Monday, November 30, 2020

Christmas By The Book Part 1


From our home to yours.

One of the things that I find myself needing to do every year is to bring out the books and magazines for ideas and inspiration for Christmas decorating.  I had the outside of the house all planned out since late summer when it dawned on me that maybe we should try to bring light to a dark time.  We had a few warm days in early November when my husband was able to at least put the lights up and then as it started cooling down we brought the rest out.

Try as I might I just couldn't get a good photo - but don't you just love the moon over the house?

I'm hoping with every car that passes by it will give them a bit of cheer.  I know it always makes me happy when we go out and look at lights knowing that someone has put in a little effort for us to enjoy.

We had such a windy day yesterday that we went out several times picking things up that were toppled over.  Here is how we found Santa in our back yard:

Notice the little bear - he's looking away - I think there's a bit of embarrassment on his part.

Christmas decorations on the inside of the house have always gone up Thanksgiving weekend, so this year I slowly pulled things out.  I knew I wanted the outside all decorated up, but there was a part of me that hesitated about the inside.  Like a lot of people this year I, too, am having a difficult time of it.  Several people in my extended family are really experiencing a lot (and that is an understatement).  And while putting up the decorations I had to sit and pause and think.  Usually I tear through everything and get it all set up - not this year.  I needed times of pausing and the shedding of a few tears.  Get back up and do a bit more and go and sit again.  In the past I would have just called it good and not go much further with it, but there were a couple of deciding factors that led me to keep on decorating.  

The first, and most important, is this:

The birth of Jesus.

I know.  We don't have to decorate and put up a tree and bring out the Christmas "treasures" in order to celebrate the birth of Christ, but I want to. I need to.  In this very hard and difficult year, it's been a time of getting closer to God for me.  I feel I have so much to be grateful for even in this time we all find ourselves in.  

The second reason came from a book that I pull out every year:

It was in this book that my eyes were opened to how men feel at Christmas.  Men don't feel the importance of "doing it all" at Christmas like women do.  We take on the responsibility of planning, shopping, decorating, cooking, baking.........and then all the men see is this blur go by (you) and just wish that you would settle down.  In this book it taught me to ask what my husband thought was important, what he liked, etc.  I did this when our son was growing up too.  For the guys, it's surprising how little they want.  In our family the list looked like this:

*Watch Christmas movies together
*Decorate the house
*Drive around and look at lights
*Have Christmas music playing
*Just a couple of favorite foods/baked goods
*Play games together

That's it!  It really helped me to see that my expectations for Christmas far exceeded what they wanted and it helped me to be able to simplify.  But because my husband is retired and at home, I really think it's important to make our home pretty and comfortable so that he can relax and enjoy it.  And because our son and his wife celebrate with us, it's important that our son comes into our home and it has the feeling of home that he grew up with.  All the old favorites.

So, even though I may not have felt much like decorating this year, I did it.  For them.  And, to be completely honest, once I began it made me feel much better too.  

One thing that I've noticed this year is that I have been listening to Christmas music since September BUT have not been able to listen to the music with the words, only the melody.  I don't know why, but I'm just more soothed by the instrumental version of all my favorite songs.  They seem more beautiful somehow.  

Another thing that I've found very helpful in getting through this year and putting things into perspective for Christmas is re-reading the "Little House" books.  I just find that I learn SO much from them!  Talk about people who experienced tough times!  Yet they got through - they had fortitude - they just knew how to get by (with very little), yet were quite happy and enjoyed life.

The first book:

These are especially good if you have children and/or grandchildren around, but it's still applicable for everyone.  Here is what I wrote down in my notebook while reading:

Christmas ideas from the Ingalls:

*Make gifts - I know this is daunting and in our modern world why would we when we can buy everything?  I think that for some people in our lives (okay, maybe not the guys) a little homemade something would be very nice.  It takes some thought and effort, but maybe that's part of the gift as well.
*Cook/bake family favorites - at Christmas, we all have our favorite meals, our favorite candy, our favorite cookies.  Bless your loved ones with these.  The thing that keeps it special is when you save it just for this time of year.  
*Provide hospitality - again, I know this year is the year of no, or very little, hospitality but it won't be forever.  Hospitality is an important part of the holidays - this year it's just being done a bit differently.  It's all about the thinking of others and what we can do for them.
*Keep the presents simple - we have created Christmas to be all about the gifts and, yes, it's a fun part of it, but there is no reason that we can't begin to scale back.  For Laura and Mary, a bit of candy, a new doll, and new mittens was a real treat!
*Plan a simple, but special breakfast.  It was special because it was different - it wasn't the same thing that they had to eat every morning.  
*Plan a simple, but special dinner.  You don't have to go all out with every kind of appetizer known to man and a whole variety of beverages to go with.  You don't have to exhaust yourself in trying to please every appetite - just think simple, but special.  It should be a treat.  Something to look forward to.

