On a cold winter’s eve, a group of friends gathered at my home, escaping the windy night, to celebrate the holiday with dinner, gifts, and to taste my new wines. Thank you to my friend, Annie, for taking photos!
The tree was decorated and all aglow, the twinkly lights and candles were lit and cast a lovely glow. Food was set out all around so that guests would mingle; latkes, cheese balls, olives, pickles, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, chips and dip, limocello cheese cake, and ginger bread.
We created a game that we have done at every party. Guests pair up with someone they don’t know and answer the questions. The questions are based on the origin of our animal’s names. There is always laughter during this trivia game! (You can answer the questions at the end of this article!)
The Chardonnay was everything I wanted to be. It was a very small batch. Caramel apples and light pineapple in every taste of this delicious wine. I was so pleased.
My Merlot was a hit. Sumptuous, with aromas of cranberries and flavors of mulberries and cedar; currants and complexity linger on the palate. We toasted to friends and the new year.
Everyone brought a ten dollar gift to exchange. Numbers were drawn and everyone went home with a wonderful present.
I let each guest have a barrel taste of my new Nebbiolo. It is still sweet with juice but the flavors are coming together beautifully and I think it will be a very fine wine indeed.
Keeping in mind what is really important, gather those you love near, introduce new friends, and gather memories dear.
What are our cats, Chuck and Linus, named after?
What movie is our cat, Mr. Boogedy Boo, named after?
What movie/books does our dog, Gandalf’s name come from?
What movie/book do our goats’ names come from? Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones?
The sheep we are getting in a few weeks will be named Ebenezer and Fezziwig, where does that come from?
Our kittens are named Taos and Socorro- what do those have in common?
Our ducks are named Serrano, Sandia, and Big Jim- what do those have in common?
Tie breakers- A past cat we had was named Zuzu’s Petals and a greyhound we had was named Bumble; what movies are those names from?
Blessed Yuletide cometh soon. The light returns in just two moons. This morn is cast a cheery rose across melting snowy pastures, as the dawn awakens the world here on my little homestead. And I am content before the fire with a cup of strong coffee and kittens playing nearby.
I oft write about things to come and things to do and things to change, but rarely sit in wonder of a lit Yule tree and think of all those that love me. I have so many that I overwhelmingly adore. My life is filled with great love, and in that, I need nothing more. And yet, I write to you from stunning views of mountains at dawn and the warmth of the fire in the wood stove warms me as my heart warms in the winter light.
My homemade presents are nearly complete and I so loved creating sweet things for all. I have one more row of a scarf to complete and then wrapping of all gifts will commence. Nat King Cole croons sweetly from the kitchen, and my mind turns to Santa, who will be coming to my house once more. How I love being a Grammie.
My wish for you, my friends, is peace. Peace of spirit and peace of mind. Of decisions that make the world better and your own life better too. Time spent with those that love you. And that you love too. I wish you gratitude and seed catalogs.
Well, I hate to toot my own horn, but I have some pretty darn good gift ideas for y’all! Whether you want to make something homemade, give the gift of a career or health change, or want something you can click and order, look no further. I have some great ideas for you!
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Don’t have cash to purchase much this year? Me neither! So most of the gifts I am giving are homemade. I would love to show you what I am making but my children might read my blog! But here are some ideas all the same: Click on the links to find instructions.
The number one reason that folks feel depressed during the holidays is because they do not feel welcome, a part of a village, or loved as they are. There are habits that have been acceptable for a long time that we as parents and friends must change. If this is the season for kindness, than we must go beyond random acts of kindness to strangers and really be kind and absolutely loving to those around us.
Now, this is important- Number One- no nagging. For god’s sake, we don’t really think that nagging will endear our children to us, do we? Your grown children make decisions every day- hard ones- and are becoming the people they are meant to be (whether they are eighteen or fifty-five!) and they need support, not “advice.” Once they head out that front door as a young person setting out into the world, their business is no longer yours. They are more likely to come to you for advice and friendship if you are not already badgering them. The way they raise their children is not your business either. They can homeschool, travel the world, be strict, have no rules, or send them to private school. Our only job is to show by example unconditional love. Unconditional love. That is what this world needs more of, especially around the holiday table.
Perhaps your daughter brings home a young man with a mohawk or her new girlfriend. Or your son brings home a woman your age, or someone of a different religion. Maybe your child quit college to your dismay and your daughter moved in with her best friend who has less-than-admirable habits. (None of that is your business.) Our job now is to be undeniably loving, welcoming, supporting, hugging, happy and accepting examples of love. That is what people need. Unconditional love.
I adore all of my kids’ friends. Many of them call me mama. Everyone knows that we can squeeze in more chairs. I will have plenty of food. Everyone is welcome at my table- mohawk or not. They also know they can call me to talk or if they need advice.
My mother used to say (following the advice of many parenting gurus) that she is not our friend, she is our mother. That is too bad, because she is still not my friend, sadly. Be friends with your kids, their friends, the neighbors down the street, the woman who just lost her husband, the coworker without family here, the people that Creator sends into your life. They are not being sent to you to be saved, they are being sent to you to be loved.
