Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Countdown with Charlotte Mason, Week 12 of 12

One week till Christmas! Scroll down for a treat at the end.
Last week's post ended the chapter (and the book, Parents and Children). This week we go back to the poem Charlotte Mason used to open the chapter. "Waits" in much earlier times were paid civic musicians. By the nineteenth century, they were roving amateur players and singers. In this case, Christmas carollers.
The Waits!
     Slowly they play, poor careful Souls,
     With wistful thoughts of Christmas cheer, 
     Unwitting how their music rolls
     Away the burden of the year.
     And with the charm, the homely rune,
     Our thoughts like childhood's thoughts are given,
     When all our pulses beat in tune
     With all the stars of heaven.'

          ––JOHN DAVIDSON.

In the Spirit of Charlotte Mason:

The Scottish poet John Davidson (1857-1909) has been called "the first of the Moderns," and is said to have influenced T.S. Eliot. Davidson was the author of an 1893 book called Fleet Street Eclogues, which owed inspiration to Spenser's Shepeardes Calendar. It is a series of poems that follows a group of big-city journalists throughout one year, as they get together to drink, tell stories, and complain about the world, beginning on New Year's Day and ending on Christmas Eve. 

The version of the poem printed above does not seem to exist outside of Charlotte Mason's writings. Davidson's Eclogues were written in play format, like this:
Basil 
Hush ! hark ! Without : the waits, the waits ! With brass, and strings, and mellow wood. 
 
Menzies
A simple tune can ope heaven's gates ! 

Sandy
Slowly they play, poor careful souls, 
With wistful thoughts of Christmas cheer,
Unwitting how their music rolls
Away the burden of the year.

Basil
And with the charm, the homely rune,
Our thoughts like childhood's thoughts are given,
When all our pulses beat in tune
With all the stars of heaven.
But what about the thought itself? Why did Davidson's lines speak so clearly to Charlotte Mason?

As "Sandy" says, the waits are simple people who offer their gifts freely and without any agenda...like children. "Basil" agrees that the music, at least for awhile, seems to restore his connection with eternal things.

These "hard-bitten" journalists, viewing the world with cynicism but also longing for a simpler, more innocent and joyful world, mirror our own time very well. The poem also adds poignancy to Charlotte Mason's words at the beginning of the chapter.
"Children necessary to Christmas Joy––In these levelling days we like to think that everybody has quite equal opportunities in some direction; but Christmas joy, for example, is not for every one in like measure. It is not only that those who are in need, sorrow, or any other adversity do not sit down to the Christmas feast of joy and thanksgiving; for, indeed, a Benjamin's portion is often served to the sorrowful. But it takes the presence of children [or waits?] to help us to realise the idea of the Eternal Child. The Dayspring is with the children, and we think their thoughts and are glad in their joy; and every mother knows out of her own heart's fulness what the Birth at Bethlehem means."
Things to do this week:

This is our last visit to the wonderful 1977 world of Family Circle Christmas Helps. The cute pair of dolls on the cover reappear in this week's "Bountiful Brunch" photo, which features Broiled Breakfast Steaks, Marbled Waffles, and Continental Fruit Compote. And that's just breakfast; "Dinner that Dazzles" takes up the next three pages.
Maybe that's what Peg Bracken meant by "full-color double-page spreads picturing what to serve on those little evenings [or Christmas mornings?] when you want to take it easy. You're flabbergasted. You wouldn't cook that much food for a combination Thanksgiving and Irish wake." (The I Hate to Cook Book, 1960)

But celebrations are important, aren't they? Certain cooking aromas in the house make things seem right and untroubled, and bring back memories of our yesteryears. Holiday food and good company can lift the spirits of even the cheeriness-ambivalent.
"One mile north of the Mitford monument, Old Man Mueller sat at his breakfast table in the unpainted house surrounded by a cornfield, and, with his dentures soaking in a jar by the bed, devoured a large portion of the cake Esther and Gene Bolick had brought him last night on Christmas Eve. He didn't have any idea why they would bring him a cake every Christmas...All he knew is, if one year they forgot and didn't show up, he'd set and bawl like a baby." [He also gave a piece to his dog.] ~~ Jan Karon, Shepherds Abiding
So to wind up this series, I have found a dessert recipe that seems the perfect way to share the season...and it's much easier than Esther's cake. You can see the whole thing at Sizzling Eats: 20 Minute Snowflake Cream Puffs. Go have a look, I'll wait.
You cut large snowflake shapes from prepared puff-pastry sheets; bake them; cut them in half horizontally; then fill with your choice of something nice, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

