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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

This has to be one of the most joyful pieces of music I know. I have the original album (yup, that dates me!) where this song was also the album title – Oh Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins Singers. The video quality, due to its age, is quite poor, but the music is live and as electrifying as ever. Turn up the volume, people – it’s Christmas!

Hope yours is happy.

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This is a re-run from an earlier year, but still as true as ever …

ChristmasMugAndPlate2Or, in reality, 4 mugs and 4 plates. Christmas creeps into my home, ever so slowly, drawing from this cabinet, that closet, this box, that drawer. But it always seems to start with my dollar store Christmas plates and German made Christmas mugs. I feel like a child who has glimpsed a stack of unfamiliar boxes tucked way on top of mommy and daddy’s closet. Something exciting is coming.

These simple items that I’ve had for quite a few years put a smile on my face, and though I see beautiful Christmas dishes everywhere that I’d love to have, I pretty much know I’ll also be happy with these for years to come. They’re enough. And oftentimes, enough is good.

As I watched the TV commercials for Black Friday insanity, my newspapers packed with shiny paper catalogs filled with sales, I wondered how we got to this place of endless need for so much “stuff.” It’s not that I don’t treasure a new addition to my kitchen, book shelf, or whatever … I really do, but there’s also an enjoyment of things that have been around a while, and which have meaning. Especially at this time of year.

So the plates and mugs have now been joined by some festive place mats, candles and accessories. Slowly, the house will really start to feel like Christmas, warm and glow-y … well, like Home.

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MerryChristmas2014-2

 

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It starts with something quite simple, same as every year … with the arrival of the Dollar Store Christmas plates and the German Christmas mugs. This year, you will see something different, in addition. Mmmmmm … a sfogliatelle!

Christmas-DollarPlate-Sfogliatelle2

It took great restraint to wait until I could take this photograph and not consume the pastry right away, but I made it. Only after I had, indeed, eaten most of it and looked at the photos I took, did I realize that it appears that the sfogliatelle has landed on and crushed the gingerbread man! Ooops. Sorry, Gingie!

So we see I am occasionally a sorry excuse for a vegan, even if I am trying. But who could resist that flaky pastry and ricotta cheese? And really, what kind of person would I be if, having purchased some office supplies at Staples, I failed to help support the Italian bakery just 5 doors down? So rather than suffer the guilt of ignoring this veritable mecca of delights, I bought a sfogliatelle.

Rather a nice way to start off the holidays, don’t you think? Salute!

 

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ChristmasPlate-Mug-Pie2

At my house, it’s the appearance of my favorite Dollar Store Christmas plates and German Christmas mugs. I find them so simple and festive that I can’t help but get in the holiday mood when having coffee or serving up something good to eat, like a slice of yesterday’s Thanksgiving apple pie. Yum.

How much better is a cozy moment with good food on some pretty dishes than being jostled endlessly while competing with swarms of shoppers on Black Friday? I leave the shopping marathons to others and content myself with oner tasks. It was rather unsettling, to say the least, to find that a number of stores out this way had decided to one-up their competitors who traditionally opened their doors at 4 a.m. Friday morning – by opening theirs at 7 or 8 p.m. ON Thanksgiving. People, people, is it really all about money?

So snuggle up with your loved ones, your yummy leftovers, a good book – whatever inspires you – and protest. That’s right – stay home and actually enjoy some holiday time. Spend a few moments in gratitude and leave the shopping olympics for someone else. Feels so much better, doesn’t it?

ApplePie2

My apple pie cooling in anticipation of Thanksgiving.

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ChristmasMugAndPlate2Or, in reality, 4 mugs and 4 plates. Christmas creeps into my home, ever so slowly, drawing from this cabinet, that closet, this box, that drawer. But it always seems to start with my dollar store Christmas plates and German made Christmas mugs. I feel like a child who has glimpsed a stack of unfamiliar boxes tucked way on top of mommy and daddy’s closet. Something exciting is coming.

These simple items that I’ve had for quite a few years put a smile on my face, and though I see beautiful Christmas dishes everywhere that I’d love to have, I pretty much know I’ll also be happy with these for years to come. They’re enough. And oftentimes, enough is good.

As I watched the TV commercials for Black Friday insanity, my newspapers packed with shiny paper catalogs filled with sales, I wondered how we got to this place of endless need for so much “stuff.” It’s not that I don’t treasure a new addition to my kitchen, book shelf, or whatever … I really do, but there’s also an enjoyment of things that have been around a while, and which have meaning. Especially at this time of year.

So the plates and mugs have now been joined by some festive place mats, candles and accessories. Slowly, the house will really start to feel like Christmas, warm and glow-y … well, like Home.

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You’ll not find ghosts dragging chains in this post, nor anything Dickensian at all. But you will find this question.

Do you find, as you’ve gotten older, that despite all the logic you can muster, you still somehow expect that Christmas will have the sparkle, magic and excitement it had for you as a child?

Times certainly change as we grow up, and unless you have children for whom you are creating a magical Christmas, it’s a very different holiday. We’re often called upon to create that Christmas magic ourselves, whether it be reaching out to family and friends, planning get-togethers and holiday meals, organizing trips and travel and so on. It’s so very different than rushing into the living room Christmas morning to see what Santa has put under the tree.

