Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - An Audience of One



There was a very early morning this week that found me sitting on the sofa, gazing at the lights on the Christmas tree, the decorations, and just pondering how pretty this time of the year can be when one allows.

I had been reading a few emails but decided instead to tap on the Amazon Music App and bring up the music of On a Cold Winter's Day since it is perfect for quiet Christmas pondering.  The tablet was set aside so I could enjoy the peace of the morning.


Besides the light of the tree, I was also in full view of the scene above.  I suppose the amusing thing about that corner of the Living Room is that only two items were put out for Christmas.  They were the quilt and the Boyd's Bear "angel".  The small tree was only moved over from another part of the room where it resides year round.

My sister was over one Christmas and commented on my pretty Christmas artwork.  Since I love winter scenes (and winter except the whole walking and driving on ice part), they are actually there year round, too.

The good thing about my style of decorating is that it makes Christmas very easy and is another reason for not going overboard with lots of extra stuff... that is easier said than done because I do love Christmas stuff.


Since I didn't bring out the decorations I usually put on the Hutch, I had to do a bit of changing around this year.  However, I like it so much it just may have to return next Christmas.  The various bottle trees usually stand beside little buildings but this year they became a forest.


The tree sits in its' usual corner next to the sideboard, which again sparkles with my thrift store silver service.  This time of year is when it likes to show off a bit and has a very Olde English Manor feel about it.  ;)

My ponderings that morning, if titled, would be called "An Audience of One"... which is where this blog post was birthed.  I was thinking how often we do not do that little extra that brings Beauty into our life because we think no one else would see it... or not enough people would view all of it to make the work practical.

However, I learned long ago that when it comes to Beauty, there is always one person around that not only appreciates it but deeply needs it in their life.  That person is... me.

I admit that it was a struggle to decorate as I once did after Stephanie left home because she was my decorating partner.  Even in her busy University years, she made time to decorate the tree each year (and she was and still is the only other person I trust decorating "my" tree).

Then when Christopher was married and left home for good and it was just my husband and me, there was even more a sense that my decorating days were over.  We no longer had kids at home.  We no longer hosted Holiday parties for them.  Everything had... changed.

It was then that I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me that not everything had changed.  I still loved the Beauty that Christmas brings, the music, the scents, the food, the way it makes me feel.  He reminded me that there was still an audience to appreciate what I did and that was me.  (Sometimes my husband, too.)

He also reminded me there was Another who noticed.  The One that created Beauty in the first place.  He who will always appreciate our efforts to bring Beauty into a fallen world and Light into the darkness.

He who was there with me that morning as the music played, in the midst of the Christmas decorations.  He was there as I sipped my first mug of coffee (the absolute best cup all day).  He was there when Florentine jumped on my lap and cuddled on the flannel housecoat. 

It was the One whom we celebrate this time of year that brought the peace in the room.  All I had to do was take it all in... our attitude is our choice.  Always.  How we will react each day.

We were created to sparkle, my friends. 

Mentioned in this Blog Post
On a Cold Winter's Day: Early Christmas Music and Carols from the British Isles... here

The small plates on the Hutch are from the Better Homes and Garden Christmas selection at Walmart.  I bought them last year but I think they have them again this season.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Priorities at the moment


Gosh it has been difficult to write this post today.  I usually start writing on Friday but I had an appointment with my retinal specialist yesterday that took up part of the morning and then we stopped to purchase a Christmas gift on the way home since Michaels is close to my doctor's office.  Then our Internet today is s.l.o.w. and I had to restart the modem.

If you follow me on Instagram (@coffeeteabooksandme), you will have seen this photo of my Christmas washi tape collection.  I added to it yesterday with Michael's 50% off Christmas items sale.  Washi tape half price is inexpensive! I try to set aside a little in my budget at Christmas to purchase Christmas sale items.  

Ever since Thanksgiving, I have been giving priority of the budget and my time to the Holidays since they go by so quickly.   For instance, as I write the CD player is singing out Amy Grant's Home For Christmas CD.

