed to once a week this month. I do hope to get back in gear here. And I really do visit everyone who stops by; I'm just sometimes several days -- or more -- behind. Know that I love your visits, and don't ever take them for granted.

Yesterday was Burns Night, a Scottish holiday honoring poet Robert Burns. I had a cup of Scottish Morn tea from Harney and Sons, as a small nod to the celebration. (Being short of haggis and deep-fried Mars bars at the moment.)

My Shelley thistle teacup. The thistle is Scotland's national emblem. And I never met a Shelley I didn't love.

I have, over the past few months, re-introduced a very bad habit of drinking diet soda. Lots of it. So it was time to put my foot down, and get back to just plain water. Which I dislike very much. I do like Pelligrino or lime-flavored LaCroix. But I'm wondering. Has anyone tried the SodaStream unit for making carbonated water?

As a reward for not buying myself soda, I bought some beautiful roses.

I rearranged my family room the other day, to form a more comfortable seating area for talking and reading. I basically just shoved everything closer together, and nearer the fireplace. My book club friends liked it. It was very cozy. So, you know how one thing leads to another?

I arranged a table with a lamp in the foyer that makes it look more welcoming.

And then I decided to play a little with my teacups.

Instead of displaying them on my gateleg table, I just gathered them all on this big platter.

The rest of the collection is displayed on the bookshelves.

The top two shelves house my Royal Albert flower of the month teacup collection. The Hummels stand in place of the four months I'm missing -- January, February, July, and August.
With my daughter registering for gifts, I've been thinking about what I might register for if I could. (Don't you think that would be fun?!) If I was starting all over, would I go with a different style of decor? Different colors? What appliances would I choose?

How about you?

Sharing at No Place Like Home.

Wedding planning advice?

Friday, January 22, 2016

I've been busy this month planning my daughter's wedding. It's going to be in September, a very popular wedding month here, and we've been scurrying to get the important things nailed down early.

At this point, we know the church is available and we have the reception venue booked. A bakery has been decided upon and the cake ordered. The florist is booked, though we have details to iron out. The photographer and DJ are in the works. The invitation list is being finalized, and the save the dates are being planned. We have someone getting the favors together. I even have my dress and shoes! Whew!

(Not sure this is my final choice. This will be very comfortable to wear, but I'm not super-excited about it. We'll see.)

My daughter has been setting up a wedding website, and working on their registry. So much nicer to browse the options online, than wandering through a store, I think. And they are looking for a house.

Lots and lots of fun things happening, and lots of fun late-night discussions about all the little details.

Her maid of honor, who lives out of state, is flying in next weekend to go dress shopping with her. I've been invited, too. So looking forward to it. I promised her I wouldn't act like those mothers on Say Yes to the Dress

Pinterest is great for ideas, and for putting together inspiration boards. And so is a notebook. I know they have planners you can buy, but I think that when you make your own it can be personalized exactly the way you want it.

The Knot had a checklist in a recent issue that we're using as a loose guide. Some things don't apply; others aren't listed. Will probably eventually come up with our own master to-do list.

 I've never done this before. (One of our sons is married, but being mother of the groom is a whole lot different than being mother of the bride, especially since that wedding was out of state.) So, for those of you experienced in this, do you have any advice? Anything you wish someone had told you during the preparations? I'd love to hear.

Thimbleberry jam

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Have you ever heard of thimbleberries? Me neither. Also known as salmonberry or snow bramble, the thimbleberry is somewhat similar to a raspberry, but larger, softer, and flatter. It's so soft it doesn't transport well, so is not grown for commercial cultivation.

I got some of this jam last summer when I was up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for a women's retreat. It was homemade by a woman who had picked the berries, which are native to that area. (Thimbleberries grow in the upper Midwest and in the western U.S. and far western Canada.)

The year before, all of it was sold out, so I was very pleased to get some this past year, and was saving it for a special occasion.

Then I forgot about it over Thanksgiving and Christmas. So we opened it up on an ordinary night, dinner being beef stew and corn muffins. It was delicious. A little tarter than raspberry jam, with much smaller seeds.


Now doesn't "thimbleberry jam" seem just like something out of the pages of Beatrix Potter? Or The Borrowers? It also seems like it would be a special treat that fairies would like to dine on while sipping little goblets of nectar.