Winter wonders from the Ingalls: (to stay active during the winter months)

*Indoor chores - seriously, not everything has to be fun!!!!  But chores NEED to be done and the rule was always "work first, play later" - good advice!
*Fun activities - hobbies, play games, get creative 

Do you see the simplicity in all of these things?  They are all so do-able yet so nice and homey and special.  During the difficult times we can create good memories.  I wonder how many times Ma woke up and knew that life was going to be especially hard that day and all they had to eat were a few potatoes and some tea and milk that the cow gave?  Yet she did it.  According to Laura, they were happy and content.  To me, that's amazing.

I encourage you, dear ladies, in this.  

My favorite vintage angels.

And a few Santas.

A favorite ornament.

A few of my favorite things.

May God bless you in your efforts.  May He bring you close to Him as you bless your friends and family in one of the most difficult times we've experienced in a long time.  

Thank you for dropping by - I appreciate it so much.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Getting Down to Business!!!


A past photo from "up north".

As the holidays fast approach, I realized that I have to "get down to business" - and I know........this is a strange year and more and more mandates are being put into place but I'm determined to still "do" the holidays this year!!!!!  That is ONE thing that they cannot mandate.  Whether we are by ourselves or with just one or two people, we can still make it special.  Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for the many blessings we've received throughout the year - we can do that.  And Christmas is about the birth of our Savior Jesus and we can celebrate that too.  I sat down a couple of days ago and wrote some ideas down and wanted to share them with you as well.  So here it goes!  : )

I apologize ahead of time for not having any photos this week about anything that I've read or cooked or baked, etc. - I don't have a fancy phone that has a camera so I don't have that capability and I don't carry my regular camera around with me all day, so it's not until after the fact that I remember that I didn't take photos.  So, I'm sorry about that.  I know, personally, I love photos along with what I'm reading so I'll try to get better at that.

One of my favorite vintage cookbooks has such excellent ideas on various ways of celebrating life.  I thought one of the ideas would be great for all of you who are homeschooling right now.  And I may have suggested this before but it's great to bring up now for the holiday season and the upcoming winter months.  And that is to have theme nights for cooking different meals - "around the world" menus where you, as a family, (or just you!) to choose a different part of the world and do some research on what they cook and eat and try different recipes to replicate that.  Ideas would include - Italy, Spain, England, France, Middle East, etc., or even just different areas of our own country such as the New England area, the South, the Midwest, the Southwest, etc. - such a fun way to learn!  With this you can:

*Treat yourself if you live alone - I think now, more than ever, we have to keep our minds and bodies occupied and keep learning - let it be enjoyable and fun.

*Invite someone over (safely) and share in the fun together - maybe you (or they) have family recipes that have been passed down from "the old country" and you can learn together.

*Fortunately, some of us have the ability to "meet" with others via on-line - you can each cook something separately and then have a time where you can have your meals "together" and chat.

*Take your meal to someone and explain what you've been doing and maybe include a little write-up on what country you've been cooking from and the recipe so that they can make it too.  I know "they" are saying that we shouldn't be cooking for others so I'm just assuming that we will all do the right thing and in the end it's kind of up to the person you will be giving the meal to.  If they are okay with it (and they probably would appreciate it) then do it!!!

Let this be fun.  Get really creative.  Take notes - perhaps a scrapbook of everything you've learned - what a great thing to have and look at in years to come.  Right now it is SO important that we make the best of things.  FORTITUDE is our word for the year!