This seems to be the holiday dessert with infinite possibilities, depending on your dietary needs and budget. You can make or buy gluten-free puff pastry, if that's what you need; commercial brands of puff pastry are often vegan-friendly. (Where we live, Tenderflake pre-rolled pastry now uses "simpler ingredients.") You can use whipped cream or a substitute topping; or go for some kind of mousse, lemon filling, even a scoop of frozen dessert. The sheets of pastry come pre-rolled, so kids or other helpers could cut out snowflake shapes, and also fill the baked shells. If you don't have a snowflake cutter, you could try a star, or a plain circle (or use a cardboard template for a shape you like). 

I'm also thinking that you could add a drizzle of raspberry sauce, or chocolate sauce, and some fresh berries, fancy citrus peels, or whatever you like on top.

That is what we'll be having here on Christmas Day! I'm very grateful to Sizzling Eats for posting the recipe.

And we wish you a joyous holiday season, with all the gladness and joy of the Birth at Bethlehem.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

From the archives: "A big Christmas tree, a nice cup of tea"

First posted December 2005. "Crayons" (Lydia ) was four years old and doing kindergarten work. "Ponytails" was eight.

Sometimes we make up our own homeschool worksheets. Crayons' favourite kind is one that I make on the computer, but it could just as easily be done with a pen or a marker--it just looks more "official" when it's printed out. I open up a file, set the page to landscape (turn it sideways), and make a table four blocks across and two down. (In other words, I divide the page into eight blocks.) At the top of each block, I type something for her to read and draw. Today's eight blocks were:

a big Christmas tree
a nice cup of tea
3 men with hats
a cat in a hat
2 candy canes
a little red star
lots of winter snow
a new little baby.

Crayons decided she did not like "3 men with hats" so we crossed out "men" and printed in "ladies." She worked on that while I helped Ponytails with her table work...then Ponytails did a copy of the same page too, just for fun.

These sheets have a side benefit as a reading activity...we usually end up sticking them to the kitchen wall to show off the drawings, which gives Crayons extra opportunities to see and practice the words in the boxes. She likes looking at her artwork and I often hear her reading them again to herself. Painless practice!

On the third Sunday of Advent: Come, hidden Wisdom

On the third Sunday of Advent, I invite you to wander over to Malcolm Guite's website, and enjoy his poem "O Sapienta."  (It's at the end of the post, along with a sound clip.)
"Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,
Come to me now, disguised as everything."

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Holiday clothes can be purple (and thrifted): why not?

An all-thrifted out-for-dinner outfit: grey tunic, grey jeans, paisley shawl, purple scarf, and a nice pair of dangly earrings.

(Thank you, kind people who donate things to the MCC store!)

A pan of date squares

Secret ingredient this time: I added the last of a jar of orange marmalade to the filling. These are for a family birthday tomorrow.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Moonlight and Serenade Edition

From this Side of the Pond

1. 'Hurry less, worry less'...what's your strategy for making that happen this holiday season? How's it going so far?

The biggest secret weapon I have is that (as often happens), I don't know till the last minute what we're doing or how many people or what we'll eat. That may not sound relaxing, but it least it means we don't focus too much on planning things like Christmas dinner; or flip out if plans change.

The other helpful thing is that we now live beside a store. So, aside from when it's closed on the actual holidays, we're pretty much covered for small emergencies.
That's me in the front.
(Illustration from The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel))

2. Do you have a list of to-dos that need accomplishing in order to prepare your home and/or property for the winter season? What are some of the jobs on your list? Are you a do-it-yourselfer or do you hire someone to accomplish these tasks?

You already know what the answer to that one is.
And it's a relief.

3. According to dietitians surveyed, the most popular health foods for 2018 will be -turmeric, sprouted foods (bean sprouts, breads with sprouted grains, etc), veggies in place of grains, dairy free milk, and pulses (lentils, chickpeas, etc).  What's the first thought that ran through your head when you read this list? Of the foods listed which one might you add to your regular diet? Also, can milk really be dairy free? Is it still milk?

The first thought that ran through my head was "that sounds like the big food book, you know which one, that I bought a few years ago at a homeschool conference and resold soon afterwards to someone else." I had friends who loved that book, but it just wasn't my thing.

