Saturday, November 29, 2008

Have Yourself a Merry LITTLE Christmas

"Season of Peace" by Bill Breedon

On Thanksgiving night my husband and I caught a little bit of the local news before we went to bed. Now, I am very thankful that the top stories were not all sorts of gruesome news (which is why I do not ordinarily watch the local news), but let me tell you what the first nearly 15 minutes of the broadcast were about: shopping. Yes, that's right. They had live "action" cameras posted outside the outlet mall where folks had spent more of their Thanksgiving day than with friends or family. Some were camped out from the night before.

It saddens me that so much attention is paid to this ridiculous tradition every year. It's the same scene every year and the same sorry behavior that is part of the reason our country is in the pickle it's in. Real news is that no matter what kind of "deal" you believe you're getting, it's no bargain when you can't actually afford to pay for it. A sincere prayer of mine this year is that the difficulties of our nation will encourage real change - that behaviors and habits that include living beyond one's means will be looked at and altered.

For years I have wanted simpler Christmases. I even facilitated a workshop one year based on the book Unplug the Christmas Machine. I have learned a lot from that book and incorporated much from it into our own celebrations, but this year is going to be even simpler and I am thankful for this.

Due to the unemployment we went through this summer and the new job my husband got, but with less pay, my girls know not to expect as much as in years past. They know they will be getting one thing they really want (within reason, of course) and the rest of their gifts from us will be hand-made or second-hand or other small surprises. Gifts to other family members will be the same. I am excited about it and am looking forward to interesting and creative gift-giving and receiving this year.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling a little bit glum about the upcoming season. Not because of the aforementioned things, but because I was feeling a little bit like we were just going through the motions and that is definitely not the way I want to feel at Christmas! I was beginning to feel that the busyness was going to be rushing in and I didn't want that either. So, I started with asking my children what they really wanted this Christmas - what was important to them?

Their answers were few and simple:

They wanted to be at one of their grandma's houses this year for Christmas. That was easy. Maia wants me to make Kringla, which is a Norwegian cookie my grandmother used to make every Christmas. That's easy too, but that may be all the baking I will do this year. Baking is not one of the things I look forward to at Christmas and so I don't plan to do much of it. Maybe if the mood strikes me, but I'm not thinking of it as something I "ought" to be doing with my children. We've baked the traditional, cut-out cookies every year, but no one flinched when I said I didn't really want to do those this year.

One thing I will do is make the homemade, iced cinnamon rolls I make every Christmas morning. And Eve wanted to be sure that we have the Christmas music playing to signal them when they can come running out of their bedrooms on Christmas morning.

I think there is a Christmas parade in a small, charming town south of us. Perhaps we'll go to that, do some window shopping and maybe have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. I will also be seeking out some way for our family to serve others.

I usually enjoy a Christmas Eve service despite the fact that our small, house church does not do this. Last year I went to my old church to see old friends and hear the choir. This year I may visit another pastor friend's church. We also have been invited to our friends' annual Christmas pageant, which we attended last year and which we'll likely do again.

All of these things seem easy to me; doable and cost little to no money. They center around things we'll do together, but won't require a lot of preparation or stress.

More than anything, I want this Advent season to be deeply and quietly spiritual for me. I kept meaning to look for an Advent devotional online to use for myself and perhaps with my girls too, but I hadn't gotten around to it yet. God is so good at knowing our hearts, though, and to my delight and surprise yesterday morning when my mom stopped by to drop off a few things, she also had picked up an extra Advent devotional at her church last Sunday. So, while I won't be getting out the whole of our decorations today, I will be rummaging through for our Advent wreath which will grace our table for the entire season.

This year, I want to be having something of a Merry little Christmas. We'll see how it goes, won't we? :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

BND 2008

That's right! It's Buy Nothing Day today, folks! And if you need a reminder as to why this is so important, please see the movie via the link below.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Enjoy the Day ~ Happy Thanksgiving!

