Monday, December 11, 2017

A Moment to Breathe

 "To wake up each morning with a Christmas feeling,
to anticipate the day ahead with zest and enthusiasm,
to believe without a doubt that what lies ahead holds
all of your heart's desire--this is drinking of life's sweetest nectar." 
-Francis Cooper Thompson

 I woke up panicked today, so much to do, where to even start.  No time to write, my thoughts going in every direction...Then I took a moment to breathe...literally.  I just decided to take stock.
 We have decorated the outside of the house.  Simple and sweet.

 The house if full of special vignettes.  Some accidental, well really most are accidental.
Everything except the cloche was thrifted...lamp and mirror, candles and candlesticks...
 Churches and trees too.
 My favorite grouping, quite accidental but so serene.  Silent Night.
 A small tree in the living room.  Space it at a premium when the family gathers.
 My buffet, so many pretty things. gifts and treasures from the thrift.
 I put some tiny lights in the demijohn, candles in all the empty houses.
 Sparkles and wax pine cones in a heart shaped wire basket,
 A kissing ball in a sweet cage, teacups in a cloche, both gifts from Elizabeth.
 A candle in a birdbath, also from my dear SIL.
 Simple sparkle.
 Snow and pine cones.
 Lights cheer us on the darkest days of the year.
 Maybe this year my amaryllis will bloom.
 A tree in the little conservatory, more lights, more snow.
 Another gift from a friend long ago.  This creche plays Silent Night and is a favorite of Penny.  As I unwrapped it this year, I looked at Baby Jesus to see that he had been decorated...
 with Hello Kitty stickers.  Here they will stay, unless Penny decides to take them off.   I'm sure that Baby Jesus doesn't mind.  I like to think of a playful, joyful Lord.
 This is a very special place, it's Penny's apartment.  It's behind Grandpa's chair.  One day Penny started to take things from around the house, a photo, lantern, (battery powered) a pillow and blanket, and made a private place to read and pretend.  When I was decorating I put a small tinsel tree back there.  I occasionally move Grandpa's chair but when it's in the corner, I really enjoy when she makes herself totally at home back there.

 Some beads and twinkle lights over the sink.

 A cute sign on the curtains.
 Some Christmas linens on my drying rack.
 An ornament filled salt glazed bowl and Andy watches over the cookie cutters in another.
 My enameled pitcher holds a small tree with a sprinkling of stars surrounding it.
 A quiet spot to watch the fire.
 A new nightgown for Penny and one for her doll too.

We had a happy weekend with a party celebrating my niece Amy and her sweetheart Dennis' engagement.  All my kids were able to attend, but we were missing a few cousins and my brother Tony and  sweet wife Mindy.  Hosted at Larry and Lynette's Chicago home, we were minutes from where we grew up and the Church where my parents were married.  Amy was one of the babies I had the privilege to care for, not so long ago.  At least it seems like yesterday. What a beautiful and sweet woman she has become, and her beau Dennis is a perfect match.  Our family will have a wedding this year and next! My brother Greg and dearest Elizabeth rode with us.  Greg telling such great stories, most of which I had never heard.  Greg told me how he got in trouble with a neighbor boy I remembered.  They rode their bikes on what was to be the Kennedy Expressway, still under construction. How Mom and Dad found out, he didn't say.  I cannot imagine what that was like.  We were driving on the Kennedy as he told the story.  I do not remember a time when there wasn't a Kennedy, but just Googled to find it was called the Northwest Expressway until one week after our beloved President Kennedy was killed, that the name was changed.  Surprised that it stuck.  We don't take well to name changes in Chicagoland.  (Like the Sears Tower being renamed the Willis Tower, sorry , most Chicagoan's still call it Sears.)  It was an happy party and always great to see family and friends from long ago. Loved seeing my kids when I was not cooking and running around. I am so proud of them all and love them like crazycakes! (That's a lot!)

Now after a few more deep breathes, it's two weeks till Christmas, much to do, but I can't wait.

Thanks for stopping by and for your friendship.
Enjoy this beautiful day,
Love, Penny

Monday, December 4, 2017

All Aboard the Wonderland Express

 The new tradition of visiting the Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Gardens makes December especially magical.  When the temperature is in the 50's, it makes for a very fun day.
 Everything is decked out in winter splendor.
 We were greeted at the entrance by the Engineer,
 who punched Penny's ticket.  The children are also given a card with stickers to find certain elements of the exhibit.
 It even snows INSIDE!
 Our girl at the American Girl Store, in miniature form.  We'll get there sweetie!
 Waiting for one of the many trains.
 Right on time.
 This is the carillon,
 everything shrunk down.
 Beautifully recreated.
 The Baha'i House of Worship looks like gingerbread.
 There was a film about the making of the exhibit.  Penny couldn't resist an empty hall and an empty stage. (Locals might recognize Geoffrey Baer on the screen.   He's local treasure on our PBS station.)
 The gardens belong to this girl.  We are so happy to share our visits.  She notices everything, and appreciates beauty unlike any 5 year old I've ever known.
 Before we headed home we took a short ride to the Lake.  It was all we could do to keep her out of the water.
 As soon as we hit the beach, Penny sat on the sand and took her shoes off and was taking off her socks.  We had to remind her that it is in fact, December, and too cold for playing in the water.
 Love these two!
I have to say, I've never looked better.  That's me on the right;-)

Here's a photo of the two Pennies.  Penny is practicing her autograph. 
(Notice the fancy hearts on her name.)