The next idea is to make the most out of winter.  I think we tend to hold up in our houses and, like an animal in hibernation, we come out in the spring!  But fresh air is so healthy and we need to keep our bodies moving - I know that's easier said than done.  Around here in the thick of winter it can get down to double digits below zero so, of course, we need to be cautious.  But right now when it's not all that bad yet, let's get out.  One of the ideas in the cookbook was to go for a winter hike - and then come back to a winter meal of a great warming soup with crackers and cheese, relishes, and a favorite pie for dessert.  A crockpot is excellent for this - it can be holding your warm soup and be all ready for you when you get back.

Or, have a movie night.  Make it a special night at home!  Set a specific time for the movie to begin (just like in the theater) and either plan on eating before the movie begins or wait until after (which is kind of fun and special and something out of the ordinary).  Make sure to make popcorn for the movie and have sodas (for a treat).  If you eat before the movie, make sure you have a special dessert waiting for when it's done.  Remember the times of going out to a movie (when they actually made good movies) and then going out for pie afterwards?  You can emulate that in your home.  If you have children or grandchildren, this could really be a fun and special night.

This goes for game night.  Plan a special meal - or just have a whole bunch of munchies and fun beverages.  Or, how about putting a puzzle out for everyone (or just you!) to work on?  

The whole idea is to make the most out of what we have now.  And women, we are the ones that make things happen in our homes.  We are the ones that need to come up with the ideas and carry them through.  Yes, I know, we tend to wish that everyone else would help us but sometimes that is not the case and we don't want to not do anything!  This time really can be looked back at being very memorable.  I've been doing a LOT of reading about how people made it through the Depression years and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, they've said that though it was extremely difficult, the memories they have of making do and being okay will always be with them.  The lessons they learned were lifelong and it was usually because of all the women who got up and just did what they had to do and to do with very little yet kept life vibrant.  So!  Let's do it!  : )

The next idea is to bring brunches back if it's something you don't normally do.  These are excellent for the weekends.  On Saturdays when we all tend to be a bit slower in getting ready for the day, or Sundays after coming home from church.  I believe in making the weekends a bit different from the rest of the week.  I think we need a couple of days that look different  than the work days so that by the time Monday rolls around you will feel like you have a had a break from the routine.  Make sure that this is special too - make it pretty by bringing out the tablecloth, napkins, teapot or coffeepot, and flowers.  Again, if you have kids they will love this.  And, yes, kids can be taught how to be careful and respectful of nice things!!!!!  Maybe this would be a great opportunity to help them learn these things.  You don't have to be strict and stoic.  If you're on your own, still make it special.  Or invite a friend.  Or, again, plan an on-line meeting with someone.

And how about that daily coffee break during the week?  A lot of people work from home now (and homemakers always do!) and we can still do what we can about taking a break from our work if only for 15 minutes or so.  Maybe this isn't feasible every day, but always have things ready so that when you feel you need a break, you can do it up nicely.  Have a variety of tea or coffee on hand, make some cinnamon toast to go with it, or have sweet treats in the freezer that you can take one out ahead of time to thaw, or even some fresh cut-up fruit.  Take the time to get up from what you're doing, physically go into the kitchen and prepare this little treat and go and sit somewhere that you normally don't sit and enjoy this tiny amount of time in your day.

I know there aren't a lot of parties this year but if you have a family that you still have under your roof or family that you know you can get together with safely (or, of course, a friend or two), make sure that you plan some parties.  Only you can make that determination and others will have to as well.  But keeping some things "normal" is vitally important right now.  Again, if you have children or grandchildren around this time is tough on them and they look to Mom and Dad and/or Grandma and Grandpa to provide some kind of normal.  So my suggestions are:

*a costume party - have them play dress up - choose a (once again) theme, have them make the decorations, cook/bake together.  With the theme can come research on what person they are dressing up to be, etc.

*birthdays - again, get creative - or maybe this year maintaining traditions would be important.

*Christmas party - go all out!  Schools were already ending traditional Christmas parties so YOU be the one to bring it back!  : )  Spend time cutting out snowflakes and hang them up all over.  Make Christmas cards to give.  Play games.  Play Christmas music and if you are a singing family, sing!  Make/bake special treats.  Try to do this with the least amount of money.  Let it be a Christmas to remember.

*Look forward and plan ahead for New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, Snow days.........write down all the ideas you can think of so that when the time comes you'll be ready!

