Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Sad but here...

Life is going on and we have already made the decision to call the shelter to bring home a kitty who needs a home.  When I'm ready.  Perhaps next week.  I'm praying for the same thing to happen with another cat that did with Victoria, I took one look at that face and she had my heart.  Love at first sight.

Loss is hard whether it is a pet or a parent or a friend or a spouse or anyone we love.  The affects of the loss are not the same for each but the feelings of grief are there.  I still look for her every morning when I get up, still in a sleepy fog (before my first cup of coffee), and I... forget.

I've made a few temporary changes that help me get through the day.  The lights are left on in various rooms to hold back the darkness a bit.  I'm the one that usually goes around turning off lights to conserve energy.  I've been going out each day the weather is good for coffee.  Which is not in my budget but McDonald's senior coffee is still inexpensive.

Christopher called and offered to take me to lunch yesterday at a Vietnamese restaurant for Pho.  Which I had never had before but was absolutely delicious.  He told me about his trip to the conference in San Francisco and being able to stay a couple extra days to see his best friend. The flight out made his pneumonia worse but with advice from the ladies in his life (his wife, sister, and mother)... he had room service bring lots of tea with honey and lemon. Lunch out was a blessing.

Mrs. Christopher stayed with her parents during the time he was in California so Hubby and I fed Mr. Sebastian and gave him a lot of kitty pets.  Victoria passed the last night we took care of Sebastian kitty but she hadn't seemed to mind his scent.  She knew it was his... and he is family.

So I'm playing Christmas music and watching Christmas movies and creating cards and doing what I need to do for the Christmas season.  Just doing all with the pall of sadness and grief and more than a few tears dropping in the sudsy dish water each evening.

Thank you for your well wishes and your prayers.  They are very much appreciated.  I have walked through loss before and I know life goes on.  It is just hard at first, particularly in a season one is expected to be full of joy.  I think everyone will understand when I'm just a little Scrooge-ish this year.

Photo:  One of my favorite Christmas decorations.  This photo was first shown on @coffeeteabooksandme on Instagram.  I purchased the cabin long ago for a fraction of the original price because the flag had broken off the snowman and the porch swing had broken off its' chain.  But a little glue on both made them look just fine.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Grief at Christmas

Well, this is not what I had intended to write about today.  However, I can't get my mind on anything else but the grief I am feeling.  I see her things everywhere I look. I have washed her kibble dish and placed it in a dresser drawer where it can hold my jewelry.  I cleaned her water container and it is ready to store in the garage.  Just in case.  But I can't even think of another pet right now.

I told my daughter that even opening the blinds on the French doors in the Family Room brought tears.  For years and years (and years), I not only opened them but lifted the blinds about a foot on each door so Victoria could see the birds and the squirrels on the deck.  I had the same reaction in the Study as I realized I would no longer see our kitty girl on tippy toes looking out the window.

Everything is seen through a fog, even the Christmas tree appears to have lost some of its' twinkle and the decorations appear to have gathered a layer of dust.  Life has become... dim.  Sad.  Tearful.  Empty.

I have felt the grief of losing a loved one many times before but this is the first time it happened during the Holidays.  I told my husband about the many well wishes on the blog and how she would have wondered why I would be surprised for I may be the writer but she was definitely the star.  :)

This had already been a different sort of Christmas.  I mentioned that I had sent two (eventually three) boxes of much loved Christmas decorations to charity.  It was just... time.  I've spent the last two years simplifying other areas and it was time to make Christmas decorating simple, too. 

I think the epiphany came when it was a few days after Thanksgiving and I still had not pulled out the many boxes of decorations.  Instead of a joy, decorating had become another chore.  Only eliminating a lot would make it easy and now that I have kept what I absolutely love, decorating is again a joy. There remains plenty to make the house festive and pretty and Christmasy.

I know that intense grief passes and not too far in the distant future, I can look at her photos and smile.  I can remember all the happy times together for that cat was.. Some Cat.  But not now.  Not yet.  I yelled at God today while doing the dishes (my husband wasn't home so I could get away with it).  Why so suddenly?  Why now?

