December Morning Dawn

The lavender sky spreads and stretches over rolling pastures and forests of trees.

Along the railroad tracks the mist lightly rolls as dawn awakes

Golden sun rises and the air is ever cool in the December morning breeze

Deer move along the tracks with motions swift on crisp winter grass.

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Here at cozy home the dawn wakes me without clock as the lavender clouds drift by

Outside my window a new day begins of promise and light

No window coverings block my view of the large trees and the colored western sky

I mutter silent prayers of gratitude and breathe deeply.

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‘Tis too easy to get caught up in past affairs and travesties, harsh pain and mire

‘Tis too easy to become obsessed with what one still desires

But in this moment, my Dear ones out there, be the heart and smile that you would admire

Let not any negative word or thought escape to the world.

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Focus, Dears, on what is real and light and bright and sweet, upon blessings, and present here

See beauty in all things big and small, from children to birdsong,

Speak in tomes of love and forgiveness and inspire those that are near, for joy they hear

For your spirit’s light this Yule tide season can be very bright.

 

The Spirit of Yuletide Décor

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.

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Decorating for the holidays should be nothing short of fun!  Incorporating ideas, palettes, and items that bring joy are the basis for holiday décor.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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These sweet, little cloches hold seasonal treasures.  Bird’s nests and moss covered twigs, sprigs of pine and pinecones.

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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.

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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.

The Magic of a Yuletide Card

Thanksgiving eve.  There is always so much to be thankful for.  Health, family, security, home, and an inspired life.  These things I think of and am thankful for each day of the year.  As a vegetarian and a history lover, Thanksgiving isn’t really my favorite holiday.  And this year my children will be other places.  So, I have put up my Christmas houses and am clearing a place for the tree.  Yes, Yule is my very favorite holiday of the year.  The lights, the charity, the music, the wrappings, the trimmings, the beauty and joy that surrounds Yuletide is intoxicating for me.

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My grandparents with their great, great granddaughters. So much to be thankful for.

Now, I feel like we are all old friends here.  Just like you are over for coffee this pretty morning and I am telling you about how I, on a whim, just registered for a full load of classes to pursue a teaching degree (yes, I did that the other night) or am showing you photographs of my new granddaughter.  Over the years we’ve have had some laughs, we’ve had some tears, we’ve had some wine.  But I like the tangible as well.  I would love to be on your Christmas card list this year and I will add you to mine.  Let us pen old fashioned wishes and hopes for the new year.  I love hearing from readers and responding.  It makes us friends out there in this big, small world.

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Christmas cards may seem old fashioned, but they are a link and a wish to family and friends, old and new, and a moment of your time and love.  There is no greater gift than that.  Christmas cards have led to a few really fabulous pen pals for me.  I enjoy so much that moment of peeking in the mailbox and finding a card or letter.  Placing the envelope in my apron pocket as I make a cup of tea.  Sitting down to savor every word.  To be there.  To listen.  To read.  To pull out a few pieces of beautiful stationary and respond.  Yes, it is one of my favorite things.  Send me a card and I will send you one as well filled with good wishes and cheer, from my cozy home to yours.

Mrs. Katie Sanders

1901 Brown Ave

Pueblo, CO 81004

Wishing you a joyous Thanksgiving and a happy beginning to your Yuletide festivities.

The Entertaining Farmgirl’s Yuletide Gathering

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The breeze blew mischievously as Doug continued lighting the luminarias that lined the walk, the oil lanterns, and the dozens and dozens of tea lights.  The house was ready for a party.  And so was I.

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Luminarias are prevalent in New Mexico where they light the way for travelers and carolers alike.  Simply fold down a few inches of a paper lunch bag.  Pour in three inches or so of sand and place a tea candle in the center.  

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An oil lamp makes a lovely welcome outdoors and adds whimsy to the lighting indoors.  Remember, no overhead lighting allowed!  Twinkly lights and tea candles work beautifully to create drama, softened features, and enchantment.  

