Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What are you doing on New Year's Day?

Do you have any sayings or superstitions connected to the New Year? Our family has one which I will explain in a moment but I had another I adhere to each year. I looked up some more and found it very amusing to read them.

Kiss your loved one at the stroke of midnight to ensure warmth and a closeness of your relationship in the coming year.

The first guest to enter your house should be tall, dark and handsome to influence the coming year. It is best if he comes bearing a gift. Okay, let me indulge here! I would love to see Alan Titchmarsh walk in my door at midnight bearing new things for my garden like the hydrangeas I am looking for along with an iron vase and stand for the end of my pergola. As you can see, I have plans for my garden in 2009...

Now this is one my family has always practiced. My aunt used to ask me if I was eating my pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day. We always said it would bring you prosperity in the new year. I have now read that you eat pork because poultry scratches backwards, a cow stands still but a pig roots forward. By eating pork, you will move forward in the new year. You eat the sauerkraut simply because it tastes good with the pork.

And finally...
Do not do laundry on New Year's Day, lest a member of the family be washed away.

Whatever you do on New Year's, have a safe and happy holiday!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mrs. Beeton's exhortation on housemaids...

It is almost the close of 2008. At this time of year, as you start to clean up Christmas decorations, I think your mind automatically goes to decluttering. I am trying to refit everything that came out of those boxes back in once again. I had decided to pick up a book I ordered in this past year called "The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton" by Kathryn Hughes. This will be my next read since I finished a book this morning.

My mind wondered to Victorian housemaids as it would if you are thinking about Mrs. Beeton. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a house full of housemaids when in the midst of Christmas chaos (cleaning up that is!)?

Here is a portion of Mrs. Beeton's exhortation on the duties of being a household maid. Life was busy and hard I think but then they did get those wonderful bedrooms up in the attic. *grins* I cannot help it as I grew up with a mother who wants an attic bedroom. *grins again* It would, of course, have to have an ample supply of quilts to keep me warm in the cold much like my bedroom now has. The other thing I am doing these last few days of 2008 is working on a new quilt. It is my reward between all the cleaning. Now I would not want a seamstress as I love having the needle in my hand...


2292. "Cleanliness is next to godliness," saith the proverb, and "order" is in the next degree; the housemaid, then, may be said to be the handmaiden to two of the most prominent virtues. Her duties are very numerous, and many of the comforts of the family depend on their performance; but they are simple and easy to a person naturally clean and orderly, and desirous of giving satisfaction. In all families, whatever the habits of the master and mistress, servants will find it advantageous to rise early; their daily work will thus come easy to them. If they rise late, there is a struggle to overtake it, which throws an air of haste and hurry over the whole establishment. Where the master's time is regulated by early business or professional engagements, this will, of course, regulate the hours of the servants; but even where that is not the case, servants will find great personal convenience in rising early and getting through their work in an orderly and methodical manner. The housemaid who studies her own ease will certainly be at her work by six o'clock in the summer, and, probably, half-past six or seven in the winter months, having spent a reasonable time in her own chamber in dressing. Earlier than this would, probably, be an unnecessary waste of coals and candle in winter.
2293. The first duty of the housemaid in winter is to open the shutters of all the lower rooms in the house, and take up the hearth-rugs of those rooms which she is going to "do" before breakfast. In some families, where there is only a cook and housemaid kept, and where the drawing-rooms are large, the cook has the care of the dining-room, and the housemaid that of the breakfast-room, library, and drawing-rooms. After the shutters are all opened, she sweeps the breakfast-room, sweeping the dust towards the fire-place, of course previously removing the fonder. She should then lay a cloth (generally made of coarse wrappering) over the carpet in front of the stove, and on this should place her housemaid's box, containing black-lead brushes, leathers, emery-paper, cloth, black lead, and all utensils necessary for cleaning a grate, with the cinder-pail on the other side.
2294. She now sweeps up the ashes, and deposits them in her cinder-pail, which is a japanned tin pail, with a wire-sifter inside, and a closely-fitting top. In this pail the cinders are sifted, and reserved for use in the kitchen or under the copper, the ashes only being thrown away. The cinders disposed of, she proceeds to black-lead the grate, producing the black lead, the soft brush for laying it on, her blacking and polishing brushes, from the box which contains her tools. This housemaid's box should be kept well stocked. Having blackened, brushed, and polished every part, and made all clean and bright, she now proceeds to lay the fire. Sometimes it is very difficult to get a proper polish to black grates, particularly if they have been neglected, and allowed to rust at all. Brunswick black, which is an excellent varnish for grates, may be prepared in the following manner:--