But since I understand that fairies steer clear of photographic equipment as a general rule, I didn't think I'd catch them in the act. Instead, I turned my camera on some other suspects -- the little family that lives in my dollhouse. I believe they would enjoy thimbleberry jam very much indeed. And, as I see our supply has diminished quite rapidly, I believe they have already been "borrowing" some.

Mother is about to slice some bread for daughter, and I think it likely that it will be spread with some of that jam. Perhaps when I turn away, she will get it out of that jar on the hutch.

They certainly like their treats. I'm sure she has made all these delectable desserts in her little kitchen. Probably with ingredients Father has "borrowed" from me!

Now I don't begrudge them a bit of this or that now and then, but I do think I will keep my thimbleberry jam tightly sealed from now on!

Sharing at No Place Like Home.

Let there be light . . .

Sunday, January 10, 2016

I love to light candles in my home, especially during the dark days of winter. They are so cheering, and bring such a warmth to a home.

We always light candles for dinner, year round. And turn off the lights. One night, after a friend's child had been staying with us for several days, he sat down to the dinner table and sighed. "Why do you eat in the dark every night?"

Well, it's not to everyone's taste, but we like it.

I love to use wooden matches. There's something satisfying about hearing that sharp scratch of a wood match across the side of the box. And wooden matches light much more reliably than the paper matches, which sometimes bend or break when you're trying to light them, or don't light at all. And we've all had that experience of the flame getting perilously close to our fingers as we hurry to light a candle or a number of birthday candles. Wooden matches are plenty long enough, especially if you buy the long reach ones (great for lighting a fire in the fireplace).

And those lighters? Ugly, and kind of annoying. Something about using them in church to light a unity candle during a wedding, or a candle in the Advent wreath, that spoils the aesthetic. You know, that click, click, click as you try to get a flame going.

I've bought those pretty boxes of wooden matches that they sell in gift stores, but at $6.95 or so a pop, they get expensive for daily use. The boxes from the grocery store aren't very attractive.

So here was my idea . . . 

Easy-peasy. Just some double-sided tape and a pretty piece of scrapbooking paper. Cover the top and bottom of the match box only, leaving the sides uncovered for striking. Now pretty enough to sit out on the table next to the candles.

The extra long matchbox can lay with the uncovered "strike" side face down on the mantel.
Do you dine with candles? Or have one burning during a cloudy, wintry day?

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Hello 2016

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Happy New Year, dear friends!
Evolution of a cinnamon roll . . . yummy for a relaxing New Year's Day brunch.
This past week, and especially the past couple of days, has been a time of reflection. Remembering the blessings of the past year, and offering up prayers for the new one.

And while I don't really make "resolutions," I certainly like to set some goals, make some plans, and dream a little.

Here's a little list, by no means comprehensive, or in particular order of importance, of things I've been thinking about.

 Challenge the "shoulds"

We all need to heed inner promptings for doing good, or taking responsibility for doing things that need to be done (more on that later), but sometimes we need to challenge some of the things we think we "should" be doing.

For example, I spent a bit of time last year before Christmas looking for a couple of puzzles for us to do as a family over the holiday. I thought it would be fun to have a puzzle station, and envisioned us sitting around doing puzzles together, laughing and enjoying ourselves. Well, nobody was interested. We had a lot of fun doing other things, but not puzzles.

This year, I brought out one of the puzzles, and started sorting the 1000 pieces, hoping I would encourage others to join in as they saw it set up. Again, no takers.

So, somehow, I had it in my head that it was now my responsibility to do this puzzle myself this winter. After all, I couldn't "waste" the purchase of the puzzle. And I would show others how fun it really was! 

It's sometimes not until you say some of these things out loud to yourself that you realize how ridiculous you're being. I don't want to sit for hours, alone, putting together a puzzle this winter! Back in the box it went. Maybe someday . . . or I will just give it away. It's okay.

I just returned a book to the bookcase that I've been struggling to read. I had this unspoken idea that I "had" to read it because someone else I know likes the author, and because it's considered a classic. I wasn't really enjoying it. Who says I "should" read this? Am I trying to impress someone?

The good thing about challenging the "shoulds" is that the sooner you identify those unspoken assumptions, the sooner you can just laugh and let them go. I'm now reading a book I really enjoy.

What about you? Are the "shoulds" that are not really "shoulds" dictating what you do?