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We haven’t thrown a Christmas party in four years.  It was wonderful being able to send out invites to a Yuletide Gathering with a few friends.  I chose to serve soups and had my guests bring either wine, bread, or dessert.  Soups are easy to prepare in advance.  They are always delicious and hard to mess up.  Alongside, I served a platter of garlic bread for the Sherry Tomato Soup,  corn chips and sour cream for the Three Chile Mole, and green olives for the Italian Lentil soup.  Friends came bearing garlic and cheese breads, sausages in raspberry chipotle sauce, and lots of divine desserts.

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Make sure you put out little cards stating what each thing is.  The key is to free up as much time to mingle with guests and join in the festivities and you want your guests to feel at home.

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Before guests arrived I put out a platter of my homemade manchego cheese and crackers with roasted orange-parmesan olives (almost all of these recipes are in my new cookbook, From Mama’s Kitchen With Love).  I don’t wait too long after guests arrive to serve supper but something to snack on quells early dinner pangs and gives folks something to do.

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Place all plates, silverware, and glassware out so that friends can help themselves.  Use china.  You can do dishes tomorrow.  

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The couches and the easy chairs are set up in a circle for ease of conversation and it was very easy to pull up other chairs so that everyone could take part in the games and laughter.  I invited an eclectic group of people.  A surgical tech, a Reiki master, the owner of a metaphysical shop, a veteran and her older three children who homestead and homeschool, my oldest, great friends-Rod Sr., Rodney, and my dear Pat.  Everyone had things in common and the conversation stayed lively.

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Start with an ice breaker.  We name all of our animals after movies and so we named off our eight cats and dog to create a fun ice breaker where they had to name the movie.  

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From walking up the illuminated path, to having wine and hors d’oeuvres, to the ice breaker, than dinner, a ten dollar gift exchange, then the game.  We played a fun game called “Catch Phrase” that required no boards or teams, just an electronic device that we passed around that gave us a word and we had to get the group to say it with clues.  It created a lot of great laughter and fun.

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The White Elephant game where people bring odd gifts and people trade and such just creates more items that folks don’t want and may end up in a landfill.  Everyone brought a nice ten dollar gift, such as small oil burners, and salt lamps, crystals, books, and candles, and everyone was delighted with what they received.  

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Pour leftover soup into pint jars and send them home with friends!

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New friends were made, great food was had, joy was spread, and I do believe that is the best party I have had.  Such a beautiful way to celebrate the season of light.

Yule and the Talking Tree

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The Yule tree is always a conifer because evergreens survive the winter and they are a sign of hope and renewal.

I worked with a lovely Comanche elder for years and he told me the story about taking his children to gather cedar for ceremony.  As the children watched, he asked the tree if he could have part of her dress.  He said he needed a little of her cloak to help the people.

“Dad!  Did you see that?  The tree lowered its branch to you!” his daughter exclaimed.

I smiled and nodded knowingly.  I was taught to honor the plants and trees that I gather medicine from and on more occasions than I could possibly recall, the plants move and respond to voice and request.

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In the book, The Hidden Life of Trees; What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben, the author forays into the scientific explanations and the mesmerizing experiences regarding trees communicating.  Of course there is science behind everything regarding plants growing better to music and singing or trees lowering their branches to offer medicine, but in my work we don’t need to hear the scientific explanations, we just know.  We see it.

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This is a beautiful time of year to go for a walk, go hiking in the mountains, or around a trail in your park.  There are less distractions and you can get to know an evergreen.  You will find them quite jovial.  When you say hello, it will move in a small area.  Sometimes the whole thing shakes without the help of wind or breeze.

Real magic is all around us, beyond cubicles and meetings, beyond television and bills.  It has always been there.  We are heading to Taos for the weekend.  And in the woods there and along the paths evergreens wish those that pass a Merry Yuletide.