But I know I'm not alone and many, many people this Christmas are feeling great loss.  Too many tragic news events prove that is true.  Then there are the thousands of stories which never make the evening news.  Sad things happen all year long but it does seem at Christmas that grief is magnified. 

Thank you for reading my words of sadness and woe.  Acceptance will return soon.  Then some Christmas joy.  There is so much for which to be thankful. 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Great Sadness

We often returned home to find her waiting for us at the window...

Our beloved kitty girl, Victoria, suffered a seizure last night and slipped away from our presence.  We are still trying to process our loss but I hope to be back on Sunday.

Our last day with her was full of kitty snuggles, two spa treatments as she loved to be brushed, and seeing her lovely face looking out the window as we drove into the driveway after shopping for groceries.

She will be greatly missed.  She will be buried today under the dogwood tree, wrapped in an old quilt.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

After Thanksgiving

It is difficult to believe Thanksgiving was on this same day last week.  Where has the time gone?  I had no intention of being away so long (Saturday and Sunday were planned annual re-posts) so this is the first time I've been back in person (so to speak) for awhile. 

Thanksgiving was a lovely feast with Mrs. Christopher's family around the table, making it a festive occasion. The days were busy leading up to Thanksgiving and it took a couple days resting on the sofa (while still attending to the everyday homemaking necessities like cooking, washing dishes, laundry, etc.) to recover but it is worth all the work for this now annual day of giving thanks together.

On Monday I started bringing in the Christmas boxes from the garage and had an Epiphany, which I will write more about on Sunday.  However, I can say today that over half of my decorations are now at our local Goodwill.  It was time. 

But sorting through all of them and making careful decisions of what to keep and what to give away took up a few days.  Which is why my only presence online has been a few Instagram* photos... and two of them were photos of Piper her mommy allowed me to use from her Facebook page.  Another was the above photo posted yesterday.  I decided this year to gild the lily on the silver service and I quite like the result.

I am way past due on some letters, including one to the ladies in the barn.  With Thanksgiving in the rear view window and  the weather finally turning more seasonal, the Christmas washi tape is now in a vintage looking tin on my desk, stamps ready to ummm... stamp, and other card making essentials sit on the nearby shelves.  So the card making and letter writing will commence tomorrow... God willing and the creek don't rise.

Piper at four months.

If you are looking for some lovely Christmas writing, Lanier and her writing partner, Laura, have begun a Christmas blog**.  I have been enjoying it very much.

Okay, I'll be back on Saturday but I will share one of the Piper photos from Instagram.  You twisted my arm.  She really is a cutie. Oh, and thank you to everyone entering their Amazon shopping through the links or a widget!

*The blog's Instagram account is @coffeeteabooksandme.

** Golden Hours, Keeping and Chronicling Christmas... here.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Annual Holiday List Reminder

I have been re-posting this the Sunday just before or after Thanksgiving for a lot of years. It has been one of your favorites... and mine.  I have received more notes about how making such a list changed reader's Christmas seasons than any other post.  When I wrote this post for the first time, my son was still living at home.  So my Christmas list has been tweaked through the years to represent our current Season.  When I began making the list, it included a lot more in the way of "going places".  Now it much quieter.  But still good...

I remember coming to the end of a Christmas season many, many years ago and wondering at my frustration.

There were no severe money trials that season, nothing that should have kept me from enjoying Christmas but... I couldn't put my finger on it... there was this sense of a lack of satisfaction... an unsettled feeling.

Soon after that, I was reading an article (magazine... book?) about this very thing. In it, the author said she learned to write out what it was she wanted from the Christmas season, what was most important to her. When I started doing that, I realized why the previous season had been lacking in joy.

It had been a rushed Christmas, the "doing" of many activities I felt I should do and not "being" the person I wanted to be that Season. My frustrations stemmed from a lack of getting away, alone beside my Christmas tree, enjoying that which comes from prayer and study and reading of books. I also had not said "no" to some outside activities that did not bring peace and joy.

Since that time, I have enjoyed making a list each season. My list has changed since that time due to health and finances but only in the "big" things. My list back then included attending a Christmas concert that I loved each year.  However, it became too expensive even when we did have a regular income. It wasn't that much of a priority that I'd spend more for tickets to a concert then I would on a week's worth of groceries.

