Sharing the Season

Renee invites all of us to share the ways in which we are preparing for Christmas, focusing specifically on what does not involve shopping. I thought this was a worthwhile topic, especially taking time to consider the non-shopping part of it. This is quite a bit longer than my usual posts!
For Orthodox Christians, Advent (Nov 15 – Dec 24) is a period of spiritual preparation before we celebrate the birth of Christ. This can involve many things, such as fasting (not eating meat and/or dairy; by learning to control what we eat, hopefully we are also learning to control our anger, gossip, jealousy, etc.), cutting down on our television time, spiritual examination and meeting with our priest to talk about things we’re struggling with (ie, confession, which I’ve ironically found to be quite healing and liberating in spite of my resistance to the idea before we chose to join the church), sharing our resources with those in need, and increased prayer. I’m far from perfect in any of these areas, but they do lend a peace and quiet to the season which is so often needed, as well as help us focus on the source of the holiday.

This year we are making a point to take in a few local Christmas concerts, which is something my family often did. I miss this habit and am looking forward to it.

I quite adore Christmas music and play it often: Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor, Wintersong, A South Dakota Acoustic Christmas, and others. I need to find some Orthodox Christmas recordings!

I’d also been hoping for a chance to volunteer at a local shelter this season and we had that opportunity last weekend, stacking donated cans of food in the pantry at a women and children’s emergency shelter. Nothing makes you realize how many blessings you have as coming face to face with those in desperate need. I share this in order to encourage you to consider donating or helping out at a local shelter or food bank this season.

Eventually we will get around to decorating. My husband gets quite excited about putting up a tree. As children, our family always bought tree permits and went out into the forest to chop down our own tree. That was a delightful tradition.

We try to take an evening to drive around and admire Christmas lights in the neighborhood.

And yes, I quite enjoy making as many handmade gifts as I can, so I hope to begin on that soon. I also like sending out cards, so that is also on the list. All our gifts are shipped out, so I’ll also be making an epic journey to the post office…

Finally, we celebrate with a midnight service on Christmas Eve, followed by a massive potluck with our church family. We’ll spend lots of time on the phone with our family that day, and will spend the next week cleaning the house for my in-law’s visit at New Year’s. It is a joyful time of year!

How are you preparing for Christmas?

Parade of Life

It had been ages since we'd gone to a parade, and never one quite this big. Almost as much fun as watching the floats, clowns, and ponies was watching all of the people around us. There were many small children; great cheers went up when Nemo, Barney, and Santa Claus passed by. Do you remember attending parades when you were a child?


Inspiring Photos

Wayfaring Wanderer of the beautiful photos is hosting another unique giveaway (deadline is midnight tonight.) Her challenge to us was to post about a photographer who inspires us. I stumbled upon Ansel Olson on flick earlier this year and was immediately captivated by the ethereal images he created in his en plein air set. These photos are like paintings; they exude peace and calm. He has managed to capture such beauty. Please stop by if you are in need of a visual vacation.

(By the way, Jennifer is also hosting a giveaway that ends today.)

100th Post: Thankful

Today I am thankful for a good night’s sleep, for the sprinkling of birch leaves I found on my walk, for beautiful pomegranates, for spinach salad, and a quiet day. And I am thankful for things that have come my way this year: a sweet new goddaughter, a tentative conquering of my flight phobia, my cuddly new dog. Certain things keep me grounded, for which I am also thankful: my husband’s love and provision, the peace and calm I find in seeking God in the Orthodox Church, my long visits with dear family and friends. I miss my family especially during the holidays, but a good day awaits us tomorrow nevertheless.

I hope you have many blessings, small and large, to count this year! Happy Thanksgiving!



My life is pretty simple compared to that of many people, but nevertheless it’s been busy lately. I’m looking forward to a quiet week and hoping to catch up on some craft projects, gardening, and essays that need work. Perhaps I’ll even do some baking this week – these photos are from September. One of my simplest pleasures lately is resting on the sofa under an old quilt with my dog curled up next to me. There is something quite endearing about cuddly pups.

What are your simple pleasures lately? And what do you have planned for the holiday week?


Recycled Envelope Books: My Tutorial on WhipUp

I'm very excited to have my first tutorial on WhipUp today. It's for a minibook that is made from recycled junk mail envelopes. Find out how to make them here!
Edited: Thank you to everyone who is linking to my post and tutorial! I'd love it if you would let me know so I can drop by your blog!