Let’s make this holiday season a bright one for others by accepting them as they are, opening your home and table to them, offering respite from expectations, and offering unconditional love. See how that doesn’t just change your world and the world around you.
The sun hasn’t risen over the horizon yet and the cedars and houses are but silhouettes. It is a lovely time of day. A time of contemplation and memory. And today is Samhain; an entire day of contemplation and memory. So many have lost touch of what this holiday is really about. Candy and ghouls didn’t come until much later.
Samhain is the last harvest festival in the agricultural calendar. Also known as the Day of the Dead in Mexico and by many other names by the thousands of spiritual paths around the world throughout time, Samhain is the name of the Celtic festival. It is a day of remembrance.
Samhain is the last of the three harvest festivals. In August, we celebrated the harvest of grains and herbs. In September, we celebrated the harvesting of autumn crops and the joy of filling our larder. In October, the animals that would be used as sustenance to get through the cold months are harvested.
Now, the days are shorter and colder and the farm work is done. Days went by in a whirl and it is already October. The deaths of loved ones the previous year stay heavy on our hearts at this time with less to do. Their memories with us and grief present.
I find it rather difficult not to believe in spirits and ghosts doing the work I do, but many people shut it out. Perhaps Hollywood movies have scared us too much. But our loved ones are within earshot and all around us, in a slightly different realm, but sometimes still visible. They come to us in dreams and sometimes you can hear them. As I was moving, I was so overwhelmed with packing and stress. Twice right before we moved, as I walked through my garden, a strange white mist filled an area near my Hawthorn tree. All we have to do is pay attention.
Well Dears, today the veil is thinnest. One might note that a lot of folks seem to pass away this time of year. One also might note cupboard doors open, strange songs playing, and lots of “coincidences.” It is Samhain and our loved ones are very, very close.
Today we remember those that we have lost this year. Last Halloween morn, Doug and I heard and saw two small owls screeching and making quite a racket outside our window. The owls only come to me when there is a big event. Great-Aunt Donna had died. Grandma waited until after Ayla was born on her and Grandpa’s 70th anniversary, then went and joined her sister. For them and the countless other loved ones we have lost in our lifetime, we will light candles and place an extra plate at the table. A candle will go into the west window so that the wandering spirits out visiting will be able to find their way home. A fire in the wood stove with chairs around to greet those that come. That is what Samhain is about.
May your loved ones visit and your heart heal from grief. May your pantries be filled with food and your homes filled with laughter and family!
I know no one likes to speak of Christmas before Halloween, y’all, but for us that like to make homemade presents, there is a bit of panic in the air. How close are we to Christmas? Nine and a half weeks! That may seem like a long time and there is still plenty of time to pick out costumes and plan Thanksgiving dinner, but I am wondering how I got so far behind! (Oh yea, I moved.)
The sewing machine has taken up residence on the dining room table and will probably stay there on up to Yule. There are lists of yarn and fabric still to get. Things to create. People to make presents for! And as you all know, nine weeks goes pretty darn fast.
It is easy to go pick up something from Walmart, wrap it up, and say, “Here ya go!” But said item may inevitably break, homestead budget rarely allows for elaborate and multiple gifts, and a homemade gift speaks volumes. Wrapped in a homemade gift is poetry and love songs and a recipient can feel the affection from the giver (too romanticized?). A homemade gift is usually useful and deliberate.
So, what can you make?
Do you sew? You can make any number of things, from quilts to aprons. Maybe cloth napkins or place mats.
Do you crochet? You can make shawls, scarves, blankets, candle or cup cozies.
Do you paint? You could paint a wooden box for keepsakes or a painting of a favorite pet.
Do you weld? My daughter’s boyfriend welded together car parts to make me the most charming snowman I have ever seen.
Do you wood work? Crates and boxes and furniture are all amazing gifts.
Do you cook/bake/preserve? Jars of preserves, homemade wine, and bread are wonderful to receive.
Christmas shopping is kind of fun, so maybe get someone cast iron. Cloth napkins with good wooden spoons. Candles or an oil lamp. Antiques that are still useful. Or if all else fails, no one will balk at a gift card to Lehman’s!
I will be thinking of what I am going to dress up as for my friends’ Halloween party but I will also be busy creating gifts. What great gifts do you like to create?
For a long time, my daughter, Shyanne, had a life-sized faux skeleton posed in the passenger side of her jeep. It was hilarious watching people walk by her car and suddenly take a second look and a jump back! Victor proudly held onto the front seat until Shyanne got another car. Victor seems to have found a new place, this time on the front porch, sunning in the autumn rays and scaring playfully in the evening haze.
Our family has always gone all out for holidays. On October first, the children would arrive home from school to find the house joyfully decorated (I am not much into real fear and gore, more Disney Halloween) and I would be standing at the stove with an outrageous witch hat on carefully stirring my pot of witch’s brew. (Apple cider with pumpkin pie spice.) The dollar store, spider webs and cardboard cutouts graced the house and a large witch on a broom, that we named “Grandma,” hung from the ceiling fan above the dining room table.