Another item on my list that has gone by the wayside is hosting a big Christmas party. I loved decorating the house and having a lot of people over but that season is now behind me.

I remember one very magic (Narnia magic) party in our former house when we invited over Stephanie's college group. There was a tree in the family room and one in the living room, a fire was burning in the fire place, food placed in various areas, conversations were going on in many rooms of the house.

Later that night, as the young people were leaving, one student came up to tell me that night will be one of his "perfect Christmas memories" when he leaves college. It is one of my perfect memories, too.

I have found by making a list of those things I love about Christmas, I can make certain what means the most to me (and for my family) becomes a priority for time and money. 

Here are a few for this year, written out on paper before transferring to my scrapbook journal. Of course, I can't do them all but any of them on the "wish list" would make my season bright.
  • Decorating the house with my beloved Christmas items.
  • Visiting my sister to see her Christmas decorations.
  • Decorating with my snowmen collection.
  • Carefully placing all my ornaments on the tree
  • Using my Friendly Village china
  • Morning quiet times in the dark, with the tree lit
  • A breakfast out at Cracker Barrel during the Holidays
  • Holiday Baking
  • Candy Cane Lane tea
  • Hot apple cider
  • Listening to the music of the season
  • Watching favorite Christmas movies
  • Reading favorite Christmas books
  • Seeing what yummies The Food Channel and PBS cooking shows come up with this year
  • Listening to concerts on PBS
  • One or two (or more) Pumpkin Spice Latte's to enjoy
  • A morning at Panera sipping coffee and writing a real letter
  • Sending Christmas cards to our far away friends and family
  • Visiting my favorite primitive country store... breath in the scents, no purchase necessary
Most of my list in recent years involves more solitude than in the past and none require very much money.  This is only a way of thinking through what brings joy... and peace... and faith... and what lifts my thoughts to the One Who Made Me.

Little satisfactions can come in this... the most wondrous and magical time of the year.

I encourage you to brew a little pot of tea and fill your favorite tea cup, bring along a notebook and pen, light the Christmas tree if you have one, and think about those things that bring joy to your heart at Christmas.
Are you making time for them? 
Did you budget for them through the year? 
What makes your heart sing with gladness?
Have you asked God what can replace those "used to do" joys?
Are you saying "yes" to things you hate to do (and don't have to)?
Can you think of ways to save limited time (store bought sugar cookie dough?)
Have you decided that good done now is better than the perfect undone?

You don't need to do them all, just choose a few that will cause you to look back at this Christmas and smile... and remember, Christmas is not about the price of gifts or how many are given, Christmas is about the Giver of all gifts!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - When you think you have nothing to give

When you have been writing as long as I have, sometimes it is best to just repost old favorites.  This is from a few years ago but I had a lot of comments and e-mails from readers who said it sparked their imagination for gift giving on a very limited budget. 

In our materialistic society, we most often think we have to make a purchase to give or the gift is will not be appreciated. Actually, I have found that not to be true in most cases.

Yes, there are those around who may not appreciate fresh baked cookies but let's be honest... do you want those people as friends? So they are family and you are stuck with them... pray for their materialism and offer them a cookie, anyway. They may learn someday.

Here are some ways I've learned to be a giver, even with a very limited income...

When I do have "extra" cash, I stock the pantry (shelves, frig, deep freeze) with simple items which... when mixed together... create magic (Narnia magic). Isn't it absolutely remarkable the number of recipes which can be made from: eggs, butter, milk or cream, various sugars, flour, flavor extracts, nuts, dried fruit, yeast, etc.?

Throughout the year I'm always looking for inexpensive containers, suitable for giving gifts of baked goods. For instance, last year I hit a clearance sale at Wal Mart and purchased a couple dozen pretty red trays for a dime each. I gave many of them to Stephanie as a gift since she often takes baked goods to people.

When I can get a good deal on fresh fruits, I like to "can" jellies and jams. People love these. A blog friend once sent me honey and homemade soap from her farm... I LOVED it!