May God bless you and your family this Thanksgiving Day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Second-Hand News

One of the very well-received gifts we got for our girls last year was five dollar gift certificates to the Goodwill bookstore in our town. I've written of this wonderful place before. It is set up like a "new-book" bookstore, with well-arranged, themed areas and nice places to sit. Most books cost about $2.99 and most children's books are .99 or just over a dollar. Five dollars goes a long way in there for my girls. They can easily walk out with a bunch of .79 comic books or 3 chapter books.

There are more than just books there, though. They have videos and DVD's too and there are often some surprised tucked in amongst the shelves: a brand new set of watercolor pencils in the art books, little stuffed animals in the children's area. It's a wonderful place to relax and browse and spend a good hour.

I did that on Sunday when I picked up two more gift certificates. I was also looking for a copy of The Message Bible, but no such luck. However, I did find some treasures that I am equally excited about:

I have been a fan of Emilie Barnes for a long time, but have never actually purchased one of her books - just read them from the library. So when I found, If Teacups Could Talk, I eagerly grabbed it up. I don't have regular tea parties, though I've had a few, but after reading this, I may just have to have some more. In any event, it has wonderful, creative ideas regarding hospitality and I always enjoy reading about that.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find the book on braiding hair. It is one of those high-quality Klutz books that I love so much; they always have wonderful pictures and nicely-detailed instructions. We had borrowed a similar Klutz book from some friends, but it was primarily for children. This book of hairstyles is aimed at a more mature audience and I am excited to look over the beautiful styles.

Finally, I found this Bible study that I'm sure many of you have already read before, A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George. Along with it was a study guide, both in perfect condition, so I decided to give them a try, as I was wanting some more direction in my quiet times. So far, all I can say is this book is perfect for right now; such a God thing. I am so thankful. Just one chapter in and I'm already loving it.

I know that I will have some thoughts to share as I go through the book. One thing I am thankful for this year is all the abundant resources our country has - second hand.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Plans and a Major Award

Just got back from the second Thanksgiving grocery run. *sigh* No one seems to have chestnuts (not water chestnuts) in a jar. I did purchase some regular chestnuts for roasting, which we love, love, LOVE this time of year, but I am certainly not going to roast and peel all the chestnuts I might need for the new Chestnut Stuffing recipe I want to try. Oh, well. It looks like a good recipe anyway, even without the chestnuts...

One thing I was very gratified to see in all my marketing about town was the number of folks I have seen remembering their cloth bags!! Hooray! Reflecting on this, I really have to wonder why it took stores so long to wise up about selling cloth bags. People actually PAY to give you free advertising (if and when you buy a store bag) and then you don't have to purchase so many yucky plastic bags to give away.

I think I have everything I need now for our big day here on Thursday. Our menu will be as follows:

Jasmine and Wild Rice over Acorn Squash with Braised Vegetables
Green Beans with Walnuts and Shallot Crisps
Chestnut (?) Stuffing
Wheat Berry Salad with Pomegranate
Cranberry Chutney
Garlicky Mashed Potatoes
Dinner Rolls
Raw Veggies and Dip
Spiced Cider
Red and White Wine
Pecan and Pumpkin Pie (vegan)
Pumpkin Pie (non-vegan)

Oh yes... and Mom is bringing along a rather unfortunate bird. :( But I did want you all to see the beauty and plenty and life of our table without that other unfortunate tradition. When folks wonder aloud what we eat at Thanksgiving, there is SO much.

There is so much, in fact, that I am doing my cooking in little pieces this year. Tonight I will be toasting nuts, soaking the wheat berries, and preparing the shallots. Tomorrow I will make the pies and the Wheat Berry Salad with Pomegranate, prepare the vinaigrette for the green beans, chop the onions and the fennel, and cut and set out bread for the stuffing. Then, hopefully, I will be able to more peacefully enjoy my Thanksgiving morning preparations with the sounds of the Macy's parade and then the dog show in the living room. I can go in now and then and check out the marching bands - my favorite part of the parade.

The first gathering of the Knit Wits was a great deal of fun. A couple of people couldn't make it, but I am sure our group will slowly grow. Eve, who already knows how to knit, was shown how to make a crochet chain and she is insisting on chaining the entire yarn ball. Then her grand plan is to knit from that chain! Well, we'll see how that all turns out!