4. The Pantone Color of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet. According to the Pantone site 'Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking pointing us to the future.' What say you? Do you like the color purple? Did you see the movie or read the book-ha!?  Is purple a color you wear often? Describe for us one purple item in your home without using the word purple.  If you were in charge of such things what color would you select for 2018?
Good book for purple fans

Pantone's descriptions are a bit too mystical for me, but I'd agree that purple is a nice change from all-things-green. I like the reference to the evening sky.
Moonlight 1915, Tom Thomson
I like purple (but not as much as Mrs. Carillon)

5. Favorite book read this year?

Until recently I would have said Renaissance by Os Guinness, but the sudden year-end out-of-nowhere winner is Soul Keeping by John Ortberg. The runner-up is maybe To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon.

On a practical level, probably Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

An interesting perk of our hi-tech age is being able to "stream" music. Recently we've had Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Roger Whittaker singing German Christmas carols, and Bill Leslie's Mitford Christmas album (which I had never gotten to hear before). I'm hoping Mr. Fixit can find us some Finest Kind (Canadian folkies). Here's one of their songs.

Linked from the Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Morphing ornaments

Even in the same season, certain kinds of decorations can switch around, try on new personalities.

You've seen this jar plus fruit ring plus tray:
You've seen this set of candles and pinecone rings:
And you may even remember this thrifted basket, which has been holding napkins:

Last night I wanted something different on the table. I stole the jar from the fruit ring and the rings from the candles, and put them in the basket. (We have some of those plastic tealights, because they're safe and non-messy.)

Da-daaa.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Frugal Finds and Fixes: Paisley and Pantry Edition

Recent frugal finds:
A set of three vanilla candles and two fancy rings, half-price at Michael's. They're sitting in a yard-saled pie dish. I liked this set especially because the holiday rings can go away, but the candles can be used anytime.
I also got a frosty-berries pick for half price, and cut it up to put in Mr. Fixit's grandma's goblets. I was looking for some bagged greenery at the thrift store but didn't find any, so new-but-cheap was second best. The most frugal and ecological would be real dried plants, but we have to be careful around allergies.

Mr. Fixit's grandma made the cloth with crocheted trim, about fifty years ago.

A frugal find for Mama Squirrel: this paisley shawl from the thrift store. It can also be worn as a blanket scarf.
 Another frugal find that became a fix: a pair of grey bootcut jeans for a dollar, but they were too long for me, and I think somebody else short wore them first, because the hems were scuffed. I decided to invest a few dollars in getting them hemmed nicely at my favourite local cleaner/fixer shop. (Places like that are disappearing too fast these days.)
I've already posted about the hat, which goes with the shawl, which goes with the jeans (and almost everything else except bright red).

The storage room in our apartment is part tools, part storage, part pantry. The pantry part has been pretty random; things went wherever they fit. Adding Christmas baking ingredients and other holiday things was sending it into overload.

This week I did a KonMari-inspired cleanout, just on the pantry section. I sorted the food and other supplies into large boxes and bins that would fit on the shelves. Because the containers were so random, I covered the fronts of them with flowery giftwrap. It won't last forever, but it's a good-enough fix for now.

This was frugal for more than one reason! Besides using the boxes and paper on hand, getting more organized helps us make better use of our small space, and keeps us from re-buying things we didn't notice we already had.

Plus it makes me happier when I walk in there and see all the colour and flower power.

Christmas Countdown with Charlotte Mason, Week 11 of 12

Two weeks till Christmas!
Here is this week's passage from Charlotte Mason's book Parents and Children:
"...As a child becomes self-regardful in any function of his being, he loses the grace of humility. This is the broad principle; the practical application will need constant watchfulness and constant efforts, especially in holiday seasons, to keep friends and visitors from showing their love for the children in any way that shall tend to develop self-consciousness.

"Humility the Highest Counsel of Perfection––This, of humility, is not only a counsel of perfection, but is, perhaps, the highest counsel of perfection and when we put it to parents, we offer it to those for whom no endeavour is too difficult, no aim too lofty; to those who are doing the most to advance the Kingdom of Christ."
In the spirit of Charlotte Mason:
"A soul without a center has difficulty making a decision." ~~ John Ortberg, Soul Keeping
"The simple, rectified Will, what our Lord calls 'the single eye,' would appear to be the one thing needful for straight living and serviceableness." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Ourselves
How much would you pay for the perfect gift for someone special?

How far would you drive? How long and cold a line would you wait in? What else would you give up to pay for someone's dearest wish?

Here's the bad news: the best gift parents can give children demands all we have to give, and costs all we have. It asks more commitment and courage than nailing a Cabbage Patch Kid in 1983.