In my opinion, I think one of the reasons this year has been so difficult for all of us is that we've been so used to doing things and getting things whenever we wanted and this all feels like we're being forced into doing without.  And we don't like that.  It HAS been a lonely time but if we work at it (and it DOES take work) it can be as good as it can be under such circumstances.  And, I know I'm repeating myself, but it just takes time and planning ahead.  It will just be different.  Again, that's why I like reading about hardships of the past and how they made do with very little.  We can do that too!  I encourage you in this.  It's good to remember that we're not alone in this - everyone is affected.  So reach out where you can and do your best.

We're in the season of giving thanks and giving to others.  Nothing dispels loneliness like doing for others and once you begin, it's addicting.  You'll constantly be on the lookout for what you can do.  Remember your neighbors and communities:

*give benevolently

*give to the food shelves

*leave a little something at someone's door (be a secret Santa)

*again, keep your eyes and ears open for needs that you can meet

Keep your home up.  Stay tidy and clean and organized.  Keep up your appearances (it really does help into making you feel better).  

Continue to make Sundays special.  If you can't or aren't able to go to church right now, watch a service on-line or listen to a radio church service.  Have a special meal afterwards.  After you clean up from your meal, sit in a comfy chair with some soft music in the background and read a good book or grab something to work on while listening to an audio book.  Rest/nap.  Write a letter.  Call someone.  Take a long, soaking bath.  Bake something.  Do a little food prep for the upcoming week.

If you have a difficult time being alone, never assume that you are the only one.  Don't be afraid to ask someone to get together with you at some point.  Even a daily phone call will work.  If you have a church, ask the office if they know of others that are alone and reach out to them.  Maybe just getting together one-on-one for a coffee once in a while is all you need.  I think a lot of us suffer in silence because we feel we don't want to bother anyone but that shouldn't be.  Let's make an effort this year - you could be the one that will be of great help to someone else!

One idea for Christmas that I thought about this past week was if you do find yourself alone for Christmas, how about "getting together" with someone else in that you both agree to send each other care packages/gifts (all wrapped) and then either call each other or have Facetime on-line on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  Have a nice tea and dessert together and spend time unwrapping the gifts you've sent to each other so that you can talk and laugh together.  I know it's not the same as actually being in someone else's home or having them in yours but I think it's better than nothing!  Again, being creative and thinking outside the box this year is key.

How about you?  Do you have any ideas for the holidays that will be different?  If we can all pull together and give each other ideas that will be of great help.

Well, I had better end this post.  I hope this has been of some help to you.  I enjoyed writing it.  : )  Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read what little I have to offer.  God bless you and your weekend!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

This First Saturday in November

A gorgeous picture from the calendar in the computer room - once again, I want to live there!!!  : )

Well, okay, we've lived through a lot this year haven't we?  I keep saying that I would have been just fine not having been a part of a historic year thank you very much.  But here we are.  It keeps on going.  Everything strange or bizarre that happens anymore we just chalk it up to 2020.  Some years with the prospect of a new year coming up we've tended to look forward to it.  After all, a new year means a new beginning.  Starting over.  Starting fresh.  It doesn't feel that way this year.  It feels like we'll take all that we've been through this past year and carry it over into another year.  That can make us weary and sad and frustrated and angry............but we, as Christians, believe that God really IS in control and that He IS Sovereign, and that He IS STILL on His Mighty Throne in Heaven, and that nothing happens in this world without His "okay" - then we have to have the fortitude to hang in there and do what we can to live each day that He has ordained for us.  That is called hope.  We need hope right now.

Even though the election didn't turn out the way a lot of us would have liked, I still believe that God is using this time to get to the bottom of things.  Already there have been lots of cases of voter fraud and how some states have used software that was illegal - things like that - and it needs to be found out and people need to be held accountable.  I'm trusting that God will see to all of that by using the right people at the right time.  But we can't stop praying either.  It's amazing how when we get into a fix we pray, pray, pray.........but we should pray, pray, pray ALL the time!!!!!  Maybe this is another lesson God wants us to learn by all of this.  Maybe we're too fickle about our prayers - pray when it suits US instead of praying ALWAYS.