Don't let Maia fool you here! She is concentrating, not on knitting or crocheting, but on her Nintendo DS!! She's not as into crafts as the rest of us are, but she had a great time battling Pokemon and sipping her tea along with us and our coffee.


Finally, my friend Jennifer has given me an award. In fact, it is a Major Award! Ooooo, aaahhhhh. :) Darned if I could tell you, though, what exactly the picture is...

Oh, well. Anyway this award, "acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day."

The rules are:

1. Accept the award and post it on your blog along with a link to the person who has awarded you.

2. Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

And now the fun part for me: picking other blogs! Check out these award winners if you haven't already. :) If you already have this award ladies, then I know I'm in good company when I say, "I concur!"

Cardinal Acre
Handmade Homeschool
Harmony Art Mom
Like Merchant Ships
Morning Ramble
Living, Learning, and Loving Simply
By Sun and Candlelight

Bring on the Knit Wits!

School is a bit looser this week as I ready our home for our Thanksgiving feast! First, though, tonight I am having my mom, some of her friends, and my mother-in-law over for the first meeting of the Knit Wits!

My mom's good friend L. Jane wanted to start a knitting group last year, but never got around to it before she headed north again for the summer - snowbird that she is. She had wanted to call her group the Knit Wits. That's classic L. Jane.

Fast-forward to this year and mom's beau and L. Jane's husband will be playing cards on Monday nights. Mom wondered if I'd like to do something and I mentioned having everyone come over to knit. So, Mom is bringing L. Jane and another friend, Bea, who likes to crochet. I just taught my mother-in-law to knit last week, so she'll be coming with her scarf-in-progress. And I invited my neighbor, Nancy, over to learn if she would like, or just visit. Nancy is my neighbor's mother. She and her husband would winter with their son and then a year and a half ago, her husband passed away and now she lives with his family (a.k.a. my neighbor and pastor) next door. She hasn't met too many women her age, so I'm hoping she'll join us for a while.

Of course, this makes me the only one, other than my girls, under 60 in the group. This is really fine with me; I love being with groups of women of any age. But I do need some 30's and 40's to represent!! So, I invited a neighbor down the street and she said she'll be able to come in a couple of weeks.

I'm really looking forward to our group tonight and know it will be a time of blessing for everyone.

So, if you are in the U.S., are you hosting Thanksgiving at your house this year, or are you traveling over the river and through the woods to someone else's place? I will post more about our upcoming Thanksgiving Day tomorrow... as well as news about a Major Award! :)

Have a great evening everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sharing Pictures and a Link

So much for my posting every day, eh? Ha, ha! Well, perhaps I'll start on Monday (said Scarlett).

In the meantime, my camera is home, sweet, home and I took a few snaps yesterday of our science co-op. We are studying the human body this year. We were talking about muscles yesterday, but last month bones and teeth were on the agenda and I'd forgotten the Plaster of Paris for teeth casting. So, no, they aren't getting mouths washed out with soap, but are biting into modeling clay covered with plastic wrap to make a cast.

It was a good time and the casts turned out pretty nicely!

Well, I was going to share a funny video with you that I found on YouTube, but I can't seem to figure out how to get it over here. :( Advice would be welcome! :)

So, instead, go see something beautiful at the Green Kitchen blog. The first two posts there are utterly charming!

I'm off to seek out a recipe for vegan pumpkin and pecan pie!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook III

Read more Daybook entries here.

FOR TODAY, Nov. 18, 2008...
Outside my window... the sun is sparkling on the slate-gray pond. The wind is blowing cold air from the North.

I am thinking... that I would like to try to blog every day for a month at least. I don't think there would be pictures every day... it wouldn't always be stellar writing or deep thoughts, but just a record here of me, every day. Hmmmm....

I am thankful for... our warm, cozy house, the pleasant, happy nature of my children, and having Paul here in the mornings.

From the learning rooms... A "Tree of Thankfulness" grows more leaves every day as we head toward Thanksgiving.

From the kitchen... comes the aroma of coffee and sounds of breakfast in the making.

I am wearing... striped, green and blue flannel pj bottoms and a gray, thermal top.