Here's the good news: the price is counted in love. And shipping is free.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends... (ESV)

Things to do this week:

Two weeks before Christmas, the 1977 magazine made a last-minute stab at decorations and gifts, before turning things over to food (that's for the last week). But seriously, why? If one found oneself sewing a baseball-glove pajama bag trimmed with baby rickrack this close to Christmas, or building a nativity-scene stable out of pretzel sticks with Snowy White Ornamental Frosting, it would be a clear sign that one had fallen over the edge of sanity. At least the brightly-coloured figures in the nativity-scene photo were Mexican handicrafts and not part of the pretzel deal; I was afraid they would also turn out to be something edible.

Simplicity blogger Courtney Carver recommends making choices by asking if an action or an object creates love. In Jan Karon's Mitford books, Father Tim often begins his daily activities by repeating the prayer "Make me a blessing to someone today." Charlotte Mason warns that we must guard against becoming "self-regardful." (Self-consciousness implies tripping over your own feet, so I think self-regard is a more useful phrase here.) In each case, our focus turns away from ourselves. We worry less about the externals, and what people think of us (so we do become, literally, less self-conscious).

And in that case, if we find ourselves even considering making a pretzel stable two weeks before Christmas, we need to ask why it matters. Do we have a surplus of pretzel sticks and desperately need a stable? Is this going to be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with a young child who actually would enjoy sticking pretzels together? Will this set a precedent so that we will never be able to get through another Christmas without making a pretzel stable? Would we be better off spending that time outdoors together and just snacking on the pretzels? If the idea of building a stable (or something) carries the right spark, but the pretzels and frosting are too much (especially if someone thinks of adding candy or sprinkles to the stable; Jesus a.k.a Hansel and Gretel?): then maybe something created from natural materials would work better.

Does an activity create love? Is it a blessing to someone? Is it egoistic, or altruistic?

See, now we're cooking.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Quote for the day: Second Sunday of Advent

"The exciting quality of Christmas rests on an ancient and admitted paradox...that the power and centre of the whole universe may be found in some seemingly small matter, that the stars in their courses may move like a moving wheel round the neglected outhouse of an inn...And it is extraordinary to notice how completely this feeling of the paradox of the manger was lost by the brilliant and ingenious theologians, and how completely it was kept in the Christmas carols." ~~ G.K. Chesterton, "The Christmas Ballads," reprinted in The Spirit of Christmas 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Something to read today (it could change your Decembers forever)

In Defense of Advent, by Greg Wilbur, on the CIRCE blog.

A sample:
"Imagine the difference this type of celebration makes. Instead of endless gatherings, fighting traffic at the mall, retrieving the daily stacks of catalogs from the mail, and the family pressures and stress, these four Sundays and the weeks in between are intended as a quiet and reflective time to examine your heart, make peace with God and your neighbor, seek reconciliation and repentance for sin, and make room for Christ."

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Could you get along without one?

From this Side of the Pond

1. What title would you give this current chapter of your life?


Midlife Reboot.

2. December 6 is National Microwave Oven Day. Who knew? Besides popcorn and coffee reheats, what's the most common thing you microwave? Could you get along without a microwave?


We got along till about ten years ago without a microwave; then we were given one and found it handy for a few things. When we moved this year, we intended to lose both the toaster oven and the microwave (and it conveniently stopped working just before the moving date).When we moved in, we did a lot of stovetop and oven reheating, and it was a bit inconvenient for our small-family small amounts. One day Mr. Fixit noticed that the discount store next door had small microwaves on sale, so we went over and got one.


I don't microwave popcorn or reheat coffee, but I do reheat leftovers and melt chocolate and cheese. Sometimes I make cake or apricot treats or hot fudge sauce in it.


3. If you could insert yourself into any Christmas carol and experience the lyrics in real life, which Christmas carol lyric would you choose and why?


I've always thought it would be nice to be one of those looking for "a stable room lit by a star" in "How Far Is't to Bethlehem?" 


And when I was searching for a link to that, I realized that I answered the same question last year in exactly the same way. Nice to know I'm consistent.

4. Describe the most beautiful drive you've ever taken.


Not sure...you mean scenery-wise, or because it was a happy event? 


Some Christmas-week mornings have been a bit of both, say when we were on our way to visit family, and the weather was clear, maybe some snow, and the way there included quiet back roads.