One thing is that if we have been voted out of being a Democracy, we will have to get ready to be Socialist and what all that means.'s not good.  Reading up on it will show you just how different this country of ours - a land of freedom - will look like.  Are we ready for that?  I don't think so, yet that is what people voted for.  Another lesson from God?  Maybe.  What if He saw that we were using our freedoms, again, to suit US instead of for the good of all.  Were we REALLY all that passionate about the life of the unborn child?  Do we REALLY care about the elderly?  What about caring for the needy while we have it so good?  Did we lift a finger to help?  Are we getting what we deserve?  I know that is harsh, but I really think these are things we have to think about.  Were we part of the solution or part of the problem?  Only each one of us can answer those questions - and I can honestly say that I certainly am not blameless.  

After all of that, life does go on and maybe it doesn't seem fit to talk about anything homemaking, I will:

*I had posted last time that our oven pooped out on us and we couldn't get it fixed until yesterday, but I had purchased several crockpots over the years and they really came in handy this past week.  I really did find out that there are very few things that you cannot make in the crockpot.  Here are things that I prepared with wonderful results -

Baked potatoes
Acorn squash
Beef stew
Chuck roast
Whole chicken
BBQ chicken legs
Chicken broth (made from the whole leftover chicken)

I went through our freezer and took out the above meats to thaw in the fridge throughout the week.  These were meats at the bottom of the freezer that we had purchased in March at the beginning of all the talks of lockdowns.  And, since it was just the oven that needed repair, I still had the stovetop so I was able to cook that way too.  Slow cookers are SO inexpensive now so it's definitely a wise thing to have them on hand.  They can be tucked away in a closet or in the basement when not in use.  

*The weather could not have been better this past week (of course it will change next week!) so a LOT of outdoor work was done.  Raking, pulling up old flowers, saving seeds from some of those old flowers first before tossing them (marigolds, zinnias), redistributing the pumpkins that have made it from the cold and rearranging things on the front porch to last us until Thanksgiving.  My husband is even beginning to put up our Christmas lights so that he won't have to freeze like he does every year.  So today is the big push to get that done before the change of weather begins.

*The old adage - "when it rains, it pours" - was the theme this week.  First it was the oven, now it's the bathroom shower - THAT pooped out on us yesterday morning and it can't be fixed until Monday!  We only have one bathroom so that's why it's a big deal.  It's not like we don't have any water so we all know there are other ways to wash our hair and clean our skin!  I was thinking yesterday that there have been many times in my life that, because I grew up poor and not having much, in a way I'm thankful for it.  It helps me get through times of "not having" such as the oven and the shower (even though not having those two things wasn't the end of the world!!!!).  But it all depends on what you get used to always having and when you don't have them anymore, you feel it.  It really was a reminder that I need to always be grateful for the little things.  

*I think I always knew this about myself but this past week was just a reminder that for me I can't do something for pleasure until my work is done.  There were a couple of times during the week when I went into my sewing/craft area to work on something but I just didn't have any peace about it because I knew that other things needed to get done. first, play later!!!!!!!!!  : )

*When I DID get into my room I worked on:

- This is called a "quilt to give" - it's not a full size quilt, just something to cover up with when sitting around.  I worked all year on crocheting each "quilt" block and then sewed them together.  I took all day last Friday and Saturday to piece and sew it together because I really wanted to get it done before the holidays so that I can give it away.  Even though this took SO much time it really was fun to do and I'm looking forward to working on another one!  I'm also continuing to work on knitting scarves to give as well.  I'm not telling you this to brag about it, I'm telling you so that maybe I can spark an interest in you to think about doing something for others this year for the holidays/winter months.  If you knit, crochet, sew........there are SO many projects to work on and don't we all need some projects that can get our minds off ourselves and onto others?  : )

- I'm starting to work on Thanksgiving cards for the senior center, and for family and friends.  Again, it takes a lot of time, but such a pleasant and creative thing to do.  How can you show your thankfulness this year to those you love and care about?

- I'm beginning to make a few Christmas gifts as well.  I enjoy embroidery so I'm stamping some dish towels to be given as gifts.

It's been so nice with this warm weather to just open the windows and craft away!!!!!!  (AFTER my work though - LOL)  : )

I think that is about it for this post.  That was pretty much my week - outdoor work, cooking with my crockpot, crafting, and always cleaning something.  : )  I do encourage you today to get your work done in your home, cook something really tasty, get creative, think of others.  Enjoy the process of the doing and be grateful.  A little work and gratitude go a LONG way to feeling better.

Thank you SO much for stopping by - I appreciate all of you - and may God bless you.  : )