I am creating... oh, so many Christmas gifts! Shhhhhh!

I am going... over to Mom's to dinner tonight.

I am reading... mostly just magazines at the moment ~ getting ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I am hoping... for a peaceful, simple holiday season.

I am hearing... my family in the kitchen.

Around the house... are various projects tucked here and there away from wondering eyes.

One of my favorite things... is when all the chores are done and I can sit, cuddled with a blanket - or someone next to me - and knit, knit, knit.

A few plans for the rest of the week: A slower week compared to last! We'll go to our science co-op tomorrow. I need to get some organic pesticide for some little creature that is chomping on my Swiss Chard. I my have Mom and some friends over this coming Monday for a knitting group and then all the preparations for Thanksgiving are in the works.

Here is picture thought I am sharing... sorry. Nothing today. I MUST get to teaching school and I'm picking up my camera tonight at Mom's.

Have a wonderful day!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, Maia - Twelve

Wish I had some pictures to share with you all today, but it seems I left my camera at Mom's. I'll post a few in a few days.

We had a birthday party for my girl there yesterday; she is 12 today. Yes, oh, my. 12. And yet, this birthday is not hitting me as hard as some have. I suppose I attribute that, thankfully, to two things: one is that she is not as "grown up" as I think I once feared these older ages to be, and two, she is just a fine, fine person.

What a pleasure it is to get to know your children over the years. What a blessing it is to genuinely like them. A lot! Maia has a terrific sense of humor and a laid-back, easy-going personality. She has a few moody days, but they are exceptionally rare. She is not like her Mama; she really rolls with things.

She easily makes friends with both boys and girls. In fact, recently, when we were looking through a bin of clothes given to us, there was a sweatshirt that said, "Girls Rule." She said she didn't want that one. "I don't like things that say mean things about boys," she said. "I've got a lot of boy friends." And she does. Not a boyfriend yet, though!! And we'll just be keeping it that way for some time thankyouverymuch!

This was her first co-ed birthday party. Just two of those boy friends came to the pool party hosted by Grandma and Jerry and the kids really had a blast. The kids came to our house and then we all carpooled over to Grandma's where Grandma and Mr. J greeted everyone with a Hawaiian lei and a fully decorated lanai in Hawaiian style. It had been an above normal week weather-wise and was a steamy day, but we knew a cold front was moving in and so the pool was heated to a comfy 84 degrees F.

The kids played Marco Polo and other games and had a few races. We took a break for doughnuts - in lieu of cake - and a few other treats and then the kids entertained themselves in the pool for another hour. It was time to go just as the promised cold-front was moving in. Home later, they all played Freeze Tag until parents arrived. Such a great day with a group of great kids.

Today I am in a sweatshirt and long pants. Autumn has returned and we look toward Thanksgiving. But I will remember this fun day for a long time. The day my girl entered her last year of "official" childhood. I have said a couple of times this year to a few friends that I while I would love to have a day to hold her again, so small and soft, in my arms, I would never give up the time I've had with her or the time I enjoy now with the person she's become.

Happy, happy birthday, Maia!! I love you so very much!

Photo credit: Doughnuts with Sugar Pearls and with Chocolate Icing by Alexander Feig

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Knitting

I don't talk a lot here on my blog about my knitting. There are many blogs that are primarily knitting blogs and I enjoy dropping in at their places from time to time. Obviously, Golightly Place has a wider spectrum, but when I think about it, I probably have not said enough about my knitting.

Knitting, for knitters, I know can mean many different things. For some, it is an enjoyable hobby. For some it is an addiction! Or perhaps it is the yarn that is an addiction, because, let me tell you, there is a lot of money being made and lost in the realm of yarn in all its varieties. For me, though, it is more than a hobby, but I wouldn't call it an addiction. Perhaps I simply do not have enough money to have a large stash, but I never have been one to buy things just to have them; I usually need to have a purpose - in this case a project - in mind before I make a purchase. No, for me, knitting is solace, meditation, comfort, peace.