 Simplify things

I just discovered a little trick that will make my morning so much easier.

I like our bed sheets tucked in; my husband doesn't. I finally gave up, and just lay the sheet over the bed, followed by the comforter. The problem is, every morning I have to remove everything, and re-lay the sheet neatly all around the bed so that the edges are even (I hate looking at or getting into a messy bed).

So here's what I did: I trimmed the sheet down so that it was the exact size as the comforter on the sides and a little longer so that I could fold some over the top. After machine-hemming the raw edges, I took safety pins and pinned the sheet to the inside of the comforter, using six pins down each side. I didn't bother with pinning the bottom, and left the extra length at the top of the sheet to fold over the top of the comforter. 

It took less than two minutes to pin. In the morning all I have to do is shake the comforter/sheet combo lightly over the top of the bed to reposition it, and fold the top of the sheet over the top edge of the comforter.

When it comes time to wash and remake the bed, I have less than 5 minutes work total to unpin and repin the sheet.

So easy, and it's more comfortable, too.

What are some everyday things that frustrate you? Is there a way to simplify how you go about them?

 Just do it

I love a neat, clean house. I'm big into organizing and de-cluttering. Actual cleaning . . . not so much. The book and pot of tea beckon whenever I think of vacuuming. So I always have this little cloud hanging over my head as I go about my house. That little sinking feeling that says "You really need to mop this floor," "those mirrors really need to be shined up," "those bookshelves are really dusty."

I've posted before about Edith Schaeffer's words, "If you expect perfection or nothing, you will get nothing every time." It's true about a lot of things in life, and I've found it true about housework. I always feel that if I'm going to clean, I need to make a major production out of it, and really do a thorough job.

Just the thought of that wears me out, and sends me over to that beckoning book. Perfection or nothing, right?

I've learned that so many jobs can be done about 80% "perfectly" in about 10 minutes. I can mop the laundry room floor in 10 minutes, clean all the mirrors upstairs in 10 minutes, do a cursory but satisfactory dusting of several rooms in 10 minutes.

Sheesh. What was I whining about? Just do it

The feeling of accomplishment, and the satisfaction of walking into a room and having it feel clean is so worth those 10 minutes. Ten minutes here, 10 minutes there  . . . it all adds up and doesn't have to be an all-out production.

The same is true of all those nagging little jobs. Sewing on a button, making that phone call . . . it's so worth the 10 minutes to not have that nagging sense of undone things hanging over your head.

 Set some goals

Realistic and not burdensome, so that you give up by the end of January. Here are some of my goals/dreams/plans for 2016:

*** Plan for a wedding in September. Yay! Definitely the highlight of the coming year.

I forgot to take a picture until our lovely brunch was over, but here's a pic of one of the pair of champagne glasses we gifted our daughter and her fiancé for an engagement gift.
*** Do a kitchen remodel/update.

*** Lose 10 pounds by March 19. (I gained back 5 of the 30 I lost last year, and never lost the remaining 5. I have a dress to fit into for a wedding in March.) My dream is to never have weight loss on my list of New Year's resolutions ever again. Hey, it's possible.

*** Continue to invest in my blog and blog friends. Praying about the focus and how much time I want to commit to it. As you bloggers know, blogging can easily eat up huge chunks of time. How to have a good balance.

*** Reading through the New Testament this year with a plan from Moody. These past two years I've read through the entire Bible twice (for the first time). It provided a wonderful overview, but I want to slow down and read more devotionally.

*** Break a "rule," learn/do something new, extend a kindness every day. 

This has been on my list for several years now, and I really like the challenge. By breaking a "rule" I mean challenging the "shoulds" as mentioned above, those "rules" that really aren't. Along with this is being "nice." You know, go along to get along, when you should be speaking up. That deserves its own post.

I love to learn something new every day. Just yesterday we had black-eyed peas because I had heard that they are a tradition on New Year's for bringing luck. (I don't believe in "luck," but it's still a fun thing to do.) I learned that collard greens will bring you the "green stuff" (paper money), while the black-eyed peas bring the coins. Hunh. I should've served collard greens!!

Black-eyed pea salad with balsamic dressing.
And kindness expressed every day? Yes, yes, yes. There's nothing that will make you happier. Even if it's just sending an encouraging email or text. Do something.

 So there you have it. My New Year's ramblings. What are some of your hopes and dreams for 2016?

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