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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Perhaps more than at any time in recent memory, joy has been pretty hard to come by in this past year. At the moment, I am feeling contemplative.

Christmas, usually a time for excitement, celebration, and sharing, has been very quiet. Not without its bright spots, but quiet.

Advised to stay home, spend time only with immediate family/housemates, many of us have felt isolated, bored, lonely, and hungry for the company of others and the fun that always accompanied the season. But sometimes the bright spots came right to our doors.

In small town New Jersey, Santa Claus still came through our streets, courtesy of our local fire department. It was different this year; traditionally, Santa has come through in the evening accompanied by 5 or 6 fire engines, sirens wailing, lights flashing in the dark, and Santa hopped off the truck to give out candy canes to all the little ones. It may have been a smaller appearance, but it still lit up our hearts and smiles.

We had snow … the wet, heavy kind that’s hard to shovel, but beautiful none the less, especially after the driveways and walkways were cleared. It’s still a bit of a fairyland, if just we put our worries to the side.

We are told in so many ways to forget the past – it’s over – and not to worry about tomorrow – it’s not promised to us – but to find our joy in the moment. 2020 has been one long challenge to that idea. I need not enumerate the global, national, or individual tolls that have been paid this year, and yet, for those of us who continue to write, and for those of us who continue to read each other’s posts, and for so many more around the world, we’re still here.

Maybe worn and frayed about the edges, but we’re still here. Let’s celebrate that.

If we have roofs over our heads, warmth, and enough to eat, let’s celebrate that.

If we have people who care about us – and we are always loved by someone – let’s celebrate that.

Tonight, before the clock strikes 12, I plan to make a list of at least ten truly wonderful moments I’ve known in 2020, no matter how big or small. If I feel like writing more, I will, but at least that, because the way to find the joy in so many moments is to be grateful for them. And I will try to be more conscious of the many gifts that are mine in the moment, right here, right now.

May 2021 bring you many joyous moments of all sizes and kinds. May you know peace within your heart, and know you are always safe.

Cheers.

 

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When I haven’t written in over a month, it usually means at least one thing. In this case, it means I have been deluged with holiday fundraisers and projects from my clients. It has been non-stop, and while I think of things to write here – I even take photos – and I want to catch up with those I follow, my creative energy is directed towards these projects and the time to actually focus on my own writing has been non-existent. It’s frustrating.  But enough whining.

As a new and different Thanksgiving approaches, many, including myself, are already shopping extensively online for Christmas and holiday gifts. To that end, I am going to take a moment to shamelessly promote myself and the lovely French Bulldog items I have created for my Etsy shop.

If you are looking to send holiday cards, “Stranger in the Snow” is one among several you’ll find in my shop. You can also find a few neat gift ideas such as my “Frenchies Apres Monet” blank notecards which I’d like to think would be appreciated by fans of Monet as well as the French Bulldog. I also have a sweet, handsomely-made Frenchie journal, because we all are writing more these days what with all the stress in our lives. No? And if not you, perhaps you know someone who journals faithfully. (Or maybe just needs a notebook!)

All the original artwork is mine, and I can assure you, the cards are of a beautiful, heavy stock. If inspired, just toddle on over to Etsy at JBalsamFrenchieArt. 

As the intensity of my holiday workload is ever-so-slowly winding down, I am planning on writing again soon, and coming by to see you and what you’ve written, too. Should I not get to the post I have in mind before Thanksgiving, I wish you all a peaceful, happy, and safe holiday, however you may spend it. Take good care and let’s continue to look forward to less stressful days when we can meet with each other again as we have in the past. I am always happy to have you stop by!

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If there is one video I always look forward to at Christmastime it’s the one created by the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Britain. Whoever puts them together is not just some remote advertising exec somewhere, but a wonderful person whose heart is filled with love for animals, and knows how to bring their heart to life on behalf of the RSPCA. I am always grateful to see it.

