"Every house where love abides
And friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home sweet home
For there the heart can rest."
~ Henry Van Dyke

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I have told you before about my love of Elsa Beskow books. I collect them and am so pleased they are all being reprinted in English by Floris Books. I decided since Christmas was approaching to order 'Peter and Lotta's Christmas'. It arrived on Christmas eve and what a sweet book it is!

It captures the joys of a child's thoughts and wishes at Christmas time.

The illustrations that Elsa Beskow created are timeless. They are so warm and inviting that you wish you could crawl into the book.

A great book for children of all ages!

Merry Christmas to all of you around the world! I hope you feel the magic of a child this Christmas day...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas anticipation...

The last few days before Christmas are always a highlight. Perhaps even more exciting than Christmas itself as we are all full of anticipation. I am enjoying a more simple Christmas this year. I did not do as much decorating as usual but still find our home to glow in a festive light...

Above the hutch a garland with my lit branches twisted among it while the mirrors on either side of the hutch have a small wreath hanging from a gingham ribbon. Just the right touch.

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time."

~Laura Ingalls Wilder

I placed a small quilt on the table with my urns. The arrangement this year is layered ivy, grapevine and berry wreaths, pine branches and red amaryllis. I placed red and black ornaments in a gold and red bowl. My books are softened by a piece of lace and a pretty white Christmas tree candle.

I use candles to decorate all through the house and out in the garden. I love candles glow in the evenings.

"A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
It makes no noise at all,
But softly gives itself away."

~Eva Logue

My pictures ledges are now filled with my beloved collection of framed vintage postcards and some stitched items I have made over the years.

"I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month." ~Harlan Miller

My patchwork wreath had to be on our coffee table this year. It brings back memories of my quilt group's fun Christmas in July evening each time I light the candle.

I have always wished I had a mantleplace but creating a Christmas arrangement on my fireplace screen gives me a chance to add some festive cheer to the woodstove.
The laundry room in our home is also our cloakroom. Since people walk in here to hang their coats, I like having it looking cheerful. The village gives a magical glow where most stop and take a good look as they come and go. I did not get out all my nutcrackers this year. A few are in the living room and these in the laundry room. I added two winter floral arrangements in the room and also filled my clothes peg pail with pinecones.

"Christmas - that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance - a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved."

~Augusta E. Rundel

The music playing Gaudete is actually a Christmas carol written back in the 16th century. I have had people comment that they too love to listen to Gregorian Chant and thought it would be fun to include this on my blog this year. Here is the text in both the Latin and in English translation. Sometimes, reading what the song says gives you a greater appreciation of the music. Enjoy!

Translation from Wikipedia
Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary, rejoice!
Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.
The time of grace has come
That we have desired;
Let us devoutly return
Joyful verses.
Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
God has become man,
And nature marvels;
The world has been renewed
By Christ who is King.
Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
The closed gate of Ezechiel
Has been passed through;
Whence the light is born,
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra contio
Psallat lam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore let our gathering
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's snowing cats and dogs!

Okay, okay! I know that the saying goes it is raining cats and dogs but it is not raining in Holland for a change...IT IS SNOWING! Can you see the big happy grin on my face? We had to stay here this weekend as we were babysitting for a friend (more in a minute about that) but could not have gone to Cranberry Cottage as there is too much snow up north to get to the cottage. I went out yesterday with a friend and will share photos of that on the next entry but today it is stay at home and watch the snow kind of day. Our table has a nice fat layer of snow covering it like whipped cream.

Last night after dinner, we turned on the TV and Dagi's favorite show was on BBC2 Wales. My cat loved to watch the One Man and His Dog competitions. He really watches it intensely so we put a chair right in front of the TV for him.

England won this year and I think Dagi approved, don't you? *wink*

Today we were dogsitting for my friend Saskia. Rover is a very handsome and amazingly behaved black Lab. He is just the greatest dog. We took him out for a walk in the snow and he did not mind posing for a photo with me.

We live on the edge of a newly built neighborhood. Just a block from us is the park. There is also a woods with a beautiful old farmhouse dating back to the middle ages. Normally you see sheep in this field but it was too cold today.

One section of the park is always full of young people flying kites. Now I don't know about you but flying a kite brings up Mary Poppins like images of paper kites flying in the spring breeze but these are serious kites nowadays. The young men using them had skies on. These are powerful things and can lift them right up into the air.

Our garden has a huge layer of snow now. I think this is the most I have seen since I have lived in Holland. It feels like being back home in Ohio on a lighter snow day.

As far as Saskia's day out with her parents, they had to turn around and come back home. The musical they were attending as a surprise for her father's birthday today was canceled but we did get to enjoy Rover for a couple of hours. She gave me this wonderful gift for dogsitting, like I needed to be rewarded for something that fun?

