Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Winter Walk. . .

It's easy to get 'cabin fever' in the cold months of winter.  Slippery roads, gray days when the sun doesn't show its face for days upon end, and bitter cold cause me to opt for the heat of the wood stove rather than braving the elements outside.  But, fresh air and exercise do much to lift the spirits, especially on a day without sunshine.  The wildlife refuge next door creates an interesting place to walk.  There is always something to see, no matter what the time of year.  Because the ponds are frozen over now, the geese and ducks have moved to the river nearby.  The wildlife refuge seems deathly quiet and lonely without them.  Nature provides much of interest though.  Russian olives, rose hips, and snow white berries adorn shrubs and trees.  The bark of sagebrush, coated with a haze of bright yellow lichen stands out among the dreary landscape.  Its vibrant color seems to scream "look at me" and the viewer cannot help but smile when it's in view.  Empty nests, used and abandoned, wait to be remodeled for spring's new crop of birds. Viewing an oriels nest, and the osprey nest high on a pole, show contrast in size and style.  Each reflects characteristics of the birds who create them.  Tracks can be seen on the trail.  The now frozen ground preserves prints of coyote, deer, raccoon, mink, beaver, duck, goose, and man.  Identifying them is interesting and makes the trail seem shorter as each is identified and pondered about.  Brisk, refreshing, and energy inducing; walks at the wildlife refuge benefit even the most chilly of winter days.  Bundle up! 

Click on the montage for a better view.

Winter's Hearty Bean Stew

1 lb. assorted dry beans
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup apple juice
1/3 cup tamari sauce
1/3 cup pineapple juice or water
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup potatoes, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1 onion, diced
1 tsp. parsley, dried
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. pepper, ground (optional)
1 cup rice or pasta, cooked
salt to taste 

Sort and rinse beans, then soak overnight in water. Drain beans and place in crock pot. Add tomato juice, apple juice, tamari sauce, and pineapple juice.

Cover with vegetable stock or water.  The juice adds sweetness and the soy sauce adds depth and flavor.  Cook on high for 2 hours.

Add the vegetables, herbs, and spices.  Cook for 5-6 hours at low until carrots and potatoes are tender. When tender, add rice or pasta and cook for one hour more.

Serve with crusty bread or your favorite crackers.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hearts at Home

May the heart of our home
always be a safe haven
where we can gather together
in good times and bad
to enjoy the unity, strength,
and support of family. . .
And may we always be thankful
for the warm comforts of kinship
and find our soul's greatest delight
in the most precious gift of our love.

~ Cindy Chuksudoon ~

Tablesetting by Paula at Elm Street

Love Found

What's the earth with all its art, verse, music worth -
Compared with love, found, gained, and kept? 

Robert Browning

Happy Anniversary to the one I love. . .

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Heart Remembers

The fires of youth may die away and sink to crimson embers. . . . The high romantic dreams may vanish --- But the heart remembers.

The heart remembers everything; the buried past is there. The rapture of loves first delight; the joy and the despair. The faces and the friendships and the names of long ago --- Lie beneath a drift of years like leaves beneath the snow.

The sorrows and the happiness --- Gay June and grey Decembers. The music fades, the roses perish. . . . But the heart remembers.

~ Patience Strong 1945 ~

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rustling Flames on Hearth

Sometimes when the rustling flames are dancing on the hearth --- I catch the music of the trees along a woodland path. . . . I hear the wind move through the branches in a long low sigh --- and see a tracery of green against a summer sky.

The logs now crumbling into ashes once were sentient things ---- Tremulous with life and movement and the beat of wings. . . . The wood that gives its golden fires to light this wintry day --- has worn upon its living limbs the snowy blooms of May.

~ Patience Strong 1945 ~

Aaron and Rylan sit by the fire and soak up the heat on a wintry day.

A Chinese Blessing

Round the table
Peace and joy prevail.
May all who share
This season's delight
Enjoy countless more.

