Sights and Sounds and Smells of Christmas

“All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur—this lovely world, these precious days…” ~ from Charlotte’s Web

The sights and sounds and smells of Christmas are what make the holiday come to life.

English: By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favourite sights are:

1. Lit Christmas trees laden with decorations.

2. The excitement of little kids when they get something they really wanted. I still remember my youngest son dancing and jumping up and down with excitement when he received a Fisher Price castle with all its accoutrements—it was pure joy and happiness.

3. A present with my name on it—(I know it is better to give than receive, but admit it—we all like to receive).

My favourite sounds are:

1. The tinkle of jingle bells in the distance.

2. Choirs singing beloved Christmas carols.

3. Laughter at Christmas get-togethers.

English: A cinnamon roll with glaze

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favourite smells are:

1. Stuffing or dressing—does not matter to me if it is inside or outside the turkey.

2. Ginger.

3. Cinnamon buns.

What are your favourite sights and sounds and smells of Christmas?

Tidings of Great Joy

Christmas illustration

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is Monday, so it must be my weekly newspaper column–hope you enjoy:

        “The Christmas tree?  All Christmas trees are perfect.” –  Charles N. Barnar

My Christmas spirit is intact. My Christmas tree is up and I wonder now what took me so long. If I remembered more clearly each year how much I love having the tree up, I would probably put it up in mid-October. I am thinking it is a good thing my memory is so poor on this particular point—even I would get tired of having a tree up for two and a half months.

          Everyone has a different tradition when it comes to putting up their tree. Those who go the traditional “real” tree route have no choice but to put their tree up a little later as a tree bare of its needles is none too festive on Christmas Day—and that is what happens if you put them up too early. I have not had a real tree for years but I do remember the daily watering and finding needles hidden in the carpet in July—neither of which adds to the charm of a real tree for me. But the smell, the smell is wonderful—which is why I have a wreath of real spruce branches on my door—I can go and stiff it at my leisure, and enjoy it as John Geddes describes the scent beautifully in A Familiar Rain: “freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin – inhale deeply and fill your soul….”

          I consider the tree I put up a “real” tree in the sense that it carries the weight of Christmases past, the joy of Christmas present, and the probability that it will still be around for Christmas future. It is not one of those more expensive ready-lit trees; it is old, the branches are a bit unwieldy, and though sparse I have the tree in a corner and have trained the branches to curve to the front, so it looks much fuller than it really is.

          The tree is always dressed to the hilt—decorations drip from every branch and at the top is a little wooden plaque that I attach to a gold wicker star that declares: “Memories are made every Christmas.” Below it is a beautiful oval ceramic decoration given to me by my sister that purveys the sentiments of the season: “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy.”

          I understand that Christmas does not bring everyone joy. I am fortunate in that even though I have lost dear ones at Christmas, known of people who have had to deal with great tragedies during this festive season,  and had to deal with troubles of my own—the season brings a respite of sorts for me. I know it does not serve everyone this way—as I said, I am fortunate. (Living in temporary denial helps a lot—somehow I have the capacity to put reality on the back burner for a while.)

         

christmas tree with honest to goodness real ca...

christmas tree with honest to goodness real candles (Photo credit: ambienttraffic)

I remember reading books about Christmases past, in the days when the Christmas tree was not put up until Christmas Eve, and the crowning glory came when the lights were turned on (or lit during more historical and need I say it, dangerous times) for the first time. I love that tradition but not enough to relive it myself.  Amidst the daily grind, I enjoy being able to feast my eyes on something that takes me out of the moment and into a pleasant reverie.

          Last night I sat in the living room with all the lights out except for those on the tree—and the word magical sprang to mind. Transforming what is essentially a Charlie Brown Christmas tree into a thing of beauty is truly mystical. And that is highly representative of the season—it is mystical in the way it transforms even Scrooge attitudes into Tiny Tim’s way of thinking.