"What is Christmas? It is the tenderness for the past,
courage for the present, hope for the future. 
 It is a feverish wish that every cup may overflow with blessings
rich and eternal and that every path may lead to peace."
Agnes M. Pharo

My December so far...
Keeping Christmas, making memories, enjoying every moment.

Thanks for stopping by.
Enjoy this beautiful day.
Love, Penny

Monday, November 27, 2017

No Thanksgiving is Perfect

 I really tried to make everything as nice as possible for our family Thanksgiving dinner.
 The table was set,
 the room decorated,
 We have a pretty good sized home, but when you get 21 people in it, it gets crowded pretty fast.
 No photos of the day.  I barely got the dinner on the table.  I thought I was on the right track and almost done.  Then I realized that ten pounds of potatoes were still on the counter, uncooked.  That's when things started to unravel. My SIL's were very helpful, but perhaps that's when I got out of the zone. The casseroles in the oven didn't seem done.  The corn, gravy and peas and carrots had not been warmed.    By the time the mashed potatoes were done, so was I!  Everyone filled their plates as I reminded them of the things that were late to the table. By the time I sat down, everyone enjoying their meal, I calmed down and started to enjoy it too.

 Weeks of preparation.  Baking, shopping, cooking, decorating...
We all ate and talked and laughed.  The good humor lasted well after everyone had finished eating.
My brothers and I talked about all kinds of memories, and the SIL's talked and listened too.  The kids had their own conversations, and the little one's got along so well, when it was time to go they didn't want to leave.
 The desserts were enjoyed, the coffee poured.  Leftovers packed.  All the girls helped to clean up.
All the dishes and platters, pots and pans, silverware and utensils were washed and dried.

 So many sweet memories were shared and made.
 Our girl was a great help.
She helped set the tables with silverware and washed some dishes, Penny does a great job.  It's wonderful to have her in the kitchen with me.

  I decided to embrace my imperfections and realized that it was a great Thanksgiving after all. As for families, I am blessed beyond measure.
The weekend was ours, and with amazing weather for the end of November, we took advantage of it with a long ride.  I looked at the map as we were driving and noticed Wandawega, near where we were in Wisconsin.  There is a Camp Wandawega that has been featured in many a magazine. They have refurbished the entire camp with Vintage furniture and accessories.
You drive down this long narrow lane till you get to the Lake.
There's a tree house behind those trees.
The actual road down to the camp was even smaller, with no place to turn around, so we just looked from the end of the road and I took some photos.
I looked online at their website and I have to go back in the summer.
It was beautiful on this lovely fall day.
We also went to a couple of thrift stores and found some vintage Christmas items I'll use in a vignette.

 All these items were less than $5.  I think they are beautiful together, though I didn't buy them thinking that. (The Cloche changes with the seasons.)
These plaster sheep and a goat are probably from a nativity.  Reminded me of Steel Magnolias where  Daryl Hannah's character buys orphaned Baby Jesus' to make a wreath at Christmas.
A vest for Penny...

 Fabric and a Scandinavian tablecloth.
 Longaberger ribbon. I thought they made baskets ;-)
Silver snowflake ornament for a quarter.
Our Saturday was spent driving, shopping for lights and some rest at home before we started decorating the outside of the house.  Days like we had this weekend are few and far between in November. Sunny and warm and slow after such a busy Thanksgiving.

So we hung the lights outside, and cleaned up some of the Autumn decorations.  I got a lawn bag and filled it with twigs I had in a crock and a grapevine wreath I had decorated with dried hydrangeas. The sun was just setting as we turned on the lights and admired our work.  I came inside to wash my cold hands and realized that my wedding rings were missing.  I looked where I put my lotion on in the morning, then knew I lost them outside.  My rings have been falling off, in the washer as I grab the clothes out, or the sink as I wash pots and pans.  I got a flashlight and looked near the arbor and other places we hung the lights.  To make a long story short, after a frantic search, I found my rings at the bottom of the lawn bag.  Thanking St. Anthony, patron saint of lost items.  The only part of me that's skinny, is my ring finger! LOL
 A Larch set against the bright blue sky. Sunday.

 Almost done...
On Sunday we walked the Botanic Gardens, and though I felt all my bones creak as we began, by the time we finished I felt great. 
I saw on Facebook that a local merchant was having live music in their store.  It was in Long Grove, just a stone's throw from our town.  This sweet man Bill Robinson played the hammered dulcimer accompanied by a guitarist. (Sorry I didn't get his name, but equally sweet.)
The sound of the dulcimer is so magical, and in a small store so resonant, it was amazing.  We shopped around,  all the while listening to the sweet music.  I went up to the table the musicians had set up to purchase their Christmas album.  Mr. Robinson asked me if I had a request and I said Silent Night.  Well, the mister and I cried like babies, they played the song so beautifully.  I admit, I started the crying, then my dearest joined in, the sweet old softy  he is.  I went and hugged Mr. Robinson and shook the guitarists hand, thanked them and wished them a Merry Christmas.  We took our purchases to the register and made our way home to the happy music of the hammered dulcimer. I just love moments like that, so special and unexpected.

The store is Mangel Gifts in Long Grove, IL.

My SIL Elizabeth gave me this lovely green Poinsettia.  I've never seen one like it.  I prefer the soft green, a flower that won't be out of place after Christmas is over.

Thanks so much for stopping by.
Grateful for all my family and friends, and for you, dear reader.
Enjoy this beautiful day.
Love, Penny