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton, 1861 - Chapter 41 - Domestic Servants

After reading all of these duties, perhaps cleaning up Christmas decorations is not so bad after all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

From my house to yours...
...we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

The holidays have arrived. Here in Holland we celebrate what they call first and second Christmas Day. We have a nice long weekend as a result and Jos and I are off to spend it at Cranberry Cottage. I have just a few last things to do and items to purchase at the grocery store and I am ready for Christmas. Are you?

I did not get all my Christmas cards written this year. There were a number of bloggers along with family members that I have missed being able to send my Christmas wishes to as a result. So I want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who reads my blog! I have been blessed with many friendships through blogging. I am trying to make rounds to wish all the bloggers Happy Holidays. What a joy to be able to share our lives together through our blogs. Thank you!

I have a number of readers who don't blog themselves and want to thank them especially! I enjoy reading your comments on my blog and have emailed with a couple of you like Donna and Hetty. I am enjoying the opportunity to get to know you. Thanks to Andylynne who has been reading my blog for so long now. To those of my online stitching group who pop in to say hello here. To my dear friend Elly from my quilt group who stops in to comment. Each and every comment is appreciated!

The weather forecast shows it is set to turn very cold. There is an excitement in the air across the country that the water will freeze over making it possible to ice skate. Who knows... These are one of my pairs of vintage Dutch wooden skates. Jos learned to ice skate with a pair just like this. I have an older pair which I use in January to decorate for winter.

Have a blessed Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pancakes and fairy lights...

We are now in those magical days just before Christmas. The mood is exciting. Decorations are hung, trees glow, presents are wrapped and cookies are baked. Now we wait for Christmas to come and that magical feeling of Christmas spirit to descend on each house.

This is my fourth and final tree to share with you. It is my sewing tree in the quilt studio. If you would like to see this tree closer, visit me here at my other blog.

My friend came over yesterday and we spent the afternoon baking a batch of Russian teacakes, stitched and chatted. In the evening, her husband came over and we all went to the little village of Lage Vuursche. It is known as the 'pancake village' as it has many pancake restaurants. During December, it is a very special place in the dark evenings. The village street is lined with Christmas trees. There is always a special feeling in this place but in December it becomes magic...

Thanks for your company Sonja and Mike. We enjoyed the evening spent together!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent Sunday - the fourth candle

It is the 4th Sunday of Advent. December has gone by so quickly even though I have tried to reflect each week on true Christmas spirit. I have not gotten caught up in the rush of commercialism. This candle is lit for love...

Reflections on this are easy for me. Although autumn is my favorite season, I truly love this time of year. Christmas is a magical time.

One major thing in Jos and my life is our love for Cranberry Cottage. We now spend each Christmas there very quietly. I am inviting you to join us by taking some time to watch this slideshow of the cottage decorated for the holidays. You can watch it here or click on the slideshow to watch.

I hope you enjoyed visiting us at Cranberry Cottage. What are some of the things you love this Christmas?

Friday, December 19, 2008

"...and to all a good-night!"

" 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap..."

Who doesn't know that wonderful holiday classic " 'Twas The Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore. A favorite for me to read each holiday season. And this storybook poem evokes the idea of creating a fun Christmas spirit in the bedroom. Who says decorations are only for the living room?

Turn up your speakers and listen to a nostalgic version of this storybook poem...

Even Bronwyn Bear gets a festive pillow to cuddle during December!