Reminiscing: Vanilla Jasmine Tea

Yesterday I made myself a cup of vanilla jasmine tea, looseleaf, something I hadn't done in quite awhile. It immediately took me back to the years that we lived in the Central Valley of California, where a wonderful little bakery was a favorite place to meet friends for tea and cake. They carried this delicious tea, pictured in the tin above, and it was wonderful paired with their divine Hershey's chocolate layer cake. I smile to remember the friends I visited with there: charming N. with her red hair and Scottish accent, sweet C. who shared my Midwest roots, authentic E. from Turkey who became like family. Sweet memories. Who are you meeting for tea these days?
(The autumn decorations were made by me a few years ago - just painted some clay pots with craft paint and stuck in some artificial leaves. Autumn is my favorite season in which to decorate!)


Red and Aqua Swap

I couldn't resist signing up for the red and aqua swap a month or so ago at Apron Thrift Girl. It was my first big swap, and I was excited to participate in it. I was paired with the delightful Kathy, who sent such a wonderful package that I felt as though Christmas had arrived early. Fat quarters, pretty buttons, a lovely mug and tea, yummy chocolate, vintage notions, a vintage hanky, a cute tin with mini-cards, and a gorgeous bottle that she decorated herself. Anyone who knows me know that all of these thing are right up my alley! These lovelies are now being situated in corners around my home. Kathy, thank you for such a fun swap!


Easy Scrapbook

I made this minibook last summer, based on a tutorial over at Shimelle's website. So easy and fun! I love the instant gratification of minibooks - quick and cute. This is the project I have lined up for this week's neighborhood craft group, along with these easy magnets from not martha.
What projects are you working on?


Green Habits

This topic has been on my mind lately, so I was happy to stumble across it on Wayfaring Wanderer’s blog as well. She’s hosting a giveaway and asks us to list a few things about our ‘green’ habits.

A Few Things I Do Now:

Use my own reusable shopping bags the majority of the time.
Recycle all paper, cardboard, metal, and plastic.
Print paper on both sides in our printer.
Am beginning to use cloth napkins more regularly.
Recently purchased glass food storage containers because I’m starting to get creeped out by storing all my leftovers in plastic!
Use cold water for laundry, except for things that get really dirty like towels and undies.
Hubby takes the bus most days.
I donate as much as possible to charities rather than throwing stuff away.
Combine errands to save time and gas.

5 Things I Don’t Do Now But Easily Could:

Save our glass containers to be driven to the recycling center (they don’t take them curbside.)
Buy more food in bulk.
Try to locate nearby farmer’s markets.
Stop subscribing to paper versions of magazines that are available online.
Also on my mind, as WW suggests: fixing our leaky faucets and finding healthier cleaning products.

While we’re on this topic, has anyone ever found convenient ways to dispose of electronic waste? Or more specifically, cassette tapes? I have a binful of dubbed tapes that I doubt Goodwill would want, but I hate to just toss them into the landfill.

Please share your ideas as well!
Photo by my hubby


An Admission

There are many things that I realize I rarely mention about my life here on this blog. I don't think I've ever mentioned that I occasionally scrapbook. (I also like to make altered travel journals, which seems so much different to me than scrapbooking, in a way.) Here are a few recent layouts (sorry for the bad photos; I was too lazy to take them out of their sleeves.) I adore Ali Edwards' style, as is probably obvious. I'm really enjoying using divided page protectors of various sizes, such as the top and bottom images, and I found an awesome selection of divided pages at The Container Store last week! I like to keep my pages pretty simple.
I know some people make fun of scrapbookers or just don't get it, but I do find a peaceful satisfaction in reviewing events of my life when I sit down and look at my albums. I also tend to have a short memory, so this is one way for me to try to capture memorable events!
Do you scrapbook?


The Place I Live

I've been thinking this week about the place I live. It's a place I don't necessarily want to be in, and it has a lot of drawbacks (terrible weather, way too crowded), but there are also a lot of positives that I am able to enjoy here that I wouldn't elsewhere. For me, these mostly have to do with arts and crafts. Last week, I spent 10 hours with my husband's aunt at one of the largest quilt festivals in the world. Amazing! Yesterday, I spent several hours at a large bead show and found some lovely purchases at much more affordable prices than in stores. I've been able to take iconography classes from a Greek-trained iconographer, been spoiled by frequent visits to our world-class art museums, taken book binding classes, enrolled in writing workshops with excellent, published writers, seen several other authors and writers speak. Of course, there's also a wide variety of restaurants, our super-beautiful Orthodox church and congregation, and a friendly neighborhood. So even though I might not choose to be here if given the choice, I appreciate the gifts that come with living here and try to remember to be open to them and to what God has brought my way.
++What do you like about where you live?
++By the way, it's nice to be back! I've missed all of you.
++ps - I hope to do a few giveaways in the upcoming month, perhaps even using some of those lovely beads, so check back!