I want to hear all the music of the season that I can at this time of year.  This CD brings back memories of when my daughter was in college and sung Breath of Heaven at our church.  It was beautiful.  Sniff, sniff.  Oh, yes... the Holidays bring memories, too.  ;)

I've been stocking the pantry with food that is seasonally on sale.  I bought a couple whole chickens but also packages of chicken legs since I tried them for chicken soup and they made a rich broth.  All at a great sale price. Cranberries went on sale and I now have two gallon size Ziploc bags, each containing three bags of cranberries... mostly for baking purposes in the next year.

I plan to purchase a bag of organic lemons soon to make preserved lemons, something I've been wanting to try for years.  All the citrus is less expensive right now.  I stocked up on cream cheese at a Holiday sale, brown sugar, white sugar, flour, and some spices at a good price.  I will be keeping an eye out for New Year's Eve specials, too.

I prioritize the food budget to stock up on these items which mainly go on sale during the Holidays.  An extra turkey resides in the deep freeze for perhaps a January Thanksgiving meal and soup while I'm sure if hams go on sale more before Christmas, an extra ham will keep the turkey company.

I've read a few articles by those who believe in prepping, all advising their readers to make certain their pantries are well stocked the closer we get to Christmas.  For there is chatter about possible terrorism, not the least of which would be North Korea trying to strike an American stronghold.  It doesn't have to be on the mainland, an attack any where in the world will cause buying panic at the grocery stores.

So it wouldn't hurt to check your basics this week.  Just in case...  I think the biggest insight I ever had about being prepared was that an event does not have to happen in your own back yard to make travel difficult in my area and especially leaving empty grocery stores.

I have shared before that my late friend, Kathy, lived in New Mexico but the shelves on her grocery store were almost empty for weeks because the food and supply trucks were diverted to the Gulf after Hurricane Katrina.

This next week, I need to begin Christmas baking and by stocking up on butter (now in the freezer) and the other ingredients on sale since before Thanksgiving, my baked goodies will be gift giving at a great price.

I have chicken soup simmering on the stove that needs my attention.  I'm hoping the Internet is behaving so I can publish this without a problem.  I do apologize for a quick and rather wordy Saturday post.  I hope you can make sense of it!  Now I remember why I usually begin these posts during the week.  Sigh...

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Amy Grant Home for Christmas... here.  (So much nostalgia in this music.)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Stayling Stylish, a review


Candace Cameron Bure has provided a book that many young women (and some older ladies, too) will enjoy very much.  In it, she shares what she has learned through the years about dressing to look both stylish and I'd say much more modest than most women in the entertainment industry.

Candace has managed to put into one book a lot of information about putting a wardrobe together.  This includes what pieces of clothing to invest money in and which can be purchased cheaper, how to assemble a wardrobe, what shoes work best with various outfits, etc.  There is even a chapter on how to dress for traveling.

Besides clothing, there is information abut skin care, make up, eating to stay healthy, exercise and spiritual growth as Bure is well known for her Christian faith.

I highly recommend this book, especially for teenage girls and young women who are currently developing their own personal style.  Well written with a lot of photos, it is fun to read and will make a good reference book.

Staying Stylish was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - When Christmas isn't perfect but that is just fine


Back in my former life, when I worked in Organization Development, my boss would remind me that many of the problems we dealt with were because people wanted to "live life the way it ought to be and not the way it is".  He called it his, "is-ought" theory.

I think of that each and every Christmas Season for that is the root of any frustrations I have with the Holidays.  I have an image in my mind of the Christmas I long for and when it is compared to the actual circumstances of that particular year... well, sometimes they are closer in reality than other years.

There are some circumstances we just cannot change (or easily change) whether they be health related, finances, kids far away, no kids at all, being single, challenges with a family member,  living away from family, or a variety of ways life is far from perfect.

I have learned to meet every Holiday Season with the realization that life is not what it ought to be (actually, I have to be reminded of that every day of the year).  This isn't Heaven, yet.  The war of the ages continues on here on this fallen planet and  humanity pays the price.  Someday that will all change.  Amen and Hallelujah!