Author unknown

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Friendship Shared

The Traveling Christmas Teapot & Friendship Shared
by LaTeaDah

Mrs. Lindstrom sighed as she looked out her window to see the maintenance man stringing Christmas lights along the Park Manor eaves. The lights signaled the beginning of the holiday season, but since her husband passed away three years before, the holiday had never been quite the same. Unable to live alone, she had agreed to be moved to the nursing home in her community, but it seemed lonely there, especially during the holidays. Her son and his family wrote her letters frequently, but there were far away in Africa where they were missionaries.

Mrs. Lindstrom longed for a homey Christmas and the warm touch of a loved one. She knew she should not grumble, as the nursing staff was kind and gentle, but they were not a connection to her past. The past, when she had created and hosted fabulous Christmas parties for her husband's employees, or conducted caroling sing-a-longs with people from church. Her sigh served as a reflection of her lonely soul and the loneliness seemed to keen during the holidays.

The Christmas lights gave way to paper snowflakes on the lobby windows and a giant twinkling tree in the foyer. School children came caroling through the halls on Mondays, and on Tuesdays the "Healing Through Pets" lady came with puppies that were all dressed up in bright red bows. Wednesdays meant there would be turkey and gravy for lunch, and Thursdays were the day the community players came to read poetry to those who lived there. Fridays were a deeper cleaning day and when it was done the CNA's would add a new wreath or garland or twinkling lights to the room of each resident. On Saturdays most of the staff, except for the essential, went home to be with their families, except for a church group who came for singing bands. It was a lonely day. Sunday mornings Pastor John came to conduct church services and the staff served pie for dessert at lunch. And so the cycle of events continued, only to repeat themselves the following week. But for Mrs. Lindstrom, her longing for a warm smile and gentle touch from her past only accentuated her feelings.

As Christmas drew near, Mrs. Lindstrom grew more and more despondent. She had mailed a Christmas card to her son and his family, and had sent her end-of-year donation to her favorite charity. How she longed for the loving touch of an old friend. A week before Christmas fluffy white snow arrived. Mrs. Lindstrom could smell its freshness as it filtered in through the crack or her open bedroom window. She enjoyed the crystals that appeared on the pine branches as the snow piled up on them and she remembered how she used to make snow ice cream for her children when they were tiny tots. Eventually she touched the damp, cold window pane. A chill seemed to pervade the corners of her space and make her bones ache. The chill matched the loneliness she felt in her heart.

Two days before Christmas she heard the jingle of bells and a soft knock at her door. Without looking up she said "come in". Her door quietly opened and she looked up to see Hattie Brown, her neighbor from days gone by. Her radiant smile filled the room and she scurried over to give Mrs. Lindstrom a gentle hug.

"I'm so glad to see you, dear," exclaimed Mrs. Hattie Brown.

"And how wonderful to see you too," replied Mrs. Lindstrom.

With that, the two friends from the past started to chat and share.

Soon Mrs. Lindstrom noticed that Hattie was carrying an old-fashioned wicker basket. She remembered it as the one that Hattie had brought along for picnic lunches at the beach when their children were small. It was decorated with a bright red bow and a silver bell that jingled every time the basket moved.

"I brought a spot of tea. Would you like some, dear?" asked Hattie Brown.

"Oh yes," replied Mrs. Lindstrom, "it would be like old times."

Hattie Brown cleared a magazine off the small table by Mrs. Lindstrom's chair and swished open a small Christmas tablecloth, placing it upon the tiny table. Instantly the colors of Christmas filled the room! Then she started unpacking tea-time treats and accoutrement from her basket. A cheerful red teapot, two porcelain teacups and saucers in a Christmas Royal Albert design, a crystal lidded sugar bowl, a tiny silver pitcher, old and tarnished teaspoons, colorful napkins, and a tin of Christmas cookies were quickly arranged. With practiced ease, Mrs. Brown opened a thermos of hot water and poured it over black leaves that floated to the surface of the pot. After steeping the tea for three minutes while they chatted, Hattie Brown skillfully decanted the tea through a tiny sieve. A half-pint carton of milk was opened and poured into the silver pitcher. Then she un-lidded the crystal sugar bowl to reveal rich, amber cubes of brown sugar crystals.