          Christmas does not solve all our problems but the season and its meaning, whether spiritual or secular (or both) gives us something to hang on to. There are those who believe that the “reason for the season” is not given enough air time; but I think that the feelings derived from Christmas do not have to be limited.

          There seems to be a controversy over whether one should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”. I am not entering the fray—I will stick with Merry Christmas but happily respond to Happy Holidays. At this time of year we should practice tolerance and not get in a snit—stick to your guns and expect others to respect your viewpoint. Problem solved.

          I leave you now humming “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, dispersed with a little “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” while listening for some “sleigh bells in the snow.”

Christmas Spirit Captured

christmas spirit

christmas spirit (Photo credit: spapax)

The wing chair has been moved from its usual spot to clear a space for the Christmas tree. I have vacuumed the sacred spot and ruined the lives of a few spiders and dust bunnies. Someone is taking a nap on the couch, and son number two is “just checking his emails” so I await a rested husband and an up to date son to help me deck my halls.

I am determined to get the tree up today. It is long past due according to my inner holiday calendar but unexpected  life events sometime takes precedence. It is important to get the tree up, to ensconce it in lights, and trim it in ornaments that have been nestled in their boxes for lo these eleven months.

I have decorated many a Christmas tree and no longer fuss about hiding the cords on the lights as I know that once it is trimmed that will not matter. I cannot wait to bask in just the glow of the tree lights  tonight  and dream about Christmases past and enjoy Christmas present. Christmas future I will leave to take care of itself.

I have now caught the Christmas spirit. She was being a bit slippery this year, but I finally struggled with the demonic powers that were scaring her away and won. My victory, though hard won is intact and I am ready for whatever the holiday season throws my way.

christmas paint

(Photo credit: cassie_bedfordgolf)

Did you have any trouble summoning your Christmas spirit this year?

Not a Proud Christmas Moment But A Memorable One

Wrote this for my Writers’ Group Christmas Party tonight–an unusual memory perhaps, but a memory nonetheless:

71 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

71 Chevrolet Monte Carlo (Photo credit: DVS1mn)

What was I thinking? My conscious has been niggling at me lately and it is about an adventure I had in fourth year at university. I have not always been the lovely person you are accustomed to, and every now and then a flash of that earlier feisty, perhaps a little selfish and superficial personality shows its rather unlovely self…. but not too often.

I remember the days when life was about me, me, me. And many of my friends were the same. It was not like we were horrible people—we were just single kids in our early twenties who had to find an outlet for our energy after studying our brains out for mid-terms.

We lived in residence but since we were seniors we got to live in the residence that had apartments—with four room-mates sharing accommodations. And it was boys and girls living down the hall from each other—which was a real change from separate residences, where the boys had to be “signed in” at the front desk before being allowed upstairs.

In real life, we were no longer boys and girls, we were men and women—but being at school we were not challenged by the responsibilities of mortgages, and keeping our homes respectable, and paying bills other than our tuition, books and housing. Many of us were still supported somewhat by parents, loans, and summer jobs. So maybe we can be forgiven for our dastardly deed.

It was Christmas and we were in the midst of finishing up final papers and studying for finals. The guys down the hall had a Christmas tree, and I and my roommates thought that having one would brighten up our spirits and apartment. So we asked them where they got their tree. They told us they had swiped it from a mall a couple of miles away. Someone had set up a tree kiosk and was selling the trees in the parking lot. They had all piled into an old 71 Chevy and secured a tree—but really what they had done was stalk the lot after midnight and stolen the tree when no one was there to see them.

There was a process to the whole adventure. They had driven to the lot, turned their lights off, run to the where trees were kept and taken a tree as opposed to choosing a tree with deliberation and thought. They then peeled out of the lot with four wheels barely on the pavement and raced home. Well, this sounded like quite an adventure to my roommates and me. The guys offered to take us to the lot and procure a tree for us—but we had to come along. So eight of us piled into the big brown Chevy and we nonchalantly made our way to the lot.