Keeping Yule Celebrations Alive

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The nights were dark and starry.  Cold as the winds blew and the people of the time stayed indoors, lamps and fires lit, families gathered in the dimly lit homes of the land.

The solstice was coming soon and across the lands the sun would shine a bit more each day.  This was a cause for great celebration among the people.  Twenty-thousand plus years before organized religion the families of the ancient lands bundled up in furs and lit lanterns and went from house to house bringing light and song to their neighbors.

The spring prior the God and the Goddess conceived and on December 21st the Goddess would give birth to the son of God, the sun.  The Holly King and his reindeer came around with gifts in exchange for a bowl of porridge.  And during the twelve days of Yule fires were lit, celebrations were had, and light was spread by all.

The newer religions of today borrow the same concepts of celebration and light.  What can we do today to celebrate Yuletide?  Spread light around you.  Compliment strangers and friends.  Check on elders and see if they are well fed and if they need company.  Invite folks into your home for a warm pot of soup and a game of cards.  Give simple, handmade gifts.  Set up twinkly lights and a Yule tree.  Sing and rejoice for the Sun God is coming and will brighten each day.

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Happy Yule everyone!

The Power of Letters and Holiday Cards

letterOpening the mailbox, I peek inside, hoping for the seasonal item that I adore, a holiday card.  This time of year as we skip to the mailbox there are more than just bills and advertisements, there are notes and photos and messages of love and good tidings.  Someone took a moment out of their busy day to scribble your address and send you a message of love for the season.  That is indeed special.

Each year I give you my postal address.  I invite you to send me a card and I shall do the same to you.  Such a beautiful tradition, Christmas cards.  Some of these cards have turned into pen pals that I have had and adored for years.  It makes it fun to go to the mailbox all year round if a hand scribed letter should be delivered.  If you would like to exchange letters, please include one!

A letter in someone’s stocking or sent via post simply stating all of the things you love and honor them for can bring an unexpected twist to someone’s day, or life.  We do not hear enough the things that are positive.  Consider in your gift giving taking the time to write someone a letter.  It would surely mean more than any tchotchke that you could come across. letter

In the age of quick messages via media, a hand written letter, note, or Yuletide card is indeed fine.  The carrier walked away with a large stack of mine.  I hope to hear from you!

Mrs. Katie Sanders

1901 Brown Ave

Pueblo, CO 81004

The Storytelling Tree

Ornaments are special.  They tell stories and relive memories on the glistening tree.

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This year when we went on our family vacation and visited the North Pole I picked up an ornament that held nine names.  It helped seal the moment.  We will look back at that ornament and relive the fun we had riding the train and petting the reindeer.

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A glass doll named Sarah that my grandmother gave me when I was very young.  Ornaments from my other grandmother’s tree.  Doug’s first ornament (he grew up Jewish) and our granddaughter’s first ornament mingle on evergreen limbs.  Decades of tales whisper among branches.

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From our trip to Las Vegas with the children in 2004.
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Ornaments that were given to me by my students in the dance company I had brighten my day. That was a special time.
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A gift from Rodney and Pat some years back. We all dream of getting our own adobes.

The tree is filled with memories of our trip to Las Vegas.  Of our honeymoon cruise.  It tells of Bronco fever and the children in elementary school.  Ornaments that were given as gifts.  Quite a few from New Mexico.  Next weekend we will pick up another.  Everywhere we go, we get an ornament.

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My Andrew at seven years old.
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Shyanne at seven years old and Maryjane’s hand print Santa.
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A very sweet five year old Emily.

When we look at our tree, it clears its throat and begins its sweet reminisce and dreams up ideas for the future.  Future names written on the tree, travels yet to be, but the comfort of home and hearth will always be the theme of our humble Yule tree.

What are your favorite ornaments?

Enchanting Christmas Decor

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Decorating for the holidays is one of the great joys of the season.  Transforming your home into an even more enchanting version of itself adds to the details of Yule.

#1 Adding faux fur rugs and blankets creates a warm, cozy feel.

