Sabbath Rest

Last night's sunset
Then a voice came from the throne, saying,
"Praise our God, all you His servants and those
who fear Him, both small and great!"

-Revelation 19:5

Christmas Celebrations at our Home

I hope each of you had a lovely Christmas celebration! 

This year, we had no visiting family and even Max and Rose are relocated to the other side of the country. So, in stark contrast to the 17 we had together last year, it was a much smaller celebration. But it was no less heartfelt!


Walter, Felicity, and the kids came over on Christmas Eve morning, just as though it were Christmas Day. (It was his family's turn to have them on Christmas Day this year.) We had our traditional Christmas breakfast to start the day: egg casserole, potato casserole, raspberry coffee cake, orange juice, and coffee. I sort of feel that the Christmas breakfast menu is something akin to the 1990's calling and wanting its breakfast back, but everyone screams "Tradition!" if I suggest altering it, so we feasted without regard for cholesterol or sugar content. 

The breakfast table...in keeping with my Christmas theme of simple, natural, and magical this year. Just greens in the center of the table. A calming color palette. And fanciful, casual, paper placemats with owls (a gift from a friend).

  
Then it was on to present opening! I've included the blurry pictures even, because...well...that's basically all I got. But I think it's so real life...the kids are seldom still...all four of them in motion most of the time. Makes for a very jolly Christmas! Their Christmas presents from us were handmade, flannel pajamas or nightgowns and coordinating heat sacks. (Some pictures taken before they opened them, and some after.) Super snuggly Christmas!






The middle part of the day was consumed with watching "The Muppets' Christmas Carol" (my favorite Christmas movie), playing with new toys, and the kids chasing or being chased by Carson (the new dog). I think Carson and the kids are all fast friends now, which just makes me delighted beyond words. When you rescue a dog, you're never quite, 100% certain that they'll come exactly as described as "good with kids", so it was a great relief and a great joy to find he's fabulous with them...and they with him.


The sunset was beautiful on Christmas Eve...such a blessing.


We skipped lunch and had an early dinner of just appetizers. The menu was:

Meatballs in Cider-Barbecue Sauce
Assorted Cheeses and Crackers
Vegetables and Garlic-Chipotle Dip
Maple-Glazed Bacon-Wrapped Dates (recipe here)
Italian Sub Sandwich Roll-ups (recipe here)

Then it was off to church to worship God and celebrate the Incarnation. God be praised for His great mercies to us. Singing "Silent Night" in a candlelit church on Christmas Eve is one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me.


On Christmas Day, it was just the three of us (plus Carson). We have never had a Christmas that quiet. I think it's easy to start to feel self-pitying when the group is small, or you're missing people, but I really tried to focus on the unexpected blessings of a quiet Christmas. I'm usually the one who sets her alarm to wake up before the rest of the house on Christmas. I normally quickly shower, get dressed and make up on, and skitter downstairs to turn the oven on and get breakfast going. But this year, I slept without an alarm...always an indulgence for me. And we ambled downstairs when we pleased and heated up leftovers from breakfast the day before. Since it was our traditional Christmas breakfast, it still felt like Christmas tastes (if that makes any sense) and I enjoyed the novelty of not spending much time in the kitchen. The morning was sparkling with frost when I took the dog out.


I stayed in my pajamas all morning, which hasn't happened since I was a kid. We opened presents from each other and from family and friends around the country. Someone got a rhinoceros for Christmas.


At some point in the day, we all traded in our pajamas for lounging clothes. And I spent most of the afternoon wrapped in my new cashmere shawl (from Hubby, and oh, sooo dreamy!) and cozied up on the couch with my new books.


Colette and I worked together on Christmas dinner, a simpler affair than normal: spiral-sliced ham, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, and brioche rolls (store bought). It wasn't until the next day that I realized I forgot to make the salad. But no one missed it. I was in favor of eating in the formal dining room, or for pulling a table over next to the fire in the family room to make it special. But Colette said, "Let's eat in the kitchen. The kitchen is what feels like home to me." *heart melts* So, the kitchen it was! But I wanted candlelight. Remember, when I said this Christmas I wanted candles and more candles? So I just gathered them from all over the house and a few from the pantry, and we dined by candlelight and it was magical and lovely in all new ways.