We entered the lot, turned off the car’s headlights, and three guys piled out of the car to get us our tree while the driver waited in anticipation of taking off like a wild man. They got the tree—stuffed it in the trunk and got back in the car. The car doors were barely closed when we were peeling out of the driveway, tossed around in the back seat of the car like rag dolls. And of course we were laughing and having a merry old time. There may have been some grain or grape beverages involved—I am not sure.

A grower in Waterloo, Nova Scotia prunes Balsa...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We got back to residence—jubilant in our success. We did not think about the fact that we were stealing. We did not think about the fact that the trees we had stolen were the basis for someone’s livelihood—we just basked in the glory of our escapade. We took the tree into our apartment and decorated with strings of popcorn and paper snowflakes. Such a lovely centrepiece to our Christmas celebrations—untainted by any feelings of regret.

Today I wonder what we were thinking.  We probably knew it was wrong but were too high on the adventure to let that bother us. This Christmas memory is not one that I regret, as it makes me think about the fact that good people sometimes do questionable things. We learn from those things and it becomes part and parcel of who we are. Despite the fact that it still niggles at me—I still remember the rush of excitement, the camaraderie in the devilish deed, and the fun we had.

Have you ever done something that you regret or should regret?

Published in: on December 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm  Comments (30)  
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Ready or Not

Small scream

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christmas is coming

Feels a little like a threat

Need another month

Published in: on December 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm  Comments (14)  
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Let’s get this party started!

1st December 2013, Sunday, Was that a snowflak...

1st December 2013, Sunday (Photo credit: tomylees)

I am providing you with a rare opportunity ~ a sneak peek into this week’s  newspaper column which is not due until tomorrow morning. As this is the first day of December I thought it was apropos. This is not hot off the presses–it is a look at something before it even meets the presses:     

            December really creeps up on us. It is not like we do not know that it is coming. But I am always a bit unprepared for this most magical time of the year. It comes directly after stealthy November, so why am I so surprised that there are now just a few weeks before Christmas instead of months?  I believe that my ability to live in denial gets me through November, but when December skulks out of the shadows and jingles its bells even I cannot deny that I should get in gear.

            So what gets you into the Christmas spirit? I devour Christmas magazines and cookbooks but seldom glean anything of import from them. I am not particularly crafty though for years I pretended—but now I just let the authentic me loose, and authentic me is not all that crafty.  I enjoy a bit of cutting and pasting but that gets old after a while and does not really get one much past making  Christmas cards, paper snowflakes, or the occasional bookmark. I think that my crafting phase has passed and though it was short-lived I did give it the “old college try” and if you happened to be the recipient of my craftiness, rest easy that you will not have to admire my “all thumbs” creations in the future.

          

English: A bauble on a Christmas tree.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  I do have a bit of a decorating bent, but find that I am thinking about the fact that what I gloriously decorate my home with will have to be taken down in about a month—so of late I tend to decorate with statement  pieces rather than all the small things I have collected over the years. The only place I break this rule now is the Christmas tree—mine drips with nostalgic tissue paper bells, popsicle stick sleds, pipe cleaner snowmen, and pinecones decorated with lots and lots of glitter. Sure my kids are in their twenties now—and are no longer producing these little works of art—but I keep them stashed safely away and bring them out every year reliving their childhoods when innocent belief reigned supreme.

            I remember those days of innocent belief, when I was not the purveyor of all things Christmas but an innocent and receptive beneficiary. As a kid, I could not believe that there could be a thing so wondrous as Christmas. My mother can be blamed in large part for this, as she created the best Christmases ever.  I remember going to my cousin’s house one Christmas and she showed me all the clothes she got and I recall thinking how horrible—mind you she was four years older than I, so at 13 she was very happy to get clothes, but at nine years of age I could not imagine worse presents. I told my mom then that I was really glad that Santa had not left me clothes. Dolls and books, games and toys were more my speed at that age—and Santa always made sure there was plenty to unwrap under our tree.

