Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

I'll be on vacation for a bit...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Countdown, Day 25: Christmas Day

'Twas Christmas broach'd the mightiest ale;
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.
~Sir Walter Scott 
Christmas pudding aflame with brandy.
image: wikipedia
Happy Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!
~~Santa Claus
Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Countdown, Day 24: Silent Night

Nativity, Georges de La Tour, 1644, Louvre
Silent night, holy night!
 All is calm, all is bright
Round yon viargin mother and child,
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
 Sleep in heavenly peace,
 Sleep in heavenly peace.
~STILLE NACHT by Joseph Mohr
To hear Ave Maria sung by Chanticleer without leaving the page,
 click on the first video of the video bar at the top of the sidebar.
Peace to you.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Countdown, Day 23: A Breath of Heaven (a memory)

After taking the long climb of stairs to the "whispering" dome
 at the top of St. Paul's Cathedral in London,
 we decide to stay for Evening Vespers in the sanctuary below.
Quietly, we sit in anticipation near the pulpit and
before long a priest comes to greet us in our front row chairs.
In a soft, low tone, he invites us to sit in the choir stalls
where orange lampshades glow in the evening dusk.

Surprised and thrilled at the invitation,
 we move to velvet-cushioned seats lit by lamps.
 With soft seating and hymnals laid out on ledges before us,
 the grand cathedral quickly becomes an intimate and homey space.
"We'd like you to sing the hymns with the choir, so please join in," he said.

As the processional begins and white-robed choristers flow into the stalls on both sides of the chancel,
we are soon surrounded by a heavenly host of male voices.
The universe suddenly expands for me and I slip along the spiral of time. Here in a vestibule to heaven, I fly away on wings of songs written ages ago. Across the space, young boys sing an a capella chant; behind us men sing a response. And so it goes, back and forth, one side to the other and back again, like the echoes of young and old, now and then~~ancient music, ancient rituals and
 centuries-old architecture still vital for contemporary worshippers like us.

As I join in the closing hymn, my body thrills with the excitement of ancient and modern together in one time and place for I know that, by contrast, when the service ends, we'll speed away from this lovely time warp via the "tube" (London's underground mass-transit)
 to return to our lodgings at Dolphin Square.

But, first, a stop at THE BLACK FRIAR PUB to sip an ale and savor all we've seen and heard this brilliant London day.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Countdown, Day 21: Winter Solstice

At 6:12 a.m. in Venice, Florida today, the nadir of midwinter darkness arrives~~
the sun at its weakest point.
Our virtual fire's lit, candles burn, and a Cambridge Singers album,
The Sacred Flame, 
casts a spell with European sacred music of the Renaissance and Baroque era.
There's time for reflection.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Countdown, Day 20: O, Christmas Tree

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world,
 and behold,
 everything is softer and more beautiful.
~Norman Vincent Peale

As Advent draws to a close, the tree next to the angel tablet gets nuanced.
Today, I added my collection of rosaries and beaded necklaces
 among the handmade ephemera and stars.

By evening, the branches hold a snowfall of fresh baby's breath.

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.
In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.
~Larry Wilde

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Countdown, Day 18: Parchment Wrap

Ancient parchment or vellum "paper" for writing has come a long way.
 Today we can choose from all sorts of parchments for various purposes.

What could be more simple or utilitarian
than a gift wrap of kitchen parchment and string?
Old English computer text dresses up a handmade gift tag printed on parchment cardstock.

A parchment wrap and kitchen string adds transparency and design to dollar-store religious candles.
Have I gone off the deep end in search of "abbey style"?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Countdown, Day 17: Paper Cone Ornament

A 6-inch square cut from old sheet music is rolled at an angle to shape a simple cone that's low in the front and high in the back. 
Secured with transparent tape, I filled it with fresh baby's breath. A narrow ribbon, threaded through a hole punched at the high back,
hangs the cone from a branch.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Countdown, Day 15: Abbey Bread

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove
than the hunger for bread.
~Mother Teresa
 Norwegian flatbread, perfect with soup.
Takeout from Panera Bread, for those who don't bake.