Yesterday I had, shall we say, a moody day. Hormones in overdrive, it didn't take much to make my eyes well up. I needed my knitting. I thought about my knitting as I went about necessary tasks, Just this and this left to do, and then I can get to my knitting. Finally, there was one thing that put me over the top and I just had to set out to get. it. Sitting down in my glider (oh, yes, I know the picture of the granny in the rocker and I embrace it fully!) I began to breathe deeply. My husband sensed my tension and came over and said gently, "Is something wrong, honey?" "Yes," I whispered, not wanting to blow, "but I can't talk to you about it right now... I just need a little bit of time to knit." The thing that had happened had hurt my feelings and I was afraid that this being that particular time of the month, that maybe, just maybe I would over-react. But I knew the knitting could calm me down if I could just look at it and concentrate on it for even just five minutes. A thought would come to my head that would make me want to cry and, like seated meditation practice, I could bring my thoughts back to the present where they belonged - not five minutes ago when a word stung - and replay it over and over... and over again which is what my brain reeeeeallly likes to do. Just purl and purl and purl. Knit one, yarn over, knit two together, knit one, yarn over, knit two together. The rhythm began to work its magic. And yes, in five minutes I really was fine.

I know that knitting cannot solve all of my problems, but it has become a fine form of meditation, and therefore stress-relief, when other things have not helped as much. I have practiced seated meditation and enjoy it, but it is not portable like my knitting is. That doesn't sound logical, I know. But whereas some people do look a little longer than normal if I pull out my knitting while waiting for our seats in a restaurant, they would look a bit more askance if I crossed my legs in lotus position, closed my eyes and began focused breathing.

I had wanted to knit for a long time. My mother did teach me one time, the basic knit stitch, but I knew nothing beyond that, and somehow was too preoccupied with other things to devote myself to really learning. I do know that I thought it was likely too hard to learn on my own (it wasn't) and I knew that I didn't have enough money to take the classes I thought I needed. I remember, though, walking into Depth of Field Yarn on the West Bank in Minneapolis, years ago and being just gaga for the colors and textures and just insanely jealous that I couldn't do that. Not too long after that I remember reading a painful article in a magazine about a woman whose daughter had died from cancer at 6 years old and how knitting was her solace that was getting her through, day by day, one stitch by one stitch, at a time. I remember thinking that this was an incredible thing. I also remember believing her.

Fast forward to four years ago when I began to really teach myself how to knit. Still didn't have money, but I did have Melanie Falick's book, Kids Knitting. Really, I reasoned, if children can knit, and create these cute projects, how hard could it really be? And so, I began. It was around this same time that I had an anxiety attack. I think I've mentioned this somewhere around here before and its too long a story to share at this point, but I do wish, now, that I would have been far along enough into my knitting to realize the effects it would have upon me. Because I have now "used" my knitting when I have needed it.

When I went for my very first mammogram and they called me in the next day because they needed more pictures, "a better look," they said, the knitting was there with me in the waiting room and in the hall outside the radiologist's office as he looked at the slides and my children played in the chairs next to me. I didn't want to frighten them. When the nurse came and told me everything was just fine I absolutely melted and sobbed with relief. "Wow," she said, " I didn't even know you were scared..."

Plane rides, too - a necessary evil in my book - have been more manageable with my knitting in my lap and my iPod in my ears.

Today, I enjoy a long car ride more or even waiting for an oil change all because I have my knitting. Sometimes it is mindless knitting while watching t.v. and sometimes it is very focused, challenging knitting when I am trying to learn a new pattern or pay attention to lace. Sometimes I am thinking about and praying for the recipient and sometimes I am just praying that it will fit. Sometimes I am angry with my knitting, but then there is the conquering feeling of success that comes with figuring out - like a puzzle - a challenging pattern. I like knowing that a charity blanket may be bringing comfort to a child in some far off place. Or that my own child will remember the time spent and the handmade things that her mother made for her. The colors and the feel of the fibers in my hands. All these things add up to a most rewarding experience.

So, my knitting. Something so small and yet so very large. Comfort given to both the giver and the receiver. Could it bring world peace? Some think it could. If mankind put down its weapons and began making a scarf or a hat for its neighbor, it makes you wonder... For me, though, yes, knitting is peace. I'm thankful to have found it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The New Deal

I have been thinking quite a bit about what I wanted to say about our newly elected leader over the past couple of days. Many, it seems, were ready with words, but for some reason I just couldn't completely formulate mine.