5. What's something on your Christmas list this year? (an actual list or figuratively speaking, either one)


I asked Mr. Fixit for a wristwatch, because the one I have is quite old and the leather band has been replaced several times. Recently we were looking at some family photos, and one of the Squirrelings commented, "oh look, you were wearing that same watch." Yeah. It's time. 


Also a mirror for the bare spot over the cupboard that used to be in the front hall. It could use something, but we have enough pictures already.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Yesterday I was working at the thrift store, and I overheard someone saying, "People say they go to the thrift store to find something. I don't think it works like that. I think things find you."

Well, they might have a point!


This hat "found me" before I left.the store. It had a couple of decrepit-looking feathers stuck in the band, which I discarded. Otherwise, I like it very much.

In fact, I liked it so much that I pulled off the price tag and wore it home, and then wore it to the pharmacy in the afternoon (on a very windy day, I had to hold onto it) to get a flu shot. A woman stopped me in the parking lot to say "nice hat." Which made me feel better about getting my arm stuck.

Is that random enough for you?

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Quote for the day: Poetry needs the soul

"Self is a stand-alone, do-it-yourself unit, while the soul reminds us we were not made for ourselves. The soul always exists before God. So soul is needed for deep art, poetry, and music...Innately we know that the self is not the soul, even as we do everything we can to preserve it." ~~ John Ortberg, Soul Keeping

From the archives: Christmas chapters

First posted December 2005. (The links have been removed.)

What are your favourite non-Christmas books, adult or childrens', that have good Christmas chapters or scenes in them?

Here are a few that I thought of, beyond the really obvious ones like the first chapter of Little Women, or the Little House books (addition: or The Wind in the Willows):

Almost anything by Jean Little: she practically made it a trademark to end her novels on Christmas (or in one case, on St. Nicholas Day). From Anna is one of our favourites and, I think, one of her best Christmas chapters. (There's an excerpt from the beginning of the book at that link.)

The Middle Moffat, where Rufus gets a letter from Santa saying, "Sorry, all the ponies are at the war."

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

The Fairy Doll, by Rumer Godden. This book could be called a Christmas book anyway, but it's not all set at Christmas time.


Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild

The Ark, by Margot Benary-Isbert. This book actually has two good Christmases in it, and I'm not sure which one I like better.

Anne of Green Gables, but also Anne of Windy Poplars, where Anne reluctantly takes her grumpy co-worker home with her for the holidays.

Last but not least: Father Christmas's appearance in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.


Other ideas?

2017 Additions: The Four-Story Mistake; The Dolls' House, by Rumer Godden (warning that it has sad parts too); Roller Skates, by Ruth Sawyer (ditto). For grownups: several of Jan Karon's Mitford books, including the latest one, To Be Where You Are.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Things to do today (photos)

1. Wash, dry, and fold a small load of laundry. Mr. Fixit says his drawer for socks et al has never looked so good (thank you KonMari).
2. Go out with Mr. Fixit to pick up some meat and perogies at EuroFoods, and do whatever other errands we have to. Tomorrow's errand is a flu shot, but I won't think about that.
3. Wait for a package to arrive. (It did.)
4. Post today's Christmas Countdown.

5. Make dinner with whatever we get at EuroFoods. Just two of us tonight since Lydia has robotics practice.

6. Finish making the Christmas cards I started last week.
7. Search vainly for a bar cookie recipe from a Walmart magazine that I linked to but that has disappeared.

8. Pre-read a couple of books for our church library.
9. Hand-wash the dress I wore to church and to the Steve Bell/Malcolm Guite concert last night, because I am that kind of fussy about that dress. At least now I know how to pronounce Guite. (It rhymes with night.)
10. Re-read a little of Shepherds Abiding, the first Mitford book I ever read, ten years ago, and still a favourite at Christmas.

Christmas Countdown with Charlotte Mason, Week 10 of 12: Streams in the Desert

Three weeks till Christmas!

Here is this week's passage from Charlotte Mason's book Parents and Children:
"So, too, of that other fountain, of  justice, with which every child is born. There, again, the stream may flow forth in either, but not in both, of the channels, the egoistic or the altruistic. The child's demand for justice may be all for himself, or, from the very first, the rights of others may be kept before his eyes.  
"'It's not Fair!'––He may be taught to occupy himself with his own rights and other people's duties, and, if he is, his state of mind is easily discernible by the catchwords often on his lips, 'It's a shame!' 'It's not fair!' or he may, on the other hand, be so filled with the notion of his own duties and other people's rights, that the claims of self slip quietly into the background. This kind cometh forth only by prayer, but it is well to clear our thoughts and know definitely what we desire for our children, because only so can we work intelligently towards the fulfillment of our desire. It is sad to pray, and frustrate the answer by our own action; but this is, alas, too possible."
In the spirit of Charlotte Mason: 
"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. " ~~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Charlotte Mason concludes this section with a strong warning, particularly about training children in their rights and duties, but applicable to other areas of teaching (academic and beyond), and also to our own inner struggles. It is this: don't say you want something, even claim that you are praying for something, but then sabotage the work of the Holy Spirit..."by what we have done, and what we have left undone."