In the meantime, I do the best I can with what I have.  Sometimes alone and at times with the help of friends... humans and a favorite cow (Moo).  There are years I feel like doing nothing and have to force myself to even put a tree up and then there are Christmas seasons I decorate everything but the cat (while thinking how cute a red ribbon would look on her).

This year I'd say is... good.  Not great but good.  On one hand, I put up decorations but only about half of what is available.  I knew what I got out would have to be put away. The house still looks festive and Christmasy.  I have a stack of Christmas books, DVDs, and a few Hallmark movies are set to come on so they are not missed.

Sometimes there are those challenges that cannot be changed.  Through the years they have included grief and I'm thankful this year is not one of them.  Time doesn't take away completely that sadness but it makes it less sharp.  Health issues continue as does having to forgive people over and over (and over) due to mental health issues.

There are a few ways I replace sadness with joy and all of those have to do with remembering the True reason for Christmas.  I've been keeping my Bible on the coffee table to grab as one would take a life-giving booster shot during the day.  I am so thankful for the larger print Modern English Version Bible I bought last year (before the whole losing my sight in the right eye thing).  So far the translation has not let me down, either.

I listen to Christmas music, that which I've loved for years and some British choral music that I've come to appreciate the past few years.  There is something about music that changes the atmosphere of a room, which causes one to realize why King David's musical abilities soothed King Saul (until Saul tried to kill him later but that's another story).

Right now I'm reading Phyllis Tickle's What the Land Already Knows: Winter's Sacred Days for Advent reading.  There are times when reading from a different perspective helps me more fully get a picture of Jesus (she is Episcopalian).  The Miss Read Christmas stories offer a good balance.

I must admit, there have been prior years when all I wanted to do was hold my breath and wish the Holidays would just get over with thank you very much.  Thankfully, they have been few.  Most of the time it has been like this year when I must choose to have joy

A lesson taken from past trials is this... they can swallow you up like the enemy of our souls intended or you can fight back by doing the opposite of what he expects.

For instance, putting up a tree with pretty lights and decorations that mean so much is an act of faith.  Polishing the (thrift store) silver to look sparkly is an act of faith.  Choosing to read life giving books is an act of faith.  Deciding to dress up and visit a friend or go to a concert when you feel like staying home and suffering is an act of faith.

Baking cookies when there is no family nearby and taking them to the local police or fire department as a gift is an act of faith.  Reaching out from your own pain to help another is an act of faith.

When you choose to live as Jesus wants you to live, to have a thankful attitude instead of complaining, that is an act of faith and all of it has eternal consequences.  As I have told my husband seemingly a million times... sometimes all you have to give the Lord is your attitude.

So this year my Christmas is not perfect but that is just fine with me.  For it is good and I have learned that good can be... good enough.  There is a lot for which to be thankful and isn't it quite a blessing that we have Someone to thank?

Mentioned in this Post
Larger print MEV Bible... here
What the Land Already Knows... here.
Christmas at Fairacre... here.

Disclaimer: Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.  I thank  you.

Image:  Christmas Glow

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Gifts from the Grocery Store


I have written before about purchasing gifts for others that we may not think would be special.  However, when you give a gift of an item that is more than someone on a tight budget would buy for themselves, it is indeed very special.

Obviously gift cards are usually appreciated whether they are to a restaurant, a store, for the gas station, Amazon, etc. I once received a gift of a prepaid Visa (I think, could have been Mastercard) that allowed me to purchase items online like stocking various nuts from the growers,  An unusual gift that I appreciated so much. 

I once read that many people do not like gift cards and I wonder what planet they are from.  However, I digress...

One of my favorite gifts ever received was the "Wedding Recovery" box a good friend gave me.  I opened it up after returning home from my son's wedding (per the instructions from the giver of the gift) and was so happy to see tea, snacks, if I remember... some chocolate, and a few past issues of British magazines my friend knew I'd love to read.

Not only did it help me relax after a busy season of wedding preps (and I was just the groom's mom!) but I was touched because it showed how well my friend knew what I loved.

I was thinking of this last week as I was purchasing groceries and saw the various items that would make great gifts for people I knew.  Especially those items they might not buy for themselves due to the cost. 