Other gifts I give with little or no money:
  • Books from the book sales or purchased with Amazon credit.
  • Items purchased at garage sales and while thrifting that I know people would love.
  • A pretty mug or teacup from my own collection with a box of favorite tea or hot chocolate mix.
  • A basket filled with a favorite snack (like puppy chow... yum) made "from scratch".

  • I used to make teddy bears, angels, small quilts, and other sewn items.
  • My first gift to my husband (before he was my husband) was a crocheted scarf... which he still has. :)
  • I've given a gift of recipe cards written with favorite family recipes.
  • My daughter received a "cookbook" from our good friend for a wedding gift that she had written with their favorite recipes... all printed from her computer.

Stuff to do as gifts

  • Offer to babysit the kiddies.
  • Sit with an elderly or ill person so their caregiver can get relief.
  • Read to someone who can't read for themselves... young or old.
  • Offer to scrub a floor or paint a room.
  • Trim bushes and trees for someone who can no longer get around easily.

  • Put up a Christmas tree for a friend who is not handy about such things.
  • Share extra decorations with a friend who has none.
  • Hang the Christmas lights for the elderly neighbor who can no longer hang them.

  • Write letters to people who would love to hear from you.
  • Send a pretty card to an elderly relative or friend.
  • Give forgiveness to someone who needs to hear those words.

  • Listen to a teenager, really listen.
  • Ask an elderly relative to share family history and write it down.
  • Collect family recipes and type them into the computer... give copies to loved ones.

  • Encourage your children to draw pictures for Grandma and Grandpa... and send them.
  • Look through your digital photos and fine one or two or three you know someone would love, get them printed... don't worry about a frame... just give hard copies of photos so a loved one will have them available.

If you have a green thumb, take starts from your flowers (in season) and start them in your home, give to a neighbor or family member when they are ready.

Yes, it takes creative thinking but you can give... even if it a prayer.  No... especially your prayers.  How wonderful it is to know there is someone in this sometimes scary world that is praying for you.

So this year, let us get our mind off of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and too much credit card debt.  Give from the heart... and don't ever think you have nothing to give.  ;)

Image:  Artist Lisi-Martin (I have this print hanging in my dining area)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

NKJV Journal the Word Bible, a review

I must say that this is the most beautiful Bible cover I've ever seen.  It is a hardback Bible with a fabric cover that looks pretty just sitting on the coffee table.  However, it is to be read and not just looked upon.

What makes this New King James Version Bible unique is each page has wide lined margins which can be used for journaling words, art journaling, or (what I would do) for taking notes.

It says it is is Large Print and I think most people will be able to read it easily but it is definitely not a Giant Print if that is what you require. The words of Jesus are in red and it does not have a concordance. Which I can understand as it is already a thick Bible due to the wide margins required.

This would make a lovely gift Bible for anyone who uses the New King James Version.

The NKJV Journal the Word Bible was provided for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.*

*Most links to are Associate Links.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Grace for the Holidays

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18 NIV

Cold weather arrived suddenly, plunging us into shivering wind chills the day after we broke another record high.  The flannel sheets were put on the bed and the throw made ready by the sofa.  Multiple cups of coffee, tea, and hot apple cider have been consumed.  I am absolutely ready for hibernation this year.

It would be lovely if you were sitting in the rocking chair in my Study, tea table between us, sipping a Holiday tea in pretty china cups. I would make shortbread cookies if I knew you were coming. We would talk books, of course, and forget politics completely.

This is the time of year people who disagree are thrown together by the Holidays.  I recall a pastor I had long ago who gave the same sermon the Sunday before Thanksgiving every year.  He reminded everyone that family gatherings tend to be messy and to treat each other with grace.  That is particularly needful this year when even Christians are being divided based on whom they voted for in November.

I have a story to share about how hard it is to continually show grace.  My sister and her husband moved back into the area recently and they invited us out to lunch on Veterans Day.  Both the men are Vietnam vets so their meals would be free.  We had a lovely time until the election came up.  I had warned my husband not to say anything at all since Bonnie and I haven't voted for the same president since the 1970s.

