Thursday, December 20, 2018

Homemade Christmas

     I love handmade and homemade goods. I enjoy giving and receiving them. Aside from Advent, my favorite Christmas preparations are making gifts and admiring the beautiful things that have been given to me over the years. Here are a few photos of this year's handmade Christmas.
     When our girls were little I made each of them a simple Christmas stocking. Claire's was sewn with quilt squares because I was into quilting back then but the rest have been applique. This year I finally got around to making the youngest two grandchildren their stockings. Now I am finally all caught up!

This dear little snowgirl with adorable hat and tiny pompom was made by a hooking friend who is ninety four years old. Louise is prolific in her handiwork and everything she makes is creative and beautifully done. Each month, everyone looks forward to seeing what Louise has made.

Daughter, Chelsea hand stitched this sweet little scene for me this year. The colors remind me of a snowy day.

Handmade items include yummy food creations, too! I love to make and receive goodies from the kitchen. Each year I make gingerbread for our family and some extra to give away. In years past I've given and received breads, cookies, apple butter, canned fruits, relishes, jellies, and delicious liqueurs.

I'm still sewing and hooking Christmas gifts that I can't show yet : ) Today is the last day of school before Christmas break so I need to go eat my Wheaties to prepare for how this day is going to be!
One last thing I wanted to share... We get all kinds of notes from parents each day. Some are on pretty stationary, others are on food stained worksheets. I guess you could call this "handmade stationary". This one came across my desk the Friday before our big snowstorm. When I first saw the front I thought, "This parent was in a real hurry!" Then I turned it over and smiled. I'm not sure if it was a coincidence or intentional but, it's one of my favorites.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Snow Day!

     We had a perfect snowfall this past Sunday. It was a large storm by Virginia standards and it left us with somewhere between fourteen to eighteen inches of fluffy, sparkling, perfect-for-packing, snow. I am contented that, at my age, a snowfall is still magical. It makes my insides leap with joy and excitement to anticipate its arrival, see it falling, and know what activities it brings.
     This snowfall began overnight as we slept. Perfect magic snowstorms begin this way so that when you wake up and look out the window, BAM! there it is. It came down softly but steadily and I went from window to window gauging its depth near trees and landscape as it piled up. Everything about the day slowed down to a peaceful pace. All events were cancelled and only the sturdiest of vehicles could have made it up our mountain. We were shut inside under a blanket that absorbed all sound. The heavy clouds created a weak, gray light such that we left reading lamps on and candles flickering all day. (If only we had a fireplace!) We lit the wood stove in the basement and I roasted a few marshmallows while I toasted my toes near the fire on and off throughout the day. I made soup, I hooked on a rug, we read a lot, and we looked out the windows. There was no need to do a thing nor even contemplate shoveling snow until it stopped falling, which wouldn't be until the next day. Some might consider this confinement but I call it freedom.
     Who would think there could be so much beauty in a simple black and white landscape? The snow wipes out all the details in the grass and field, thereby improving the details visible everywhere else. We now know the movements of the deer at night because we can see their tracks crisscrossing the fields and notice the congregation of tracks under the cedars where they must bed for the night. The birds are more visible darting from tree to tree. Some tracks leave me guessing as to what animal may have been running or leaping by the looks of it. Every little sound is suddenly amplified by the silence of everything else.
     Tomorrow will bring the sun and the job of digging out. But, for this day, the snow has given us permission to do not a thing. Simply enjoy.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Dried Fruit Dram

     It's been such a long time since I last posted here and so much activity has taken place that I don't know how to recap or pick up where I left off. So, I'll just start anew!
     Winter is nearly upon us and the evenings are now long and dark. Each evening I make a ritual of  turning on certain lamps, pulling shades and draperies closed, and lighting a candle or two for glow. It has been hard to adopt any sort of evening schedule since it became dark because I mainly long to go to bed at 7:30 and I struggle to stay awake until a decent bedtime hour. If I try to read or watch a movie, I end up dozing off anyway. On this schedule, I wake up any time from 2:00AM onward. Today I am up at 3:00AM. Perfect opportunity to blog! (I will nap later.)
    Last evening I made another recipe of Nigel Slater's apricot, orange, and anise drink for winter. The recipe is contained in his book, "The Christmas Chronicles". It's a wonderful, sweet little drink that warms your throat as it smoothly slides down. I have a favorite, pretty glass that I sip from and it's a nice pleasure on a cold winter night. As the dram ages and as you get to the bottom of the jar, the gold liquid becomes thick like nectar. The apricots are also a delight to eat after they've soaked up the brandy. I double the recipe so there is plenty for sharing.

Enough for 20 small glasses
dried apricots - 500g
an orange
whole star anise - 4
brandy - 300ml
granulated sugar - 150g 
sweet white wine - 300ml 
Put the apricots into a stainless steel saucepan. Using a vegetable peeler, slice thin strips of zest from the orange and drop them into the pan. Add the star anise, brandy, and sugar and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
into a sterilized jar, spoon the apricots and star anise, then pour in the liquor (breathing it in at this point is highly recommended) and top with the sweet white wine. Seal and place in a cool, dark place for a good fortnight (better still, a month) before pouring the golden liquor into glasses.

     Aside from working and hooking, I have two small sewing projects to complete for Christmas. I am also reading too many books at one time. In addition to The Christmas Chronicles, which is easy to pick up and put down at leisure, I am reading "The Seven Storey Mountain" which is an autobiography of Tomas Merton and very good. I am also listening to "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon on Audible. I tried watching the series last year but found it too violent. Now, I find the book too sexy. (This is my official book review, Claire) It's much more intimate than I care to hear and, for me, a distraction from the historical fiction by an author who is otherwise a fantastic storyteller. I'll finish this first book in the series of eight but I doubt I'll continue with the rest. I just don't care for romance novels. I'm also reading "Lectio Devina of the Gospels" each day along with a couple of seasonal meditations for advent. My books migrate around the house with me to different chairs, depending on my mood. All the while, Henri follows me around like a shadow. : )