Ah, for the innocent days of nothing to do but smell Christmas cookies being baked, (and maybe helping), watch the house come alive with sparkling lights, watch presents magically appearing, and dream of snow on Christmas day.

So now we’re all grown up. There’s a different pleasure in trimming the house, putting up a tree and baking something fabulous. We’ve found the perfect gifts for those we love, and are warmed by the good humor of friends and family. In fact, one of the best gifts we can give or receive is always a heartfelt smile.

And THAT … from whomever it comes … is often just what’s needed to chase away the ghost of Christmas past. Need a smile?  Here … have one from me.

And Merry Christmas!

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One of the items on my Christmas shopping list was something my girlfriend’s son can enjoy – traditional peppermint candy canes. He has many allergies, but this is one treat that is worry free. Even so, I wanted to check the package label to hopefully find that they were not made in a facility that also processes dairy and tree nuts, (two of his allergies.)


I was at Target and picked up a nice jumbo-size box of candy canes and looked at the label. Product of Mexico. What? I picked up a different kind, to find that they were by the same manufacturer. And … Product of Mexico. I was floored. Really? Then I looked at an obviously different brand that had a real old-fashioned look and feel to the packaging. On the label … Product of Mexico. WHAT? (If I were the kind of person who said OMG, you could now imagine some strange woman maniacally grabbing every kind of candy cane in the aisles — regardless of ridiculous flavor — and yelling OMG, OMG, OMG.)

But I didn’t. And I didn’t buy any candy canes. I went to my local Shop-Rite. And there, the same old-fashioned packaging again and … Product of Mexico. Since when did the quintessentially traditional Christmas candy start getting made in another country? In truth, I’d rather they be made in Mexico than China, but still … does no one make candy canes in America? I bought a small package of these – the brand is Bobs – in the event I never found anything else.

Then I went to a local shop, (This `N That on the Corner), and checked out some larger individual candy canes. Yes! Made in Ohio! And the manufacturer, Spangler, (see candy cane below right,) had right there on the display box, the simple ingredients and that the candy canes are made on a dedicated machine, (which means no cross-contaminants of potential allergens.) So I grabbed a big handful and was happy to pay a wee bit more, knowing that I’d gotten a safe gift and helped support an American worker and company.

Now here’s the kind of sad thing. I read online the long and detailed history of Bobs Candies. They were established in 1919 in Georgia. They survived the Great Depression, a devastating tornado in 1940 that destroyed their factory, and World War II shortages. Bobs actually introduced the crook in the candy cane. And at the end of this proud history is one line: In 2005, Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company, Inc. acquired Bobs Candies and nothing more. I’m guessing after that is when they started outsourcing the manufacture of their candy canes. Sad, eh?

But there still is Spangler’s, and I suspect there are more American companies making traditional Christmas candy canes. It only seems right.

Update: Christmas 2012 had me looking for Spangler’s again because they’d been made in the USA. On their label this year was “Made in Mexico.” In looking at their web site, I see they “operate a co-manufacturing facility in Juarez, Mexico for the production of commodity candy canes.”  Other items are still made in Ohio such as Jelly Belly jelly beans, Skittles and more. The American made candy cane search is on again.

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For You ….

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There’s still time to order! If you’re a French Bulldog lover or just want to send out a warm holiday greeting with artwork featuring this adorable breed, take a look at my Frenchie holiday cards. I have several to choose from, all with lovely messages, and the original artwork is, of course, mine.

Or … give a French Bulldog holiday gift! Choose from Frenchies Apres Monet smaller blank note cards, or 5×7″ Frenchies Apres Rousseau blank note cards, Frenchie fairies, and more! Perfect for the French Bulldog lover on your list. Visit my site and see!

Note: All illustrations, drawings and photographs are © Jeanne Balsam and may not be reproduced in any format without written permission. Thank you!

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Looking to send friends and family the most adorable Christmas/holiday cards around? You can, and they’re now on a special, limited- time sale on my web site. You can order either one of  two different designs of my French Bulldog Holiday cards or a half-and-half mix at the very fabulous price of 10 cards and envelopes for only $10 plus shipping. Both cards are 5×7″ and come with bright holiday green envelopes, (and the original artwork, of course, is my own.) Cards are packed in an acrylic sleeve, and will ship via USPS Priority Mail.

Above is Stranger in the Snow, with an inside message that says … “May the wonders of the season be yours.” A pied Frenchie puppy meets a snowy version of himself, and is curious at the least!

At right is Frenchie Makes A New Friend, with the message “The gifts of love and acceptance are given now in this wonderful season and all year `round. Enjoy your present. Happy Holidays”, picturing a black-masked fawn Frenchie meeting … a fawn.

Enjoy this limited time offer — it ends  December 7! Just click on the link for each card or right here for the French Bulldog Holiday Mix. Save a little holiday green and be the person everyone remembers for sending that adorable card!

Note: All illustrations, drawings and photographs are © Jeanne Balsam and may not be reproduced in any format without written permission. Thank you!

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Happy Christmas!

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