"Milk and sugar? One lump or two?" asked Hattie Brown.

Mrs. Lindstrom knew that Hattie Brown didn't even need to ask. After years of having tea together, Hattie Brown already knew that she like a small splash of milk and only one lump of sugar. But, it was polite and gracious to ask.

Hattie Brown passed a steaming cup of tea to Mrs. Lindstrom and then poured one for herself. The cookie tin was open and set between them. Together they passed an hour, visiting, sipping tea, and taking dainty bites of cookies. It was just like it had been in days gone by. For a few minutes, Mrs. Lindstrom was carried back in time and she enjoyed the memories they shared.

All too soon the tea party came to its natural end. Hattie Brown drew a simple envelope out of the basket lining as they were finished and gave it to Mrs. Lindstrom. It contained a Christmas poem in Hattie Brown's own handwriting and a beautiful lace hankie.

Hugs were shared, and a tear by each of them, as they said good-bye and wished one another a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! The traveling Christmas teapot was carefully packed back into the wicker basket, its service done. Together, the teapot and Hattie Brown had shared the true meaning of Christ's gift --- LOVE --- with another on a December day.

Using the Traveling Christmas Teapot to Bless Others

Sometimes adding a new project or activity into our lives can seem overwhelming. Making the time to start a new habit or tradition takes effort. By having the traveling teapot and accoutrement, packed and ready to go, it becomes a part of daily life and is much more likely to take place. Take it with you as you go about your life routines. When an opportunity arises to use it, you'll find it convenient to have already in your car and ready to go. So, when you visit the beauty salon, your favorite antique or gift shop, or health club, take it along and share when you see an opportunity to reach out to others. Taking the traveling teapot to a friend's house, a church meeting, to work, or to school when picking up children can all brighten the day of another. Starting this project within your normal, daily routine will help establish it and will make you comfortable with the process of serving tea from the traveling Christmas teapot and basket.
Once you have established comfort, it's time to go outside of your normal zone and reach out to someone new. You could visit a neighbor you haven't met yet or a neighbor down the street who is elderly and alone; visit a nursing home; share tea with a teacher from your past; stop by and share with community food bank staff; or drop by the doctor's office and share with staff there. The possibilities are endless as you reach out to those who serve in your community.

During the whirlwind of the holiday season, it blesses others when time is taken to enjoy the true spirit of the season with those around you. In the process, you are blessed as well. By taking the
time to reach out to those who may not have someone to share the holiday with, the blessings are multiplied. The traveling Christmas teapot is a tool that can work as a prop as you reach out to others around you when seeking and sharing the true meaning of Christmas. Enjoy a wonderful Christmas and be blessed!

Elements of the Traveling Christmas Teapot Tea Party

A Traveling Christmas Teapot tea party consists of several elements. They are the implements, the tea and food, and the tuck-in gift.

--- The implements: a pretty basket or hamper, decorated with a red bow or holly sprig; a small holiday tablecloth or square of yardage in a Christmas theme; pretty Christmas napkins; a Christmas teapot; porcelain teacups and saucers or tea mugs; silver teaspoons; a small candle and matches.

--- The tea and food: a 1/2 pint jar filled with sugar-cubes; a selection of tea bags (herbal and black; include Christmas blends); a small carton of milk or soymilk; a pretty jar of strawberry jam; a tin of cookies or scones; a thermos of hot water (or a small electric tea kettle and bottled water).

--- The tuck-in gift: a card or hand-out made by you that explains the purpose of the Christmas traveling teapot that includes a special Christmas message, verse, poem, or Christmas carol; a small tuck-in gift to give to your guest like a bookmark, doily, hankie, Christmas ornament, or antique teaspoon.