So I dug into my collection of pine and berries and already have the basket in use as decoration with the candles lit. Thanks Saskia and I hope you and Rover are safe and warm back home now!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Welcome to Christmas Village

Welcome to Christmas Village. This tiny town shows up only once a year in December. There is always snow. If you peek in a window and look closely, you will find a mother baking a kugelhopf.

Sister Charity arrives just in time to hear the carol singers entertaining Mrs. Potts. What is it about a carol that makes your own heart sing?

The schoolmaster has decided to allow the children to have the afternoon off to enjoy the bright winter air. The children have great fun sledding and playing in the freshly fallen snow.

Mr. Brownlow has just put his Christmas tree in a wheelbarrow to carry it home. He cannot wait to show Mrs. Brownlow how beautiful it is and commence the decorating.

Sarah is out taking in the fresh air with her sweet little lamb Snowflake. They pause to listen to a cardinal sing a winter song to them.

Thomas and Luke have lost all track of time as they have fun throwing snowballs.

Mr. and Mrs. Winston stop to look at the announcement for the ballet that is coming to the village. How exciting ... The Nutcracker! In the meantime, Mr. Rocester is busy seeing to the yule logs for the upcoming Christmas celebration.

The advent of Christmas is a buzzing time in this tiny village. All the villagers are out and about as this magical village will disappear again in a few short weeks.

A note to those of you new to my blogs...This little village was made especially for me by my mother and sister. It was made as close as possible to the village my mother made when we were children. I loved our village and later she made me one of my own. Each year, I think I love it even more. Thank you mother!!!

If you put on your speakers, you can hear the little song my sister used to sing. She learned it at school and my mother and I have memories of her singing it each year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Snow day!

Today we awoke to this in our garden...

We had planned to drive to Germany and go to a Christmas market but the traffic jams were too bad and we decided to go to the city center instead. Here is one of the medieval city gates in Amersfoort. I took this photo as we walked into the city boundries.

Coming home the snow was melting slightly but still looked beautiful in our garden. Tonight, there is a light snowfall again. Don't you just love the look of freshly fallen snow?


The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

~ Robert Frost

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Modern day comfort food

Every once in a while, I will post an entry about comfort food. We most often think of comfort food as those age old, tried and tested, beloved dishes that our mothers and grandmothers made. But what about some modern day foods that still give us that effect? So I thought it would be fun to share a recipe with you of an old favorite in my house. I have recently rediscovered this recipe. Years ago, I made it often. I have a quilting friend that I get together with. Each time we switch houses, one time at my house and then at hers. I made this the last time she came over and she told me that she liked it better than regular pizza. So for Elly and all of you, here is my recipe for Mexican pizza with my Nigella Lawson moment using lots of photos. *grins*

I had to give you a little Mexican holiday touch to this entry with it being so close to Christmas so enjoy the music while you read my recipe.

Cut up a half red and half green pepper in thin slices.

Slice one spring onion. This is optional as the pizza is spicy enough without it. We just love spring onions.

Mix 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 olive oil and 3/4 cup milk. This is a very wet cornmeal dough. Spray a 11 x 7 inch baking pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. Using your fingers (also sprinkled with cornmeal) spread out the dough to edges. I like to round the dough up just a little to keep the topping on the pizza.

Place the dough in a 425F oven for about 10 minutes just to set the dough.

While the dough is baking, cook the peppers and spring onion just to soften.

Remove the dough and sprinkle just slightly with mild taco sauce and then a layer of grated cheese. You can use any cheeses you like. I often like to mix Cheddar with my cheese but this time I used old Dutch cheese. This is something you can do to your own taste.

Now add the rest of the jar of mild taco sauce and another layer of cheese.

Now top top with the peppers and spring onion and ripe (black) olives. I cut the olives in half first. Add yet one more layer of cheese. Remember this is comfort not diet food. *wink*

Bake in the 425F oven for a further 10 minutes until the cheese melts.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The warmth of the fireside....

Saturday evening and it is cold outside ... finally. It has been far too warm in Holland but our temperatures are now dropping. I hope it continues to become winter. It was wonderful to go out today to get our groceries in a very thick wool sweater. The sun was shining so we did not need coats as we were kept warm by our natural wool. Now if we would only get some snow...

We sit inside with our Christmas tree lights burning gaily, our first two advent candles burning and a warm fire in the woodstove. I have been quilting and sipping a cup of hot cocoa. Bliss!

It needed to be a relaxing weekend after my mishap yesterday. We decided to go up to Cranberry Cottage after originally not planning to. We were about half an hour on our way when I realized I forgot to bring my most important medicine with me. So we had to turn around at the next exit and drive home. Needless to say, we no longer felt like going and went out to eat instead.

So I leave you on this lazy Saturday evening to contemplate the words of America's famous fireside poets, James Greenleaf Whittier...

"We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free."

~ from Snow-bound by James Greenleaf Whittier