Now, we are not building robots, or training dogs. Children are individual persons, and are not to be brainwashed, coerced, or tricked into particular behaviours. But we may not just wring our hands (even prayerfully) if there is action that needs to be taken, or enabling that needs to stop.

Don't work against the grain of the brain. Don't pray for hea─║th but continue in poor lifestyle habits. Don't pray for money but waste what you have. And don't say you want children to be loving, or fair, or honest, or diligent, or generous, and then not offer, first, early training in these things as habits; and then guidance in furnishing the conscience, and equipping the Will to choose what is right.

And does this relate to Christmas, or Advent?
"Lest we should think this a hardship, this kind of good begins on a level far above the creatures, for God Himself, as Son, from all eternity renders back to God as Father by filial obedience the being which the Father by paternal love eternally generates in the Son."~~ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
God's holiness and justice, plus his outpouring of grace and mercy, is fulfilled in the Incarnation.

Things to do this week:

In the 1977 world of Family Circle Christmas Helps, "Three Weeks Till Christmas" didn't expect that you'd have the whole gift thing, um, wrapped up. This week gets only one double spread of photos, but they range from a "quick-to-sew door pull" and an ice-skate punch-needle stocking, to a star made from toilet paper tubes and a candle ring of pinecones and nuts. Actually the candle ring is the nicest thing on the page, and it inspired this:
Don't give me too much "Christmas Helps" credit for that one: the ring of fruit was a gift several years ago, and I just added the glass hurricane jar and put it on the tray I found at the thrift store. We use what we have.

One thing that the magazine seems to time right, though, is the suggestion that you round up and decorate any baking containers or gift boxes that may be needed in the coming weeks. It's also handy to have semi-disposable containers if you are going to potlucks and worry about leaving a favourite food carrier behind or having someone else accidentally pick it up. (Ask me how I know.)

Coffee cans used to be common recycled packaging (and even baking tins); but what we often have more of here are plastic tubs from salad greens and baked goods. But if you're a less-plastic shopper in the first place, you might prefer canning jars.
And here's something to put in the containers. The recipe was originally published in Vegetarian Times.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

First Sunday of Advent

"During the long days before Christmas, he could scarcely wait to put the Babe in the manger, and often made the trek to the silver drawer of the sideboard to peer at the infant resting safely in tbe bowl of a gravy ladle. At a time when his friends had stopped believing in Santa Claus, he was still believing in the powerful reality of the small tableau..." ~~ Jan Karon, Shepherds Abiding

Friday, December 01, 2017

Let's talk about holiday clothes (I am not Red Riding Hood)

Christmas clothes in my olden days
Christmas clothes now
"Ooh, are you going to be Red Riding Hood?" asked the thrift store cashier.

Umm, no...but it's December and this red, buttoned, fringed cape was trying to get my attention all during my volunteer shift. Hello, see me hanging over here? I'd look good with grey clothes, you know? I'm very festive! But warm too!

So when I was done sorting books, I tried on the cape, and bought it along with a navy scarf (photo) and a Frederick Buechner book.
You can always wrap a cape instead of buttoning it.

It will go with pretty much all my skirts and pants, and a couple of dresses, since they're mostly medium to dark grey (plus blue jeans). I won't bother with photos, because all you'd really see is the cape.

What else do I have to wear to church, to a concert, or to a not-too-fancy dinner out? (We are not anticipating "cocktail parties" or anything like that.)
Revolve Dress from Encircled, with a scarf and the heels I thrifted last week
The dress becomes a top to go with the maxi skirt from the thrift store. I would add some beads to this.
And I could add a grey poncho on top of that. Or make it grey dress pants or cords insead of the skirt.
The wine-coloured maxi skirt again, dressed down a little with a pullover and beads

Well, that was fun! And better than "The up-dated Peasant Look [that] features shape-keeping bonded acrylics." (Ghosts of Christmas past, for sure.)