            At our house, we did not have the tradition of each person unwrapping one present at a time while the others in the family looked on—and though I now think it is a lovely way to celebrate—I liked the way we were each given a present and we all opened them at once. It added to the confusion and chaos of Christmas morning—which is one of its most attractive attributes to me. We were a family of six—mom and dad and two boys and two girls—and the mayhem was all part of the fun.

        

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Shopping

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree  (Photo credit: K!T)

    Christmas past seems to play a large part of Christmas present. We remember old traditions and we keep them even if just in our memories. Some are translated to fit today; and others are kept intact to be celebrated over and over again. I have a rather bedraggled Christmas tree that my kids do not want me to get rid of because it is the one they remember from their childhoods. So every year we get it out and dress it to the nines, and it is transformed from a Charlie Brown Christmas tree to the belle of the Christmas ball. 

            So as this month of December gets started and we embrace it and all that it celebrates, we will enjoy the new season it heralds. Winter is made so much more palatable by the cheer imparted by the holiday season.

            In the immortal words of Pink: (Let’s) “Get this party started right now.”

ARE YOU READY FOR CHRISTMAS?

Lady~In~Waiting

        

november // bois de boulogne

november  (Photo credit: kygp)

   I have been largely absent in the blog world of late. Plying my trade in haiku—17 syllables at a time. Good discipline. Clarity of thought. But now I find writing anything longer to be quite a task. I am now thinking in syllables. I come up with something, and count the syllables in each of the words. It can be creative. It can be limiting.

          I feel almost as if I have nothing to say that cannot be put into three lines of seventeen syllables. I am adrift and must find my way back. It is as if I have nothing worth saying that cannot be edited down, parsed fully in few words.

          It is November, and on the face of it—this poor dreary grey month suffers as much as my writing. But it can be a full month where autumn has not yet given way to greyness. Where the sun shines not quite as warmly but brightly. Where anticipation of the holidays is joyful as the deadlines are still comfortably far enough in the future that we can enjoy them before being caught up in the whirlwind.

          In November, anything is possible. I can dream of a white Christmas, of a homemade Christmas, of a Christmas wrapped in gold and silver, red and green. Yet it is still far enough away to be a dream and not a nightmare.

          I have always thought of November as the bridesmaid and not the bride. But there is honour in being a bridesmaid—you get to share the limelight without being the focus. You get a pretty dress but no huge change in lifestyle. You get to celebrate, have fun, and come away unscathed (not of course that marriage is scathing, but it is life changing).

 

Christmas in the post-War United States

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         I love to read all the December magazines in November, celebrating the perfect Christmas, the best Christmas ever, without the anxiety of making Christmas perfect and the best ever. I will enjoy this lady in waiting month—switching over my autumn décor mid-month to neutral before readying for the festive holidays.  I will enjoy November, take a deep breath, and get ready to plunge heartily into the month of endless celebrations.

What are your feelings about November?

 

Published in: on November 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm  Comments (46)  
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Is Slow Living Bliss?

Heidi kumquat small

Heidi kumquat small, not Heidi@lightlycrunchy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 To say that Heidi @ lightlycrunchy is my favourite blogger would not be true. But she is in the upper tier of my favourites. I have never been one to have a best friend, but lots of best friends, as I never like to be exclusive. (Now whether these people feel the same about me may be a different story). Heidi is one of my best friends. Not just blog friends, as I think that is a good term, but one that categorizes people in a sort of arm’s length way. Nope, Heidi sent me a present after I admired something that she knit (a pretty Christmas-y dishcloth). No fuss, no bother—she just sent it. I have it tucked away in a drawer to bring out next Christmas to festively hand wash my dishes.

 I read every one of her posts as soon as they show up in my email, and I love her sense of humour – she turns a highly informative and useful blog into one that is enjoyable and funny. She never preaches, she just tells us what she does. She never criticizes and she is humble about her many accomplishments from cooking to sewing, knitting to growing a fantastic garden and then using the harvest in all manner of ways, to holding down a job and mothering her two girls, and bragging about her husband.

