Thursday, December 19, 2013

Countdown, Day 19: Stars & Skies

Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
~~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
image: free-picture.net
Christmas in Bethlehem.
The ancient dream: a cold, clear night
made brilliant by a glorious star,
the smell of incense,
shepherds and wise men falling to their knees
in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.
~~Lucinda Franks


The heavens declare the glory of God,
 and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
~~Psalm 19:1

  I wish you a blessed holiday season.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Countdown, Day 18: Grumpy Cat & Christmas Tree


Grumpy Cat didn't like a palm tree standing in for a Christmas tree this year
 so I bought him a traditional one...a live pine in a pot.


It came with decorations already hung on it :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Countdown, Day 17: Asparagus & Gruyere

These monastery-style canapes (Brother Victor-Antoine's recipe)
are a perennial favorite at our house whenever appetizers are needed.
Hunter and I make them every Christmas Eve.
Pure joy in the making~~simple, easy, quick.


Parsley-buttered multi-grain artisan-bread slices
topped with tenderly cooked asparagus spears and grated Gruyere.
We lay them on a buttered cookie sheet
and heat them in a 250-degree oven until the cheese bubbles.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Countdown, Day 15: Scrolls & Love Notes

Mr. J. always writes trivia games for Christmas Eve..
 After we return from candlelight services,
 everyone plays them while I get dinner on the table.
It's a rowdy time of laughter and competition for prizes..

This year, there's a nuance~~I have a game too: 
Each person who will sit at the table will be given strips of paper,
 one for every other guest.
On the slips of paper, they'll write something they like
about the person whose name is on the paper.
I'll round up the slips and roll them into parchment scrolls to place on each person's plate.
I'm hoping for heartfelt party favors and gifts of appreciation.


We'll see how it all turns out :)

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Countdown, Day 13: Saffron & Light

It's the Feast Day of Santa Lucia,
a Nordic festival of saffron and light.

photo: wikipedia
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, fresh-baked buns and candle lights
 to family members still asleep in their beds.

 I'll think of St. Lucy this morning as I take my early morning walk in the dark.
My LED hat will light the way to St. Arbuck's where I'll exchange an empty coffee bag
for a free cup of joe. Steel-cut oatmeal with a side of nuts and brown sugar 
will substitute for Lucy's saffron buns.

Happy St. Lucy's Day, wherever you are.
She's hope and light in the darkness :)

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Countdown, Day 12: Pewter & Parchment


Guests will soon arrive so I've assembled bits and pieces to create a table runner.
Perhaps I've gone a little mad but it's an enjoyable activity.



Planning, they say, is the best part...it opens the dreams of anticipating
what could, should, or might happen at the table.
 More than likely, though, I'll need to simplify all this as meals unfold...it's OK.


Meanwhile, I can play~~experimenting with this and that pretty tabletop thing :)


Eating and hospitality in general, is a communion,
and any meal worth attending by yourself
is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared.
~~Jesse Browner

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Countdown, Day 9: Wrap & Re-Wrap

A local shop gives me a lovely, lime-colored bag every time I make a purchase.
As gift wraps they seem to fit the scene this year.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Countdown, Day 8: Bread & Wine


She had me at "bread & wine".
And I kept reading...


 "I'm a bread person~~crusty, golden baguette; hearty, grainy, seeded loaves; thin, crispy pizza crust~~all of it. Flaky, buttery croissants; chewy pita; tortillas, warm and fragrant, blistered by heat. And I am a wine person~~the blood-red and liquid gold, the clink and glamour of tall-stemmed glasses, and the musty, rich, almost mushroomy-y smell.
Like every Christian, I recognize the two as something much greater~~mystery and tradition and symbol. Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely. The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily."
~~Shauna Niequist

One reviewer summarizes the book:

"...A poetic reminder to appreciate the rituals,
 people and sensory experiences of our everyday life."
~~Kelle Hampton

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Countdown, Day 7: Mary & Gabriel