I had posted a previous year’s video here: https://stilladreamer.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/kindness-goes-a-long-way/ – you may want a tissue handy.

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People often ask me if I put up a Christmas tree. I used to put up a beautiful live tree each year, but haven’t in a while. Time being one of the reasons, but over the years, pets became another reason. Have pets influenced your decisions about a tree?

A friend and neighbor, in the face of my treeless status, offered me a small one she had and no longer used. Of course, I have a bazillion ways to trim it collected over the years, but I also had easy access to a few things. There it is, on my oak bench where I can enjoy it when I journal, read, or soon … write rather late Christmas cards.

A very dear friend of mine has a saying which I have now incorporated into my vernacular – “Something is better than nothing.” And indeed, I find it true. It’s small, but it’s something. I find myself fairly mesmerized by this little stranger which reminds me of many Christmases gone by. I like just sitting near it. Funny how deeply ingrained our memories can be.

The good thing is that Jazzy, unlike previous pets, has not decided to pull it over or de-trim it. The first of my beloved pets to have me reconsider the wisdom of having a tree was Mewsette. As is true with many felines, she did her best work at night, and every morning I would come down to find at least the bottom tier of ornaments missing, some broken. OK, let’s just put unbreakable ones on the lower branches. It minimized breakage but didn’t affect one iota my having an ornament scavenger hunt each morning. The final result? Nothing detachable at the bottom of the tree. Not very pretty.

Then we had Chloe, one of my pair of sweet pittie girls. Chloe was determined to see if she could possibly squeeze in the corner behind it. I would come into the room with her shmushed behind the tree, tail wagging off ornaments. Nothing I could do would discourage her efforts. Yet another strike against the concept of having a tree, especially on the occasion when she knocked it over.

Shut the animals out of the room, you say? Who wants to be in the living room, tree all aglow, without your fuzzy ones to keep you company? Or chase them in and out? Eventually, I just gave up. There have always been little spots of Christmas all over the house which, on the whole, none of them ever paid any mind. But this little tree? Perhaps it is my toe into the waters of real trees.

Or maybe this is just perfect for me.

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One of my favorite Christmas/holiday videos. Thanks to our friends across the pond at the RSPCA. Brilliantly and lovingly done.

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Please welcome not only an adorable little Frenchie baby, but a touch of nostalgia for times gone by, when a child might be excited to find a real Steiff pull toy underneath the tree. The lights were much bigger, the ornaments glass, and the smell of balsam pine wafted through the house.

Our little pied girl will soon find there’s nothing to worry about with her new stuffed friend, but still she wonders … could she come home with you, then visit your friends and family? You can find her plus more holiday cards, gift ideas, and my new journal in my shop on Etsy. Please stop by!

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The sun attempts to break through an almost white sky. The weather report tells me that this is the best it will do today. Some high winds later on, and for Christmas, perhaps a dash of snow in the morning. This suits me fine – my days of longing for a white Christmas vanished as soon as I had to drive in it. As I looked out the window, I searched inside for my Christmas spirit. I found it to be a little lacking, having been pulled in many directions the last week. I knew one remedy, of course – images and words that bring a smile and/or inspire.

So here you see my gentle snowman, standing at my front door, ready to greet you. His candle lights at dusk, and he blows it out at dawn. But tonight it will burn steadily and all through the day on Christmas.

Inside, the beautiful oak washstand of over 100 years shines as always, with silk poinsettias, my very favorite ice balls holding tea lights, and just a peek at the photo of my Mom and Dad’s wedding portrait.

And though from a winter past, the snowy roofs and lightly dusted bare branches put me in a festive mood.

But what about words that inspire? I remembered some years ago, my Christmas present to loved ones was a print of the piece below, a longtime favorite of mine, to which I added original artwork of forest animals in each season in each of the print’s four corners. I felt my contribution was small in the shadow of Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata. I share it here with you, with my warmest wishes for a Christmas filled with the sparkle of magic, hope, and peace.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

~ Max Ehrmann

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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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