I admire her and I admire the fact that at the end of every month, no matter how busy she is she does a roundup of what the month held using terms she gleaned from Slow Living Essentials. Now when you go to her site and read her monthly round-ups, you will see that they are full of substantial entries, of things she and her family and friends and relatives did that month to fulfill the key subjects set out by Slow Living.

In my own way, I am going to attempt the same, but instead of month end, I am going to start this month of March with some goals set by using the subject titles: Nourish; Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Repair; Green; Grow; Create; Discover; Enhance; and Enjoy.

Nourish:

I am going to make a meal from a bona fide new recipe this month and not just recycle my tried and true off the cuff recipes. I am also going to continue my “If It Is Saturday, It Must Be Recipe Day” post.

International Recycling Symbol 32px|alt=W3C|li...

International Recycling Symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Repair:

I am going to get my blue and red boxes to the curb this week. After missing two pick-ups (which are every other week) – I have a mound of recyclables on my back porch. By finally getting this stuff out to the curb I will repurpose my back porch—as I will be able to find it again. I will repair the back pockets on a pair of my jeans and a pair of John’s jeans, and fix my son’s game carrier—the elastic strap is broken.

Green:

I am going to recycle my recyclables. I am perhaps going to use a hint or two from Heidi, but don’t hold your breath on this one.

Remember back in the ‘90’s when all the rage was to buy green products etc? I am going to restart my earlier enthusiasm for this, and try my hand at making some green products. My sister has given me a teeth whitening recipe of 3% hydrogen peroxide and baking soda—so perhaps I will give that a whirl.  She says to only use it once a week, with your regular toothpaste.

Grow:

This one is difficult, as I have a black thumb, and not from lovely luscious humus. I will start small—maybe a violet. I have been known to be able to keep these alive. Our back garden will probably come to life down the road, but it is too soon for that.

Create:

I call writing creating, so I will continue writing. But I am thinking of getting back into my cut and paste phase—I may make some cards (something I love to do) and get back into scrapbooking. I create a lot of messes, but I do not think this counts. I love to create little vignettes around the house—and since it is time to replace the snowmen with something a little less wintry—I will be doing a little interior decorating.

Discover (magazine)

Discover magazine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discover:

This one is easy. I am a curious soul, so discovering is something I love to do. I am planning on spending an afternoon in my local library to write an article about it for my weekly newspaper column. I visit the library often, but do not spend a lot of time there in one sitting. I want to discover what goes on there and what I may be missing.

Enhance (Community):

As the municipal reporter for our local paper, I like to think I enhance the community by writing up articles that inform the residents of what is going on in the town and what they should be expecting.

Enjoy:

This can take in so many things—do not think I will make a prediction here.

So, at the end of the month, I will write up an end of the month round-up, and we will see what we will see. Thanks for the idea Heidi. Join me if you like.

Can slow living (my definition: mindful living) be the answer to our bliss?

Published in: on March 2, 2013 at 8:09 pm  Comments (28)  
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Bliss Returns ~ Day 8

Sudden Loud Noises

Sudden Loud Noises (Photo credit: STML)

In the last twenty years I have probably seen about five movies at a theatre that were not animated. Yes, I have kids. And for a while I saw every animated movie there was. And then I just lost interest in going to the movies—you can rent, buy, or see most stuff on television if you wait long enough or have the desire.

On Sunday, I went to the movies with my husband, and we saw “Guilt Trip” with Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen. We were given passes to a movie with two drinks and regular popcorn for Christmas, so we thought we would make use of them. We scoured the paper to see what movies were being offered, and it being just past the holiday season, there were lots to choose from.  But I did not want to see an adventure movie, or the Hobbit movie (sorry Cindy), or a sad movie….I wanted to see something light that would not break my resolution of finding my bliss.

So, we settled on “Guilt Trip”. Or actually my husband settled. I was quite happy to find a movie that was not shoot ‘em up, depressing, or a fantasy.