Well, in a corner booth near a window at Applebees, I snapped.  All the news and the Facebook rants and the Instagram rants and everything else came together and I told my sister exactly what I thought of her candidate.  I suppose it was worth it just to see the look on my husband's face.

Now, I must say... Bonnie is the person for me to break my own rule with since we can disagree and let it go completely within a minute or so.  Which is what happened.  Very shortly we were once again laughing and having a great time together.  But I had shocked myself at my reaction.

My mother had eight children, seven with her first husband who died in his 30s, one (moi') with my father.  Of the eight children, only two of my sisters remain alive and they are elderly.  Bonnie is the second youngest nearest me and she is fourteen or fifteen years older.  Even our youngest sister passed away long ago.  Grace must be shown.

No argument is worth winning when it comes to family... and I may add friends.

Now, I'm not talking about healthy debate within the immediate family around the evening dinner table. That can be the way we teach our children how to think.  When they are free to give opinions and are never put down or be made to feel as if they have said something foolish.

I am talking about when we get together with family and friends... especially those we rarely see... and especially at the table.  For I think of a Holiday table as almost sacred.  This is the season for speaking grace.  This is the season to live grace.  If at no other time of the year, it is especially important for us to make our homes a safe place, with quieting music in the background, candles lit, delicious smells coming from the kitchen, and a smile on our face.  Even as we say hello to that relative that drives us nuts.

I have a quote said by Maya Angelou displayed in the Study.  It hangs over the cabinet with the vintage sewing machine as sculpture.  It says People may forget what you said or did, but not how you made them feel.  I certainly know that is true for me as there are some people I think of and feel all warm and cozy inside... while a few names come up and I immediately get tense and frown and resemble Grumpy Cat.

My greatest longing is for people to know my Savior as their own.  To accept his offer of forgiveness of sins, to know the Holy Spirit as Comforter and Friend, to see His Father as Abba and not one who is waiting to deluge them with lightening bolts.

But I realize if I care more for people to think I am right than for them to know the only perfect Person to walk the face of this planet, that would be a great disappointment to our Lord.  It is definitely not easy to love our enemies.  That is an area for which I still struggle.  However, I am a whole lot better at it than I once was.

Which brings me to the most important person for you to show grace to... yourself.  I have often written that we must give our younger selves grace for we did not know then what we do now.  We had not walked with Him as long as we have now.  We hopefully have more wisdom now.

But if you blow it like I did on Veterans Day, redeem the moment and go on.  As much as it is possible, be at peace this Holiday season.  If you absolutely must discuss politics, do so in January or February or March... but let it go for now.  You may win an argument (although probably not) at the cost of a relationship.

May your Thanksgiving be very blessed and for those friends not in America, we wish you a year of blessings and grace.

Photo: My favorite barn photo taken a few winters back.  I will try to make a new barn related header this winter.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Thanksgiving and Thanks

As much as I love decorating for Christmas, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It is all about the moment, the meal, and the table.  It is also about giving thanks.  I've noticed this year a lot of people and advertisements calling the holiday... Friendsgiving.  Which, I suppose, is what a people do when they no longer believe in Someone to give thanks (also understanding some have their meal with friends).

I am thankful for so many things for in spite of less than perfect circumstances, I am rich in family and friends... a few good in-person friends and so many blog friends.  I never thank you enough for your kindness and your friendship through the years.  There are a few I chat with online regularly, many I communicate with off and on, and some precious blog friends I may communicate with only once a year.

My sister told me recently that I would feel better if I get out more.  Obviously she is an extrovert for whom people is the great energizer.  She does not quite understand the fatigue of autoimmune diseases.  But I love her, anyway.  I told her that I do get out a little but I have a vast amount of friends throughout the world through Coffee Tea Books & Me.  Not having a computer in her home or knowing how to even turn on a computer... I was met with a blank stare.  ;)

So until we meet at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, I will thank you and give a general prayer for your well being in this fallen world in which we "see through the glass darkly".  Thank you.  I am way behind sending real letters but now that the temperatures are more seasonable, that will be taken care of soon.