Teamwork got the dishes done, but we let the candles burn. And when everything was cleaned up and we were ready to pop in a new movie for the night, we let the candles burn still, because it was so pretty and I don't think any of us wanted it to end.


I've left all the candle holders on the table, because we all agreed that it would be beautiful for New Year's Eve too!

Christmas Sale!

For the first time ever, I am having a Christmas sale in the shop! From now through Jan. 25, 2019, all Christmas merchandise (stockings and sachets) are 40% off! No coupon code needed. Click here to go to the shop! Happy shopping!



Ready and Waiting

I think this is the most organized I've ever been for Christmas. I'm usually not doing too badly, but I have spent more Christmas Eve days sewing pajamas (as Christmas Eve gifts) than I would like to admit. But this year, I buckled down and made any gifts I was making in October. Yes! And I purchased Christmas cards very early, and that helped.

But the last present was wrapped yesterday. The gifts going to family far away shipped earlier this week. Food gifts to friends shipped Wednesday. The menus are planned. It feels wonderful to be prepared enough to have time to just relax and have fun! I spent the day with Colette, exploring some of our favorite small, New England towns and enjoying some great food. It was delightful to have time to be part of the general festiveness vs. part of the hustle.


How about you? How are your Christmas preparations going? 

May I Introduce...

May I introduce...Carson! He joined our family less than two weeks ago, and we are completely in love! We got him from the same rescue group that our beloved other Goldens (now gone) came from, MAGRR. (The are the best!) He's 2-3 years old (no one quite knows) and he's mostly Golden, with maybe a bit of Border Collie way back in his background. He's whistle smart and has extremely acute senses of hearing and direction. But mostly, he's a love who follows us, like a little shadow, from place to place all day long.




In case you're wondering, his name was given to him by the rescue group, and we LOVE it! We love it because we adore Carson, the butler, in Downton Abbey. (He's my favorite character.) So, does this Carson seem like the butler? Well, at our Christmas party, he was quite well behaved. Well behaved, right up to the point, when nearly all the guests were gone, and I caught him up to his elbows on the dining room table chowing down on the blue cheese. *gasp* We've demoted him to under butler for the time being. But his charms greatly outweigh his...ahem...oversight in caring for the dining table. SO sweet!

Christmas Party

Last week was a super busy week around our house, because we were hosting our annual Christmas Open House on Saturday! We've hosted this party every year for 25 years, and we have the best memories from it. As much as this has been a big event in our family life, I've been terrible about taking any pictures by which to remember it. I was determined that this was not going to happen this year, so I snapped pictures from the beginning of the preparations all through to the end of the party.

Every party starts with lots of baking. This year's menu was: 

Gingerbread Men
Snowflake-shaped Sugar Cookies (my grandma's recipe)
Chocolate Raspberry Bars

Baked Spiral-Sliced Ham with Pineapple-Habanero Glaze
Antipasto Skewers
Assorted Cheeses and Crackers
Vegetables with Chipotle-Garlic Dip
Olives and Pickles

candies
Lindt Truffles

Wassail
Cranberry and Orange Infused Water
Coffee
Tea



We were expecting almost 60 people for the party. I divided my week into baking, which happened Monday through Wednesday, and grocery and flower shopping on Thursday, cleaning and savory prepping on Friday, and final party prep on Saturday, the day of the party.

Lots of silver polishing happened that Friday...of all the serving pieces we were using for the party, as well as any silver that sits on the open hutch. It's important to me that everything be clean and sparkling for the party...light dancing off everything is a big part of making an evening gathering feel festive.



And fresh flowers are important too! This crystal vase with a big bouquet was destined for the dining room table, where all the food would be spread. The dining room is painted a pretty icy shade of green, so it try to stick with greens and white flowers there, with maybe a minimal pop of red.


The morning of the party! I love how the winter light streams into my kitchen. And when it's completely ready for a party, well...that's even better!