Photo: Clarice's beautifully appointed tea table

[to be continued]

The Christmas Traveling Teapot

Christmas can be a time of hurried activity and stress, as
Christmas presents are bought, holiday decorating is done, and traditional holiday foods are prepared. Christmas preparations, parties, pageants, and concerts fill the days surrounding Christmas with much activity. With the whirlwind, sometimes it's easy to forget the true meaning of the holiday. Christmas is about relationships as illustrated by God's gift of His Son. The love represented by this gift becomes ours to share. Having an object or tradition that causes us to stop to pause and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas can help us to remember what the season really is all about. Thus the traveling Christmas teapot becomes an integral tool in finding the meaning of the holiday.

Preparing for and participating in a personal traveling teapot
project is one technique that can be used in sharing the meaning of Christmas. Too often there are those around us who find the holiday season lonely and sad. It can be our privilege and joy to create a memorable and warm holiday season for them. The elderly, single, divorced, or young living away from home keenly feel the sadness of not having someone to share Christmas with. Memories of holiday's past become a time of poignant introspection. Even those with families nearby can get caught up in the frenzy of the holiday season and simply need a quiet reminder to help them identify more clearly the meaning of the season. The traveling Christmas teapot can be your way of sharing the real meaning of the Christmas with them. It is a method that can be used to share the love of the Christmas season. It helps by slowing down life's pace and replacing some of our Christmas tasks with things or events that promote relationships and can change the pace of the holidays. By so doing, the shift changes from doing things to being ourselves and enjoying quality relationships with those around us.

[to be continued]

Winter Snow

"We woke up to a storm of whirling snowflakes this morning, the first snow this winter. The storm was soon over however and it was followed by bright sunshine and a sharp frost at night."

Edith Holden ~ 1906


"When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marion's nose looks red and raw."


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Eve Grace

Christmas Eve Grace

A holly wreath upon the door.
A fire burning bright.
A boldly shining silver star.
The gift of heavenly light.

Tinsel frosted Christmas trees.
Angelic choirs sing.
Hymns of joy and restful peace.
This blessed night shall bring.

Louise I. Webster

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Christmas Past

Christmas Past

The memories most enduring
No matter where we roam
Are those of Christmas Past
In a place we knew as home.

The magic of the season
With scent of wax and pine,
The aroma from the kitchen
That beckoned us to dine.

The dancing lights upon the tree
That cast their Yuletide spell,
The joyous song of carolers --- Peace on Earth --- Noel!

The ghosts of cherished loved ones;
They live and always will,
For no one ever dies in
The place where time stands still.

The treasured scenes of yesteryear ---
Could prayers but make them last,
Traditions of the heart live on
In dreams of Christmas Past.

C. D. Hay

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Twilight at LaPush means peace and quiet. Cormorants and brown pelicans fly in an out of the cove, and sea gulls settle down to floating the waves after a busy day. A small, out of the way place, this beach is one of the farthest points west in the United States. A rocky shore, a quiet cove, a tree-topped island, and beautiful sunsets make this a favorite place of many. Picnic lunches, photography sessions, and bird watching are all melded together into sweet memories here; days going way back to my teen-age years. The closest town is Forks, a tiny little burg that became famous with the introduction of the Twilight books that are so popular now. But long before the Twilight of fiction, the reality of a beautiful beach at twilight fills my heart with memories and joy. Of all the places in the world, it seems like beach spots draw me most.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Vintage Musings

Have you noticed the trend in design and collecting? Vintage is absolutely in style! How strange it seems that antique and vintage shops are now filled with items that were common in my childhood. When I was a little girl, I remember asking my mother how old something had to be to be considered an antique. She thought a moment, and then said fifty years seemed about right. Well, now that fifty years have passed, I would prefer that items of that genre be considered vintage, not antique. But, it is all about perspective, isn't it. Just like fashions cycle again after several decades, so do household items and decor. Retro is in. I like the bright colors and stylized patterns of the fifties. But, I am not so fond of the resurgence of avocado green and brash gold. But, by the time that trend is in full swing again, I will probably be happy for the subtle changes in how it is used, and will embrace it wholeheartedly. What is your favorite, retro trend?