Well I just loved it. It was in a word: charming. The humour was gentle, the story heart-warming, and the ending happy. Smultzy? Not really. It was pleasant; indeed, it was storytelling at its best. There was conflict, but it was resolved. There were laughs, but also some serious everyday stuff that happens in all of our lives. It was just a good movie. A son and his mother on a road trip. But the son had an agenda, and that is what the whole movie was about. In the end. It was a worthwhile trip for the movie goer.

The only unblissful part of the movie date was the trailers that came on before the movie. We were inundated with probably about eight trailers—and the cacophony of noise blast at us and around us was an assault to the senses. It was too loud—so loud that it reverberated thunderously through the body almost to the point of shutting down. Bliss came when the trailers ended and the movie we had signed on to see came on the screen.

Sometimes bliss is relief in disguise.

Have you ever found bliss when something stopped?

~ One ~ Happy New Year! ! ! ! ! ! ! ~ Resolution 2013 ~ Finding My Bliss

12 O'Clock - FuijiFilm Finepix S2950

12 O’Clock – January 1, 2013 (Photo credit: ladytimeless)

What a party we had–I will do a synopsis of it soon–but the food, wine, music, and entertainment were fantastic and the hundreds and hundreds of guests incredible!  Now if I can just get Robin to come down off the table, and Vanessa to move over in the kitchen we will have breakfast. While I am waiting for the bacon to cook, I am going share my resolution and a few random thoughts with you:

In the past I have made serious resolutions; quirky resolutions; philosophically based resolutions; and finally refused to make resolutions on the grounds that doing so might incriminate me. This year I am trying a new tactic in the hopes that I will not be one of those statistics that they come out with every year saying that 92.4% of people give up on their resolutions 3.4 days after making them.

Today I resolve to find my bliss. I put it somewhere and I am sure I am going to find it again. I found my brother’s missing Christmas gift the other day (only five days after Christmas) so I am sure I am going to be able to find my bliss. So what is bliss? I figure it is something that I can probably spend the rest of my life discovering as it takes on so many guises: happiness, contentedness, serenity, delight, harmony, and in some corners blessedness. Now wouldn’t it be nice to be blessed?

The Encarta Dictionary says that bliss is “complete happiness” or a “state of spiritual joy”. I am thinking here that I may never need to make another resolution again—just finding my bliss will encompass all those things I want to accomplish. Losing those five pounds that I lost and found again? Bliss. Eating healthy? Bliss. Being content with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book? Bliss. See how it works? No more having to bother to make a resolution every year—this one encompasses all.

~Looking Back to Look Forward~

One of my favourite columnists is Mitch Albom with the Detroit Free Press. He has written some books, and from the sales figures, he is a pretty successful author. But, I find that he writes best in column form. He is succinct, pithy, and at times amusing. His column from Sunday, December 30th is one I am saving, and I am going to share a couple of paragraphs that really spoke to me, and I hope you will find engaging as well.

He said, “When all was said and done, 2012 was completely different from years before it, yet very much the same, because certain things are true no matter how long we live.

English: Mitch Albom was autographing for his ...

Mitch Albom 。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

News stories come, news stories go; nothing is as great as it sounds and nothing is as bad. Technology is replaced by more technology; celebrities replace previous celebrities; science discovers something, then searches for something else.

And the only thing that truly affects your year is how you lived within your own house, how you treated and were treated by your loved ones, and how you helped the people and community around you.”

Then he asked the question: “Judged by that, how was your 2012?”

I think that if we take his observations into account, we are equipped to handle 2013 in perhaps a more thoughtful way. I know that I am guilty sometimes of not treating the people I love most in the most loving way. They get the brunt of my frustration and they do not deserve it. They are the people who are here for me, and will continue to be in my corner. So, in addition to finding my bliss—or actually as a part of finding my bliss, I am going to try to treat my loved ones the way I want to be treated—in effect passing the bliss around a little more.

Mitch is right–the only thing that truly affects us is how we live within our own house and how we treat our loved ones and the community we live in.

Happy 2013, and may you all find your bliss, however you define it!