My reading corner has a little tree filled with all my handmade bobbin lace. I will be featuring this tree on Sunday on my other blog.

The window sill has been filled with pinecones and fun silver boxes...

My armoire (this still has to be sanded and painted like the other furniture) has simple blue spruce wreaths...

A pretty Christmas box sitting on our bench...

And new accents on our nightstands to show Christmas cheer...

Some greenery, tulips and holly give a simple touch of the season...

And our stockings hang on each side of the bed (a first Christmas gifts many years ago from my brother Bill)...

"And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Christmas Tree

"I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects."

This quote from Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Tree' was a great influence in creating my own Christmas tree. I loved this short story and decided that I wanted to have a tree that looked like that Victorian tree.

A tree bursting with ornaments of all varieties. A tree that kept you looking over and over at what magical things it contained.

A tree that reminded you of the wonderful people who gave you a precious trinket to hang in it or a place where you found that special toy to hang on its branches.

"This motley collection of odd objects, clustering on the tree like magic fruit, and flashing back the bright looks directed towards it from every side, some of the diamond-eyes admiring it were hardly on a level with the table, and a few were languishing in timid wonder on the bosoms of pretty mothers, aunts, and nurses, made a lively realization of the fancies of childhood; and set me thinking how all the trees that grow and all the things that come into existence on the earth, have their wild adornments at that well-remembered time."

One reoccurring theme for me in my own tree is the Nutcracker. I have some of the various ballet dancers from the Nutcracker. Look closely and you will find Clara, The Rat King, The Nutcracker Prince, Arabian Coffee, Spanish Hot Chocolate, Chinese Tea, and even the Sugar Plum Fairy herself...

It holds icicles, teapots, Santas, birds, angels, bears and even a peacock...

Poinsettias, berries and tulips adorn some branches...

Pearls are draped like snow drops around the bows of the tree...

And then, perhaps most important, is the glass pickle in my tree. It was the last ornament to be hung in my tree. It is there hiding among the branches. It is a German tradition that the first to find the pickle in the tree is blessed in the coming year and receives an extra gift. This tradition is a favorite each year when I hold my quilt group's Christmas party. Tomorrow night, the ladies will search for the ornament. I cannot show it hanging in the tree for that reason. There is a special gift wrapped and ready for the one who discovers its hiding place tomorrow...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Advent Sunday - the third candle

The third candle in Advent is the candle of joy. I started to reflect on how I wanted to talk about joy. It can bring up so many things for us all.

As I am starting to finally put our Christmas tree up, I first thought of one of my ornaments (shown above) that is a pillow with the word JOY written out in gold beads.

There are many things that give me joy in the holiday season. Home baked cookies, decorations and shining Christmas candles and lights, a Christmas card from those near or far saying they thought of you...

One other thing that gives me joy all year round is my handwork, be it stitching or quilting. I get joy from working on them and then the joy of using them again for decorating. Here are just a few pieces of my stitching that I am placing in our home during this holiday season.

What things or activities give you joy at this time of year?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Let's do a little Christmas shopping...

Remember the shop I found back in September? I had shared photos of this amazing shop and was asked to share some when the holidays came around. I stopped in this last weekend and Carla has done her magic to give the shop a perfect Christmas atmosphere. I left the photos as is so some show the pretty atmosphere instead of lightening them up. Click on any of the photos to enlarge them and step into the shop with me...

This is a photo heavy post but just put on your sound and enjoy some Christmas music while walking around this shop with me. Take off your shoes and enjoy! Maybe you will find some inspirtation for your own holiday decor...

The shop contains a mixture of vintage and new items. This is a pretty piece hanging on the wall which was sewn in 1944.

This 'poor man's silver' as it is called in Holland is very popular. My entrance has a number of pieces.

With low lighting and candles or Christmas lights aglow, this is a magical place to come. Carla, you did a wonderful job for your first Christmas season in your new shop! If you are anywhere near the village of Dwingeloo, be sure to visit De Juffer van Dwingel. You will be glad you did!