One of the reasons that I think I have a hard time putting my thoughts out there is that I move in such an interesting crowd. Being that we are both Christians and homeschoolers who live in an historically "red" state and a presently "red" and conservative county, I do not usually discuss my political views with a lot of people. Most people in my neck of the woods seem to believe that Christian = Republican and that you really ought to be one if you are the other. This is not to say that if I'm asked I won't talk about my political views, but I don't like to invite debate with people who are my friends.

I am not Republican. Technically, I'm not really Democrat either. I'd prefer to vote Green if I believed that party would get a fair chance in the public arena. But I'm more liberal than conservative. The one thing that hurts and bothers me so much is the feeling I have had over the past number of years is that conservative voices (and nearly all of them my Christian brothers and sisters) often came across as believing that they were were the only ones with the corner on morality. My friends - the people I actually welcome into my home, spend time with, and their children with whom my children play - don't outright treat me that way, but there have been plenty of lunch table discussions in which I am the silent minority. When they learn of my political differences from their own they almost always sincerely ask immediately and with great interest, "But what about abortion?"

My answer is this: I am pro-life. I do not believe that abortion is a right choice to make. But I also feel a number of things: 1) Making it illegal is not going to make it go away. 2) I can disagree with my chosen elected leader on some points. I do not expect to agree on everything with any one person as it is. When looking at all the issues that face our country, I agreed more with the platform of Obama than McCain. 3) The abortion issue is one of life and death. But it is not the only issue of life and death that we face: there is war, there is adequate health care (which, when lacking - especially for those with pre-existing conditions - has meant death too), there is poverty and more.

As for my feelings about Tuesday's outcome, I am thrilled. I can certainly say that. I'm excited, but even more than that, I'm inspired by our new leader. I haven't felt inspired by an American leader in a LONG time. I was feeling a bit jaded by the behavior of many of our past presidents and other politicians, but I'm willing to jump on the bandwagon of Obama's "audacity of hope." When I see that we've elected the first African-American president and remember all that they have had to overcome in our nation's history and yet, still press on, I think, "Who am I to feel jaded?"

I don't feel like I have unrealistic expectations for our new president. My hope and expectation is simply that he is who he presents himself to be; that he will walk his talk. Whether he achieves everything he would like to do remains to be seen, but if I can see him making continued efforts toward those goals and if he continues to conduct himself with the dignity I believe he has shown in his campaign and to which his office deserves, I will be very happy indeed.

Continuing in prayer for our nation and its leaders...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

And Now, November

...but first, we really ought to finish beautiful October. Can you believe we are in the last two months of the year?! It seems sudden to me somehow. Maia said, last night, as she was examining her cache, "I love the end of the year! All the best holidays are at the end of the year!"

Here's how we finished October off with a bang:

Maia was a pirate. Daddy made her sword out of wood scraps and she worked this week painting it. Awesome! :)

Total cost: $0


Look out for ghouls!
Outstanding costumes

- Maia Pivec

Eve was a "Spa Lady." Her face was cold all night because of the non-drying mask she wore, but she looked fantastic!

Total cost for her costume: $1.36 for the mask.


Halloween is orange
tastes like pumpkins
looks like fun
sounds scary
feels cool

- Eve Pivec

Our neighbor girl came over and joined the pirate and spa lady as "The Tacky Tourist."

That pirate's sweet smile is deceptive...

... her blade is swift and deadly!!

Spa Lady is glad to be on her good side. She's learned to put up with her antics.

And then, the haul, of course. Lots of wheeling and dealing took place. The vegan swapped with the vegetarian and omni, alike. After a good tooth brushing, the natives went to bed with smiles on their faces.

So, now, we welcome November!

November Nights

November nights are
purple nights-
dusky purple deep-
And in the purple twilight,
The summer flowers sleep.

November nights are purple nights.
Now, when the shadows cling,
I dream of summer's heliotrope
And lilac for the spring.

- Leland B. Jacobs
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