The candy jars on the kitchen island were full of tempting sweets, allowing all the small (and not so small) guests unfettered access to the candy. I was amused that only the smallest jar, containing gum drops, was empty by the end of the night. I think it was the easiest jar for the little ones to reach. Too cute!


All dressed up and the party is just a couple hours from starting, but we paused for some pictures.



In the final 15 minutes before the party is supposed to start, I sweep through the house and make sure all the Christmas lights are turned on, the dimmers are dimmed to just the right amount of light to keep people awake and yet make them relaxed, and I light all the candles.


I guess I only took video of the food table (which you can view in my archived stories on my Instagram account @goodwifeh), but here is a trio of cake plates sporting cookies.


It is SO difficult to take pictures during the party, because I want to devote my time entirely to our guests. This year, probably owing to the fact that I wore black velvet jeans and could just slip my phone into my back pocket, I did manage to take a few. Our party is a happy mix of family, friends from our town, friends from church, and more.

I loved this sweet grouping of a party happening within a party!


My peeps (as the young people say) from our town's historical society, where I volunteeer.


And this sweet peep is 97 1/2 years old! She still lives in her own home, starts a fire in her fireplace every night, and she drives a Mini Cooper. She is a precious, precious soul.


Adorable granddaughter spying out her present under the tree.


And our youngest grandson chomping down on a gingerbread man. We make many types of cookies each year, but the gingerbread men have happened every one of the 25 years.



Final moment, about midnight, when all the guest had gone home and all the dishes had been washed and dried. Christmas lights twinkling and soft Christmas jazz music playing and feet up. 


On Instagram, I had a heap of questions about the food and the tradition of our party. I've archived that story for future reference. But I'm more than happy to answer questions here too!

Just a Little Over 24 Hours


Just a little reminder that cut off for Christmas delivery for shop purchases is 3:00 p.m. (EST) tomorrow, December 18th! Costumes, stockings, balsam fir sachets, bomber hats, and more are in the shop! Click here to visit.

Sabbath Rest


Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.

- Matthew 11:28-29

A Few Days Left


There are still a few days to place Christmas orders in time for delivery before Christmas! The last day to order is Dec. 18th! I ship USPS Priority Mail, so your package will be to its destination in three days. And I can ship directly to your gift recipient! Click here to visit the shop!

Decking the Halls

Nearly every year, I change up the way we decorate the staircase/banister. This year, since I was all about simple, natural, and magical with the Christmas decorations, we went with:

- fresh greenery roping
- simple ribbon in sort of a khaki-gold color
- gold metal antique rings about 4" across
- small, mercury glass ornaments
- small, gold "berries" wired into the greens
- tiny lights on a wire


During the day, the bitty, gold "berries" add a touch of color. And at night, the ornaments shimmer in the glint of light from the tiny lights. The color scheme (except for the greens) is nearly monochromatic, which make it simple...or at least simpler than I'm used to. And I'm definitely loving that this year!


A Few of My Favorite CHRISTMAS Things

"The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Since it's jolly Christmas time, I thought it might be time for another of my postings on a few of my favorite things, but with a special emphasis on Christmas. Some of these are  perennial favorites of mine or our family's and others are more recent discoveries. As usual, I don't get any compensation for these recommendations, but I'll give you the sources, if you want to discover more (or purchase) for yourself...although some are delightfully free! Here are a few of my favorite Christmas things:

1.) Jenny Steffens Hobick's wrapping paper. Big shout out to her for designing gorgeous, distinctive, and high quality wrapping paper! The thickness of the paper is sheer luxury. And each roll comes in a cardboard tube for storage without a wrinkle. Seriously, why doesn't all wrapping paper come like this? These were the patterns I chose, but she has many other choices too. Ribbon and tags from JSH too! Click here for more.


2. Wassail recipe. For about 25 years now, our family has had a Christmas open house, and we have served this recipe every year. Some people even say...they come for the wassail. It's super simple. I heat it up on the stove and then add it to a crockpot to keep warm throughout the party.