March 25 is celebrated as a Feast Day of Mary, the day of the Annunciation.
painting by Fra Angelica
Luke 1: 28
And the angel came in unto her, and said,
  Hail thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Today is the beginning of our salvation
And the revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos.*
Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!
~~hymn from early times
*Theotokos refers to Mary, the "God-Bearer"

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Countdown, Day 6: Heaven & Nature

Let every heart prepare him room
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n, and heav'n and nature sing.
~~Tune: George Handel. Text: Isaac Watts
Light strings weigh palm branches down so, at night, "up-lighting" (light string on the floor)
 brings warmth and drama to our Christmas garden.
A touch of heaven: The angel tablet from last year's
 Christmas Countdown. (Posted HERE.)
A touch of nature:  A host of live plants to sing joy to the world.

By day, Florida sunshine lights and nurtures the garden.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Countdown, Day 5: White Orchids & Amaryllis

The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.
~~Andy Warhol

Like anticipating Christmas.


Like watching an amaryllis unfold.


Slowly and quietly, the pieces come together...

The pleasure isn't in doing the thing,
the pleasure is in planning it.
~~John Green, Paper Towns

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Countdown, Day 4: Citrus & Cilantro

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today;
Love, the guest, is on the way.
~~French carol

A potpourri with components from Africa and India scents the room.
Keeping with a green-and-natural decorating plan for the holidays,
this citrus-cilantro potpourri settles into our indoor winter garden.


Up-lighting from the floor lends an enigmatic air
to living-room evenings and early-morning mediations.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Countdown, Day 3: Basil, Rosemary & Thyme

While shopping for Christmas decorating greens for the house,
I remember the rosemary and basil in our garden. When I go home, I snip
 a few branches for bouquet garni (French for "garnished bouquet")
 to enhance the flavor of  wintry soups and stews.
 Usually, a bundle of fresh herbs is tied up with string
for easy removal from the pot after cooking;
 it also works to wrap and tie the bundle in a clean leek leaf for added flavor.



Ingredients in herb bundles vary but this one is made up of
 one sprig each of basil, rosemary, thyme and
a bay leaf.

If fresh herbs aren't available, I measure the equivalent of dried herbs
onto a square of cheesecloth and tie the bundle with kitchen twine.
 A long tail makes easy removal from the soup pot after cooking is finished.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Countdown, Day 2: Pomegranates & Palms

A popular legend tells that the first Christmas tree came from Germany when Martin Luther, inspired by a starlit sky on a wintry night, cut down a small pine tree, took it home to his children,
 and decorated it with candles to represent Christ, the Light of the World.

I like the legend and practice of decorating a pine tree but, this year,
I'm looking to the palm trees of Bethlehem as the centerpiece of our holiday celebration.

Stock-free image from 123RF

The impulse toward decorating around a palm tree comes from this memory:
The first time we visited Florida, it was December and holiday crowds were out.
Along the drive to our hotel, we suddenly stopped the car.
There, in a scene set under palm trees on a triangle of land along the road, was a live Nativity.
We parked and walked nearer to hear Mary who was holding her child and singing Christmas songs.
A choir of angels joined in now and then, while shepherds moved their sheep over
the grassland and wise princes rode about on horses.
Enchanting.
 Starting points: Areca palm & traditional topiary.
And so, it begins...
... the gathering of house ornaments.
My thoughts of a winter garden start to take shape
 as green pots come out of my kitchen cupboards...


... and this exotic lime-green Pothos plant comes home from the garden center.

At the grocery store, I can't resist the leathery-red patina of pomegranates in the produce aisle.
For years, I wondered how to open them but, recently,
 a handy how-to handout solved the mystery.

If opening a pomegranate is a mystery for you, click HERE.
Blake will show you how :)


'til tomorrow :)
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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Countdown, Day 1: Light & Hope


It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us
 memories of goodness and thus open the doors to hope.
~~Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

It's the first day of Advent, December 1,
the first Sunday of the month,
the day for lighting the first candle of Advent.
How delighted I am that the Advent season begins on the first of the month,
 making the numbers of my Countdown to Christmas so simple!


Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and 
do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work:
 You don't give up.
~~Anne Lamott

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