Christmas Day

Christmas Day at our house, after church service, looked something like this...

...tasty appetizers

...a twirling Sugar Plum Fairy toys

...special gifts wrapped in a discarded nautical map of Martha's Vineyard

...a new doggie sweater, which someone in this family keeps saying "looks stupid", but gets put on her (by said person) again and again

...and post-dinner charades, where we learned that they can be played by children age four and up, but a 2 1/2 year old can't quite grasp the concept, and a 1 1/2 year old just eats the clues.

I hope your Christmas was filled with the hope of Christ, and love and laughter of family too!

Christmas Doings at our Home

Christmas is nearly here! The month of December is nearly over. We are about to turn the calendar page to 2017. And my blog image is still stuck in autumn. 

In late-October, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and started on a treatment plan. Instead of blogging in the evenings, I needed to heed what my body was telling me and rest and attempt to release the tension wracking my body. You see, hearing what it's saying is easy. Knowing what I ought to do is easy. But heeding what my body is saying is the hard part. But I'm getting better at it. And my sweet family has been a big help, enabling me to still enjoy the holiday season and rest when I need to do so.

In quick highlights, here's a glimpse at the Christmas doings in our family...

In early December, we drove north to spend a day with Max and take a plate of Christmas treats to the Coasties on his boat. Posing here before one of the many lobster trap Christmas trees that highlight the town greens of coastal Maine towns.

We fetched our Christmas tree from our local cut-your-own, family-run business, which is down a narrow, bumpy, dirt road. And the family offers their maple syrup for purchase with your Christmas tree. Love it! 

Decking the halls tops my list of favorite things to do at Christmas time! This year, I used these beautiful metal wreaths (an antique store find) mixed in with the ribbons on the stair garland.

My favorite new vignette this year though was this tray on the front entry table. Super simple! Quick instructions: take one large, silver tray and add clear glass cylinder candle holders and multiple mercury glass candle holders, add tea lights and various height white candles, fill in the gaps with mirrored and ivory-colored ornaments. Light and watch the magic happen...the ohhs and ahhhs!

The family room decked out for Christmas.

I've been having fun playing with the tabletop contents of the sofa table this year, with the intention being to provide interesting things for the grandkids to look at and/or touch. Top row, left to right: a glittery lamb under a cloche and on a majolica plate (to remind us that Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God), an antique basket full of mercury glass acorns and pinecones (because the real variety abound on our property), baby Jesus in a manger, a stack of antique Dickens Christmas books. Bottom row, left to right: a stack of coffee table Christmas books, a clove-studded orange in a pewter porridger, a book entitled An American Christmas, a book of Christmas poetry with a magnifying glass, and an antique crockery bowl filled with walnuts for cracking and eating.

My shop did fabulously this season, and I am immensely grateful for all my wonderful customers! Thank YOU!

We had our annual Christmas party. I felt well enough to bake cookies, but hired someone to clean my house for the first time in my life. Oh my. That is strange, and kind of wonderful! Those are cookies lined up as far as the eye can see.

Hubby and I are ready for the party!

It has been a delightfully snowy December! We don't always have snow before Christmas, so I'm really happy about this! Our front door on a snowy morning.

Lots of snow means lots of snow blowing! And lots of shoveling! But there's no shoveling for me this year. It's my season to just provide the hot coffee afterwards.

A gorgeous scene from rural New Hampshire as the storm moved out that evening.

The grandkids came over this week for a fun morning of candy making!

And now the presents are wrapped and under the tree! Max is home for Christmas! Everyone is spending Christmas at our home this year, and we are rejoicing at that!

A very blessed Christmas from our family to yours!

Supporting Handmade this Christmas

In all the hustle and bustle of shopping for Christmas this year, I'd like to recommend to you some excellent Etsy shops, if you are inclined to support handmade and made in America this year. All of these shops are owned by relatives, friends, and/or have products that I'm continually impressed with.

My daughter's Etsy shop, NortheasternNautical, has a selective collection of nautically-themed or New England woods-themed Christmas stockings. This is one of my favorites!

Brown Plaid Wool Christmas Stocking, Cocoa, Chocolate, Tartan, New England, Scottish, Holiday, Lumberjack, Woodsy, Mountains, Lodge, Preppy
Click here to view this one.
A dear, dear friend on the west coast has turned her passion for vintage photographs and ephemera into unique, one-of-a-kind pendants in her shop, OneSmallStory. The back of each one contains an appropriate word, snippet of antique lace, or a pressed flower or herb. She takes custom requests too! I just bought a Jane Austen-themed pendant from her, but I left this Emily Dickinson one for someone else!

Emily Dickinson Locket Woman Writer Pendant Literary Jewelry Gift for Writer Gift for Book lover gift under 20
Click here to see this pendant.
Our family has a young friend, who aside from being a hardworking new husband and an avid runner (looking forward to cheering him on in the Boston Marathon next year!), spends his spare time making amazing creations from wood. His shop, maillouxWoodcraft, is just starting out, and I predict great things for it! The attention to detail really shines in his products. Just look at the patterns of the grain in this cutting board!

Solid Maple Butcher Block Cutting Board - Small
Click here to view this cutting board.
One of Etsy's sweetest sellers is a fellow New Englander, Sam of TurtleDoves. She makes "pretty things with a literary flair". I love sending her cards to friends, because I just KNOW they're going to be as smitten by the card as I was when I bought it. And her magnets are beautiful too. My mom was thrilled with the set I bought for her!

Digital Download - 5x7 Jane Austen Note Card, I Have Loved None But You
Click here to view this card.
If you're like me, at this time of year, you're looking around for just the right calendar(s) for the new year. For several years now, I've enjoyed the inspirational hymn calendars from LittleThingsStudio. I know friends and family who have her calendars and other products, and we all just LOVE them! And she does art prints, like the lovely one below, too!