What would be pricey for everyday use was perfect for Christmas giving...a gift that will get used and not end up unused on a shelf at Goodwill.

Some possible gift items I saw at the grocery store were:
  • A bag of almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.
  • A bottle of California Ranch Everyday olive oil.
  • A small bottle of a more pricey olive oil for the true gourmet.
  • A small bottle of extra aged balsamic vinegar for the gourmet.
  • A wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano or another favorite cheese.
  • A jar of great olives, sun dried tomatoes, or a tube of tomato paste.
  • A bag of very good ground coffee or coffee beans... or tea.
  • An unusual spice such as smoked paprika for the cook.
  • Himalayan pink salt or a bag of a very good sea salt.
  • A bag of organic raw sugar or a very nice real maple syrup.
  • A good quality dish washing liquid such as Mrs. Meyers or 7th Generation.
  • Their pet's favorite food (if you know it because pets can be picky).
  • ... and so much more if you are on the lookout for ideas.

If you have an Aldi's near you, they have a lot of gift ideas from their usual very good European chocolate collection to those packaged just for the Holidays.  They have a variety of European cookies and crackers that are reasonably priced.

Something I buy there that would be a great gift for someone you know who loves cheese and good butter... a package of salted Kerrygold butter (in the gold package) and a couple small packages of Kerrygold cheese.  Our Aldi's carries Kerrygold Blarney Castle (a mild Gouda style cheese) and their Skellig (a mild cheddar).   Add a box of good crackers and for less than $20.00 you have a very yummy gift.

If you have a friend who is a busy single parent, I can't think of a better fairly inexpensive gift than either offering to bring over a home cooked dinner or even simply picking up a dinner to go from a restaurant.  Even cold cuts and cheese from the deli would have been quite wonderful when I was working full time.

After I had my first eye surgery, our pastor brought by dinner from a favorite cafeteria.  Such a gift would be lovely for anyone who doesn't get to eat out much and perhaps cannot go to a restaurant themselves for various reasons.

Of course, there are nonfood options.  A copy of a favorite magazine that is too expensive for their budget normally (Bella Grace for the writer and dreamer, Where Women Cook, Where Women Create, Artful Blogging, British Country Living, etc.) and perhaps some tea or their favorite coffee to brew is a very thoughtful gift.  Some of these are available at grocery stores such as Meijers in our area and all of them are sold at Barnes & Noble.

I know this is not a long list but I hope it sparks imagination.  For unless someone has lived on a very tight budget, they don't realize what a great gift many everyday items would be for a friend or family member.

On another subject... I had mentioned a few weeks ago that I was going to try making chicken soup from a family package of chicken legs.  I never buy them even on sale (as this package was) because my husband doesn't like dark meat of poultry.

Well, after reading an article that the legs and wings make the best soup stock, I tried it and they were right.  They made a delicious soup with just enough meat to pick off the chicken legs for the soup itself (I added noodles this time).  My husband liked it in spite of being made with dark meat.

I will continue to make most of our chicken soup from the carcass of the chicken the day after we have it roasted but I will definitely be on the lookout for chicken legs on sale to keep in the freezer.  Chicken wings are ridiculously expensive now that they are a popular appetizer.  My mother would be shocked if she were alive today!  Chicken wings expensive?  Yes, Mom!

Image: Christmas Eve 2016

Friday, December 01, 2017

Bearded Gospel Men, a review


If you have a man in your life that loves his beard almost as much as he loves Jesus, this is the book for him.  In a book that contains a lot of humor mixed with excellent biographies of bearded men of faith through the history of the Church, it is one enjoyable read.

The biographies are as diverse as Charles Spurgeon to G. K. Chesterton to Francis Schaeffer to Saint Patrick. There are thirty-one excellent chapter bios should you choose to read one each day for a month.  Included in the book are short articles such as "How to Grow a Great Beard in Five Easy Steps".

No, I am definitely not a bearded man of faith but I am the mother of one.  So I get the whole beard thing and highly recommend this book.  It would make a great gift for the bearded men in your life and proof that one can be a person of faith and have a great sense of humor.

Bearded Gospel Men was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate Links.