A kitchener-monk who baked bread for Holy Trinity Abbey devised a recipe for home use.
A bread mix made from an Old World recipe is available online
at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota. Click here to purchase Johnny Bread mix and other abbey gifts.
Remember man does not live on bread alone:
sometimes he needs a little buttering up.
~John C. Maxwell

Friday, December 14, 2012

Countdown, Day 14: Sealing Wax

The use of sealing wax on envelopes comes once a year when I can hand-deliver Christmas cookies and greetings to neighbors
 or place a gift of appreciation in the mailbox for the postman.
It's a tricky process, though, involving fire for melting the wax and getting a proper little puddle of it
 in the right place before pressing the family monogram into it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Countdown, Day 13: Saint Lucy's Day

Lucy's day is dedicated to Santa Lucia, a young Sicilian girl martyred in 304 during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian.
 The Neopolitan celebration grew popular in Nordic countries, perhaps because the feast of Lucia (whose name means "light")
 originally fell on the shortest (darkest) day of the year.
Lucia procession in Sweden, 2007
In traditional celebrations, Saint Lucy comes as a young woman with lights and sweets. In some forms, a procession is led by one girl wearing a crown of candles while others in the procession hold only a single candle each.
In at-home celebrations, the eldest daughter of the family rises in the very early morning dark to bake saffron buns.
Then, wearing a white dress with a red sash, she brings breakfast trays of coffee, freshly-baked buns and candle lights
to family members still asleep in their beds.
 Today, elected Lucias visit shopping malls, nursing homes and churches
while singing and handing out pepparkakor (clove-cinnamon-ginger cookies).
Happy St. Lucy's!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Countdown, Day 11: Cold December

Computer printout on parchment cardstock, an ornament to add to the tree.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Countdown, Day 7: Es Ist Ein Ros

Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
as those of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright,
amid the cold of winter
when half spent was the night.
~~anonymous, first appearing in print in 16th century
Speyer Hymnal (printed in Cologne in 1599)
~~image, Wikipedia



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Countdown, Day 5: Stars

That I am mortal I know and do confess
My span of day:
But when I gaze upon the thousandfold circling gyre of the stars
No longer do I walk the earth
But rise
The peer of God himself to take my fill
At the ambrosial banquet of the undying.
~~Claudius Ptolemaeus

~~image, wikipedia
The First Christmas Tree, a Legend.
It is said that Martin Luther, while walking under a starry sky one Christmas Eve, cut down a tiny
evergreen and took it home to his children. Inspired by the stars on such a sparkling night, he attached candles to the evergreen branches of the little tree and lit them to represent Christ, the Light of the World, born on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Countdown, Day 4: Abbey Wine

Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves us to be happy.
~Benjamin Franklin

Monk-Cellarer tasting wine from a barrel whilst filling a jug.
~~13th Cent. French, image: wikipedia
For centuries, monks brewed wine as part of the cloistered diet.
 Later, they sold it to parishioners and, to this day, they make their wines available to the public.
Click on the links, below, to visit a couple abbey vineyards.

They're not glasses; they're chalices.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Countdown, Day 3: Rosemary

It is said that the Virgin Mary spread her blue cloak
over a white-blossomed bush when she was resting
and the flowers turned blue.
The shrub became known as the
'Rose of Mary.'
Rosmarinus officinalis, commonly called 'rosemary' 
 has evergreen needle-like leaves
 and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers. The fragrant leaves
 are often used to flavor stuffings and meat dishes for the holidays.
~~image, wikipedia


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Countdown, Day 2: Jewelry for the House

It's always fun to open the storage boxes marked "Christmas" to rediscover old family favorites.
 I confess to editing a few things and changing the style a bit each year..
 Over the month of December, this Charlie Brown of a tree
 will evolve and fill out. 
 Christmas tree ornaments and small gifts set on stacked cake plates
 create eye candy for a sofa table tableau...
...and computer printouts of music manuscripts wrap small presents
 for our annual Christmas Eve Family Trivia game.

The best part of the day is in the early-morning dark~~
when there's time for sipping fresh-brewed coffee by the light of the Christmas tree.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Countdown to Christmas, Abbey Style

First, with a full heart, I thank you for sending well wishes, thoughts, and prayers toward my husband's recovery from knee replacement surgery. After two weeks, I can say we've made great strides and he is now walking down the street with a cane. For an estimated 2-month recovery by his surgeon, this is remarkable progress. We're looking forward to Christmas guests in December and a full Marathon run by our son at Walt Disney World in January.
 We're up and at 'em, cruising toward the events of the season.
 Thank you for all your support, dear friends!
Every now and then,
 I venture into Sirene, an enchanting seaside store on Venice Avenue.
The sign on the front window says, "No photographs, please"
so I complied until I came home with this angelic abbey-style creature.

There, behind Sirene's glittering jewelry counter and sparkling chandeliers,
 a triptych of antiqued photographs on wooden tablets graced the wall~~
Madonna and Child at the center flanked by London angels.
 Produced by An Englishman in L. A.
The creature on the left spoke softly to me...
I'm eye candy for Christmas, she said,
inspiration for Advent.
I brought her home to kick off my Christmas Countdown,
calling her the Angel of The Annunciation.
For the month of December this year,
I'm counting down the days
with abbey-style decorating and entertaining ideas~~
a sort of Advent calendar or Book of Days for December.
I hope you'll find the ideas fun (OK, quaint and quirky) or useful.