For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies, For the love which from our birth, Over and around us lies.
Click here to view this print.
I hope you'll seriously consider supporting these and other small, home-based businesses through their Etsy sites this Christmas season and all through the coming year, whenever you have a gift to buy for someone else or a need of your own. Support handmade!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pilgrim reenactor at Plimoth Plantation. (Photo taken several years ago.)
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with mirth, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

Know that the Lord is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His flock, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why! the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is forever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

- Psalm 100
(Genevan Psalter, 1551)

Quick Thanksgiving Tips

Thanksgiving can be an overwhelming holiday to the novice and the experienced hostess alike. There are so many separate dishes to recipes to allergies to work around...linens to purchase or iron...a centerpiece...gravy...and a heart full of gratitude to cultivate. While not meant to be an exhaustive guide to Thanksgiving, here are some quick tips I've learned through the years.

- Plain white plates work for every occasion. Add a few seasonally appropriate plates and platters, and presto!...instant Thanksgiving look!

- Grocery shop TWO days ahead of time with a thorough list, but don't be surprised if you have to run back for one or two things. It happens to all of us. 

- If you're having guests, ask them to bring something to contribute. I like to ask guests to bring an appetizer and/or something that meets their dietary restrictions.

- The simplest centerpiece is a pile of pumpkins down the center of your table...all sizes and shapes...mixed colors or a single color. We just pull the pumpkins from all corners of the house, and even from outside, and use them afresh as our centerpiece.

- After grocery shopping TWO days ahead, make everything that can stay cold...cranberry sauce, pies, etc. And also, cube and dry your bread for stuffing.

- Need a great, classic stuffing recipe? Click here for the one I love. I substitute focaccia bread for the white bread and decrease the onions just a bit.

- ONE day ahead of time: clean your house, set the table, and make everything else you can cook ahead of time.

- The morning of: get your turkey started, and then find all your serving pieces and their utensils and set them at the ready on the counter.

- My favorite way to roast a turkey:
1. Rinse the bird and clean everything out of its cavities.
2. Stuff the main cavity with one onion (quartered), several cloves of garlic (peeled), and some fresh herbs.
3. In a small bowl blend softened butter with chopped, fresh herbs (sage, flat leaf parsley, thyme), and freshly cracked quantities specified...use your best judgement!
4. With your hand, loosen the skin on the turkey breast and smoosh (yes, that's a word...I'm sure of it!) the butter-herb mixture on the meat of the breast underneath the skin.
5. Brush turkey with olive oil, and sprinkle with a smoked salt and freshly ground pepper.
6. Roast on a roasting rack at 325 degrees, basting every 30 mins., until thermometer registers 170 degrees.

- Give yourself some grace to not make everything from scratch. I do this with gravy. It's very low on my priority list for homemade musts. 

- Green beans can be blanched, blotted dried, wrapped in paper towels and place in a Ziploc bag, and refrigerated until the final 10 mins. before dinner. Then finish them off on the stove by sauteing in melted butter. (We like them with bacon and onion OR with dried cranberries and slice almonds.)

- Pair turkey with Gewurztraminer. Remember to have a sparkling apple or pear juice on hand for non-drinkers.

- Don't forget the butter dish and the salt and pepper on the table.

- Extend an invitation to people who have no place to go or might be alone...young married couples, military servicemen and servicewomen, the elderly, the newcomers to the area, the widow, the bachelor.

- In our family, the women cook and the men clean up. What a blessing that is!

- Count your blessings! Lots of food to cook means the Lord has blessed you abundantly with wealth and food for your table. Lots of people to cook for means the Lord has blessed you with friends and family. Be thankful!

These photos are from one or two Thanksgivings ago. I hope you enjoyed them! It seems like I have a dreadfully difficult time blogging in November. We actually all gathered last Saturday to celebrate Thanksgiving, because we were ALL able to be together that day. Table surrounded by our dear family and full of a traditional Thanksgiving feast. This Thursday, the three of us are hosting friends for a simpler, more non-traditional Thanksgiving meal. I'd like to promise I'll share those pictures soon, but my track record on November blogging is very poor indeed. But you'll see them eventually!

Invite Nature Indoors

Autumn leaves are too pretty to relegate solely to outdoors. Invite a few branches inside. No need to offer them a cup of tea...a simple drink of water will do.

A Rainy Day at the Head of the Charles

A couple of weeks ago, Colette and her dear friend and I spent a rainy Saturday in Boston attending the Head of the Charles Regatta. Rowers from all over the U.S. compete in solo, pairs, and team rowing competitions along the scenic banks of the Charles River as it snakes through Boston and past the colleges and city skyline.

Competitors are of all ages from community teams, and many college teams from all over the country.

Spectators, like ourselves, line the banks of the river and congregate on the bridges to watch the boats and cheer on favorite teams. Others (with connections, I presume) watch from some of the many boathouses that line the river. These two belong to Harvard University.

The Cambridge Boat Club is in the heart of the action at the Head of the Charles.

The crowd was a fun and convivial mix of families, aging rowers and college rowers, dogs, and preppy college students. This vendor was giving away samples of the most delicious apple-almond herbal tea, and we stopped in and purchased canisters to take home and/or a cup to warm us on the damp day.

Colette was happy to do a little shopping at the Brooks Brothers tent...a hopping place!

Happy faces despite the cold and rain! Love these cheerful girls!

Day made even more fun with kettle corn!

Never let it be said that Colette leaves any dog unpetted!

The award for best dressed dog of the day was this little fellow, Henry, in his Barbour coat. Too adorable!

It was a super fun day, despite the rain, and we hope to go again next year.
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