Wassail

1 large jug of apple juice or cider
1/3 of a large can of pineapple juice
1 c. orange juice
1 T. whole allspice
1 T. whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks

Tie spices up in a square of cheesecloth, or place in a jumbo tea strainer. 
Put all juices in a large stockpot. Add spices and slowly heat, but not to boiling. Simmer for about 3-40 minutes to allow spices to infuse juices well. Remove spice bag. Serve.

3. Fresh greens. Nothing beats the fragrant beauty of fresh greens in our home! It doesn't really feel like Christmas until the banister has fresh roping draped from it and bits of greens are stuck in ironstone bowls and nestled in among bowls of ornaments. This year, I gathered them from our own property, but I have also been known to discretely *ahem* gather them in from less obvious places of the Christmas tree. 


4. Christmas mugs. Our collection of Christmas mugs (just a few shown here) just makes me smile. They are stored in a box with all the rest of our Christmas decorations, and they come out the day after Thanksgiving. We remove all the ordinary mugs from the cupboard, pack them into the Christmas box, and place the Christmas mugs into the cupboard. Then we reverse it all after New Year's. The plaid ones came from Williams-Sonoma (click here). The ones with the tartan initial came from Pottery Barn (click here). The adorable ones with the wreaths and sentiments are new from Target this year (click here). And the festive one with quilt squares and holly is designed by Susan Branch (click here).


5. The Gloucestershire Wassail. I love the imagery of this carol...the happy conviviality of the Christmas season that spreads peace and goodwill between all people...a time of wishing each other well and casting aside any ill feelings. I love almost every version of this song, but the one by Lorenna McKennitt is my favorite. Check for it on itunes, or listen to it here.

Image credit here. Photo by: Ann Elliot Cutting.
6. A mix of white Christmas lights. Haven't Christmas lights improved ten-fold in the last twenty years of so? I am just so thrilled with all the options we have now. My favorite way to use them is in a mix of styles, but all in white. We have warm white mixed with cool white on our Christmas tree, as well as twinkling and non-twinkling, and standard shaped lights and little round ball lights. The mix add interest and depth and sparkle!  The lights shown in this picture are entwined in some bare branches flanking our front door this season. They are: small pinecone-shaped lights (top), big clear balls (middle), and small white balls (bottom). Target is my go-to source for Christmas lights.


7. The Toad Hall Company Christmas cards. These are, without a doubt, some of my favorite Christmas cards we've ever sent! I purchased different Christmas cards from this same British artist for Christmas 2017, in honor of our trip to the UK last year. But I loved them so much, I went back for more this year. The artist, Rebecca Day, has her own website (click here) and an Etsy shop (click here). Check out all her cards, gift tags, and more!


8. Bayberry candle. When I was a child, my mother had a bayberry candle, a fat, pillar one, which she lit only on Christmas Eve. It was carefully packed away each year. And it lasted forever, since it was only burned for a few hours once a year. In fact, she may still have it! But the aroma of that bayberry candle...with all its botanical spiciness, is an instant Christmas memory trigger for me. For years and years, I searched in vain for a bayberry candle that smelled exactly like that. And at last I found one! It's available on Amazon (click here). It burns on our kitchen island every day during the Christmas season, and I hope our family always carries that scent memory with them.


9. "Christmas According to Christ" - a sermon by Alistair Begg. This sermon. This sermon! This sermon delivered by this man. It's message is eternal and explains clearly why we celebrate this thing called Christmas. And if that wasn't recommendation enough, any sermon delivered with a Scottish brogue makes me listen more carefully, makes me smile at the occasional turn of phrase that tickles the mind, and fills my mind with awe at the emphasis on the glory of God. Click here to listen.

Photo credit: here.

10. King's College Cambridge - A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. This live broadcast of the Christmas Eve service of King's College Cambridge fills me with awe and joy in the Lord every Christmas Eve. Nothing else helps to focus my heart more on the true meaning of Christmas than this broadcast. The sound of voices filling a soaring cathedral in praises to God is a beauty almost indescribable and a foretaste of what heaven must be like. Click here to find out all the ways you can listen to it live this Christmas Eve.

Photo source: here.
I'd love to hear what some of your favorite Christmas things are! Please leave a comment and share!

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