“Grandma!” the children would all greet her.
The children had a great bin of old clothes, past year’s costumes, and lots of dress-up in order to create the perfect Halloween costume. We made veggie burgers with American cheese that had eyes, nose, and mouth cut out of the slice to make a face. They melted onto the patty in fierce/darling images of scarecrows, vampires, and ghosts.
Yesterday, I went to my daughter, Emily’s house to help her with her girls so she could clean out a closet and so that we could put up spaghetti sauce. Their house is cheerfully decorated for the spooky season. A mask was on their scarecrow, and each time that ten month old Ayla Mae saw it, she began to laugh. That cheerful-baby-laugh continued every time she saw something scary. She will be like her Auntie.
Shyanne needs a job with Martha Stewart, I have always said. She is brilliant with crafts and baking and bringing to life fun and creativity. I am bringing you scenes of her yard today to inspire and enchant you; and maybe scare you just a bit!
The full moon hovered brightly over the land last eve and Yule was nigh. The 12 days of Christmas was originally the 12 days of Yule. Festivities, bonfires, hearth fires, the yule log, the decorated trees, feeding the birds and other wildlife, exchanging gifts, and checking on the elderly and homebound fill the days of Yule leading to new year.
It is a quiet morning here in my cozy home. Father Sun peeks through the windows while climbing to start the day. I sip my warm coffee, the earthiness and steam filling the air. We keep the lights on the tree on often. Just sitting in my rocking chair watching the glimmering lights, scanning the many ornaments that hold place as story tellers, makes me joyful and calm. I put a Christmas album on. My favorite is Andy Williams. The presents are piled on the bed ready to be wrapped in paper and bows.
The birds outside sing and dart about. The fat squirrel looks at me through the window. She is out of bird seed. Sweet thing; I wish blessings on all the wildlife. A young eagle landed in the tree the other day and we sat together for some time. The geese fly overhead noisily, their synchronized flying like swimmers in the sky. Upon this great landscape of earth is such a lovely place to live. I am thankful each day for health, for life, for family, for this cozy home where the hearth fires burn.
Yesterday I did ceremony on my friends who are getting married beneath the full moon by a fire outdoors. Today I get the honor of officiating their wedding. Tomorrow we are off to my cousin’s, the next day to our friends’, home again for Christmas eve and my children will all gather here. Santa knows to come to Grammie and Pa’s house. Christmas morning will shine bright with the love of family. A late Hannukah celebration with family and my daughter’s birthday round out the festivities before the new year dawns with promise and light.
What are your plans for the holidays, my Friends? From our home to yours, I wish you the happiest Christmas and a blessed Yule. May you be with those you love and may peace fill your home.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and most Joyous Yule, my dear friends. Our household, throughout the year, tends to honor and celebrate the oldest of traditions and beliefs, long before organized religion and that feels beautiful and real to us. We will be celebrating Yule, but since I was raised Christian and Doug was raised Jewish, we incorporate all sorts of lovely traditions into our house and celebrate with our families. For all the celebrations are really the same, the celebration of light, love, and hope.
Decorating for the holidays should be nothing short of fun! Incorporating ideas, palettes, and items that bring joy are the basis for holiday décor.
We have collected cute stockings for a long time. The children took some of their stockings to their own homes. We are one short this year with the arrival of Ayla Mae, so I will find an adorable one for her. Santa is coming to Grammie and Pa’s house Christmas Eve! (To my great delight!) I hung the stockings with care from the curtain rods.
This was the first tree top angel I bought when I was nineteen years old in my first home. I, of course, chose the tallest tree I could fit in my house this year so angel sits in the window welcoming loved ones. Find these beautiful candles for a buck and some in the religious aisle of your grocery store. They have them without the pictures on them. They burn for a long time and they add festivity and charm to the home.
Incorporating things you love is easy. This moose was one of two that Doug got me our first Christmas together. Her head is falling off but way up on the bookshelf she has a safe place of importance.
The tree is filled with ornaments of old and new. Photo ornaments the children made in grade school and ones from my childhood. Ones from Grandma’s tree and many from our travels.
Yuletide décor is in the details. Use holiday china this time of year, even for lunch! Put oil lamps in each room. Light plenty of candles. Place strings of garland and twinkly lights in each room (even the bathroom!)
These sweet, little cloches hold seasonal treasures. Bird’s nests and moss covered twigs, sprigs of pine and pinecones.
We opted this year to just string lights around the front porch and set them on a timer. I love my ristras (one day I will be in New Mexico) and I leave the chairs and tables set up all winter in case of a sunny day that can be spent on the porch. Always add pieces of yourself in the décor. A sterile scene from a store doesn’t create the spirit of life that your own personal touches can.
Place tea candles on sand inside lunch bags and line your front walk. Light an oil lamp on the front porch for visitors. Make handmade gifts this year. Spend time enjoying the season. And make space in your heart for light, love, and hope.