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Even if the children have moved out, or if you never had children, still hang the stockings.  One for each kid, or one for each dog, it matters not.  No nails or hearth?  Hang them from the curtain rod!

#2 Decorate as if your home were filled with children.  Your inner child will thank you.

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Oh yes, this year we have a fence around the tree!  You can get inexpensive, folding fencing at an agricultural store like Big R.  It keeps puppies and toddlers out, but the kitten is still in the tree!  This year we opted for a faux tree.  It is decked with ornaments from our travels and beautiful creations our children made.

#3 Choose a tree.  Faux trees are easier to put up, last many years, hold onto the ornaments better, are a little sturdier, and don’t die in a few weeks.  But I don’t know if they ever decompose.  Real trees are fun to pick out, make the home smell nice, create a woodsy feel, and can be used as firewood after the holidays.  But we always get one with a crooked trunk, have to tie it to the wall and since I love putting up a tree right after Thanksgiving, it does look pretty shabby by Christmas.

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#4 A wreath symbolizes unity and strength, family and wholeness.  It is the universal symbol of welcome.  Make sure you put one on the door!

#5 Greenery is one of the key ingredients to a festive home.  This stuff costs five dollars at the hardware store.  Once floofed and placed around it instantly becomes Victorian style decor.  The front porch with the ristras and my old grandfather clock look festive with their draping of faux swags.

The bar is set up in festive glow ready for visitors and guests.

#6 Tuck photographs of Christmases past into mirrors around the house.

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#7 Amaryllis bulbs tucked into potted plants burst forth with tropical Yule flair.

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#8 Scatter twinkly lights and tea candles everywhere.  Winter is ever lovelier with lights.  If it’s going to be dark at 4:30 the indoors ought to be inviting!

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#9 Have plenty of firewood on hand for chilly nights.  I do adore the glorious smell of wood smoke.

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#10 Make sure you get out and enjoy the holidays!  Go see the Christmas lights around town, go to the zoo and see their light show, have dinner by a roaring fire.  If you are in Pueblo make sure you see the Riverwalk, eat at The Place, see our darling zoo, and enjoy the beautiful weather.  And pop by to say hello!

Yuletide Wishes

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My granddaughter spent the night.  This morning in the cool of the dark morning I pulled the soft covers up under our chins refusing the late dawn.  The smell of coffee wafted in the door.  The cats purred and stretched.  Bits of light cascaded past the window to announce the winter solstice.  Last night was the darkest and longest night of the year.

Maryjane and I went out last night with a small bow of pine from the Christmas (Yule) tree.  We lit the end of it and let the smoke rise up to the bright stars above (the only kind of bonfire allowed on an apartment balcony!).  We said hello to Kat as well as our animals, friends, and family that have passed on to the next dimension among the star people.  We said thank you for all the many blessings of the year and welcomed the new sun.

The people of the world for centuries upon centuries have held bonfires and feasts to celebrate Yule.  Using precious food from their dwindling larders as a way of letting Mother Earth know that the people trusted her to provide for them in the fields of Spring.  Bonfires on the darkest night, perhaps a bit of spirits, food, and festivity sang through the cold night air.

Today starts the sun’s presence growing stronger over the next six months.  Each day it will be light a bit longer.  Yule is a celebration of light and renewal.  The 12 days of Christmas was actually the 12 days of Yule, beginning on the winter solstice and lasting until New Year’s.  Greenery was thought to protect the home from illness and bad luck and as much Fir as one could put in their humble abode was good.  Boughs of greenery were decorated with ribbons and candles.  From the Yule log, to the 12 days of Yule, to the birth of the new sun god by the virgin goddess all seem to ring of coincidental familiarity.  This is the time of year to be close to the hearth, family, and loved ones, and to celebrate the light growing each day.

This is the time of the year to review our lives, our habits, and decide what will make us better, happier, and more peaceful people.  May your day be filled with light!

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