This year I am very thankful for a long time blog friend who surprised me with a financial gift that made it possible to complete my Thanksgiving meal shopping and even stock up on some items for the pantry that are on deep clearance this week.  I make pumpkin bread a lot and when Meijers marked pumpkin down to 99 cents a can, I stocked up enough for the Thanksgiving pumpkin pies and about six months worth of quick bread making.

Some other items on deep sales in my area were evaporated milk, Cool Whip (one of my "don't ask don't tell" foods along with Velveeta), cranberries, and... turkeys.  I will purchase more cranberries when they begin to drop in price after Thanksgiving to make cranberry quick bread throughout the year.  I just slip two or three bags into a Ziploc bag and place them in the freezer.  Easy.  I can only find cranberries around Thanksgiving so if I don't stock up then, there won't be any orange cranberry bread the rest of the year.

After Thanksgiving, we should see a further drop in the cost of baking supplies.  I just read an article on how vanilla beans are now in short supply due to a crop failure so if I can find a good price on vanilla extract, I will purchase a couple.  I have made my own vanilla extract and it is quite good but a good quality store bought is also fine.

I'm just using the last of the King Arthur AP flour I was able to stock last year and the last bag of sugar.  Both going into their individual glass-with-the-red-top canisters.  Mrs. Christopher's family will again be at our house for Thanksgiving (which makes me very happy), so I'll be baking a few Christmas cookies and preparing another food gift for them to take home with them.  Thus, I guess you could say the Christmas baking season has begun!

As I write this, I have Yankee Candle's Apple & Pumpkin Picking candle providing autumnal scent in the Study and I'm listening to one of my favorite instrumental Christmas CDs.  I mentioned it last year and a lot of people asked about it.  Although the title is The Spirit of Christmas Past, A Charles Dickens Christmas... it sounds a lot like American traditional music.

Which, I suppose, is only normal since the Mother Country before the Revolution was Great Britain.  The only other Christmas CD I've allowed myself to listen to this week is On a Cold Winter's Day, which is absolutely fabulous when played while reading my Christmas books.  I have more modern Christmas music, many of the classics... but they wait until after Thanksgiving.  I do begin with Christmas books and Christmas movies before then as one month is not enough for the reading and watching.

Oh, before I forget... I was asked how long tea lasts that is not packaged individually in foil.  I have never had tea actually go bad.  For instance, I find Celestial Seasoning teas will last at least a year (and I have had some boxes longer) and be quite fresh if unopened but even if they begin to weaken with age, all I do is use two tea bags to get a stronger tea.

I have some bulk teas that I've had for years and because they are stored in air tight containers, are still good.  As with the teabags, I may need to use a little extra to obtain the same strength.  I just brought out some Christmas blend teas from last year that are fine, too.

Items mentioned in this post*:
On a Cold Winter's Day: Early Christmas Music and Carols from the British Isles... here.
The Spirit of Christmas Past, A Charles Dickens Christmas... here.

*Most links to are Associate Links.  I thank you.

Image:  Google Images Thanksgiving

Friday, November 18, 2016

David Jeremiah Airship Genesis: Kids Study Bible, a review

I have a fondness for kid's Bibles that will develop in them a desire to learn more about the Word.  This one is perfect for today's kids who love colorful illustrations and frankly need something exciting to draw them in.  There is so much competition from the super heroes books, games, and movies and we want them to know the True Super Hero.

The Bible itself is sturdy, with a padded cover that looks like it could take a lot of abuse when used by kids who tend to drop things and throw them in a pile.  Yes, even the Word of God.  It is written in the New King James translation.

This is a true study Bible which follows the Genesis Exploration Squad through the pages of Scripture with "Logos Discovery" inserts, historical inserts, maps, "Power Source" inserts (how the Bible verse applies to their life today), colorful illustration pages of well known Bible stories, etc.  I have included a link to the Airship Genesis website for further information.

I agreed to review this Bible because I remember trying to find one that would attract my (then) elementary school age son to read the Word more often.  This Bible would definitely have been one he would have enjoyed... and I knew I could trust David Jeremiah!

The Airship Genesis Kids Study Bible was provided for the sake of review by the publisher but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.*

Most links to are Associate links.

Airship Genesis website... here.