Archive for December, 2009

My little Christmas Tree

A Few Snowmen on the Shelf

This strange lovely week is, of course, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Of course, Andy is going to work tomorrow. But even for him, I bet the week doesn’t feel quite normal. It stands outside of regular time, somehow. It is a time for reflection, for last minute things to do before the old year, 2009, comes to a close. A time to think of plans and goals.

I am putting up a few pictures from Christmas at my house this year. It is so much less than it used to be, but it feels like quite enough.  Every Christmas will be different from now on. But I think every Christmas will be good, will be a blessing to us all.

I am making long lists, making plans, and hoping for good things this coming year of 2010. It is a bit silly to realize that I seem to like even numbered years better than odd numbered ones, even though I was born in an odd numbered year! But so it is.

I’m already looking forward to Florida! There is quite a pretty snowfall from last night and today, but already I am thinking of time on the beach! I know I should concentrate more on what is here and now, and enjoy that! And this week, several of my nephews and their families are here, especially Miki and Marian and Baby Lea who live in Budapest. It will be fun to see them again, which I haven’t done since Christof and Sabrina’s wedding in September.

Creche on the Mantle

Another Creche looking toward the deck

Here are two more Christmas pictures from my house this year, both in the living room. I think I should work on improving my photography this year!

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D.E. Stevenson wedding photo 1916

This evening Alice, Mike, Nathan, Bo, Andy and I gathered in the kitchen by candlelight, having moved the little round table with the advent wreath on it and lit many candles as the only light in the room for our traditional Christmas Eve ceremony. Even though so many things have changed, this remains very similar to what it used to be when Alice, Emily and Andy were young children, growing up.  At one point, when we could see that Nathan was very eager to see his presents, Andy read the nativity from St. Luke and after a few more songs Baby Jesus rang the bell to let us know that he and his angels had finished leaving gifts under the tree. So we went into the living room and opened our gifts with much happiness. I won’t list all our presents, but I had two hand made gifts from Alice and one was a three dimensional model of Nathan’s hand. It hangs on the entry to the family room now, but I’m not sure that is the best place for it yet….And Andy and I gave their family a play station 3 with two games and an extra controller so two could play together. One game was Little Big Planet. Or Big Little Planet? They tried it out on our tv. I think everyone was having lots of fun, but I was becoming very sleepy!

Alice took pictures during the singing and dinner and I only recalled later that I had left my camera upstairs…….There was a sort of golden look to everything because of the candlelight.

And for those who know our family, the day began with a phone call from my oldest sister in law, Isa, who lives in Budapest and one of the last phone calls was from my Emily who is in Germany right now with Ingmar and my two granddaughters, Sofia Maus and Clara Maus.

Earlier, when I was taking a break, I wrote a poem about some of the characters in DEStevenson books. She is my favorite author, not the least bit literary but when read closely full of both fun and a distinct moral vision of the world which fits quite well with my own and others in the discussion list which has been going strong for 12 years now. The poem was a sort of simple gift to my fellow list members and if you don’t know her books, it won’t mean much to you. If you do, it will make you smile, I hope…..
DES Poem

They come to me when I am half asleep,
Drowsy over a book
These people I have known only in books:
David shifting vegetables in Covent Garden,
Sarah picking up pearls in Lottie’s house,
Anna’s daughter choosing her attic,
And Bel gardening on a London rooftop.
Mamie playing piano for Jock,
Rhoda painting the colorful snow,
Kit traveling around the world,
and Iain being boatman down by the loch.

What a gift they all have been and are!
Barbara transforming into Elizabeth,
Charlotte buying a Buddha
Katherine cleaning out her cupboards
and Sue searching in Leiden.

Here is Guy tripping over a footstool
And Mrs. Hetherington-Smith giving gifts,
Another Charlotte writing letters to someone she doesn’t know
and Julia murmuring “Hiawatha” to Uncle Ran.
Mrs. Tim beginning her diary,
And Tim himself, escaping from France.
Markie is disarming a sleeping soldier
and Sal is making a pot of tea
While George practices magic
And Sam rejoices in Elizabethan clothes.
Tonia and Mr. Smilie walk to Melville House in the dark
And Nell meets a baby in the chaos of  Carlisle station.

What a lovely gifts, enduring treasure
Lighthouse books
Leading us to that harbor
Where we wish to be.

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My mother's Christmas plates on the hutch

Alice and Mike's Christmas Tree

Remember the picture of the hutch cupboard with my grandmother’s Wild Turkey plates which I put up at Thanksgiving and posted here a few weeks ago? Now I have changed to my Mother’s Christmas plates. She always called them her “Plummer Plates”, as this was the company that originated this pattern which was later bought by Spode and has become amazingly popular, even though lots of other companies now make Christmas plates. Whenever I look at them, a lot of happy memories bring a song to my heart.  I have also posted a picture of Alice’s beautiful Christmas tree as we saw it at Nathan’s birthday party last Saturday. He is five years old now, and I see how much he has grown in “wisdom age and grace” and find it hard to believe it was that long ago that we were at the hospital to celebrate his birth. Alice made a Yoda cake for him this time. He also had a party with Mike’s family for which she made an R2 D2 cake. And then Christmas coming. No wonder he’s all wound up! But yesterday he helped Alice for two and a half hours in the cold harvesting crops for the Christmas share at Crown Point.  Without a complaint! What a hero!

The Birthday Boy

The star on top of Alice’s tree is one she had admired on an excursion in the country some years ago and her Dad secretly bought it for her that year. I love the simplicity of her decorations which are mostly straw or red. It has such presence and peace and joy.

Hungarian Girl Scout Leaders Christmas Caroling

After the birthday party we waited for the arrival of the Hungarian Girl Scout leaders with their wonderful Christmas Carol gift. (I couldn’t get a picture with all of them in it. There were sixteen carolers.) This is the second year they have come to Alice’s house. They sing for about twenty minutes and we were the eighth house where they had done this performance and they had one more after us! What stamina and what dedication.  And we are quite far away from the center of their activity in Cleveland. I am so grateful they were willing to drive so far to give us this gift of joy and Christmas spirit!

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I’ve had several thought in mind as possible blog topics, but they are somewhat jumbled in my mind in these shorter December days which are so very distracting with Advent and Christmas and things that should be done before the year ends and books I’m reading when I might be doing other more useful things!

Life is not neat and orderly, nor especially stable, but is certainly able to be a joy every moment if we let it. Yes, it can be experienced as a joy even if there are problems or conflicts or sadness. There are blessings to be counted which can make us joyful, and perhaps one of them is that nothing lasts forever.

I just finished reading Alexander McCall Smith’s new book La’s Orchestra Saves the World and liked it a lot, though it is a little different from all his other books, and isn’t that a blessing too, even though I have greatly enjoyed them. This one is set mostly in England just before and during WWII, in a country village in Suffolk. When Paul and Andy and I spent a month in the UK in the summer of 1998, living a week in Eastleigh, a week just south of the Scottish border at a little place called Bailey Mill, and in the Suffolk village of Hepworth, near Bury St. Edmonds, with overnight stays and touring in Canterbury and Shrewsbury, I think Suffolk was our favorite place. And it was a place I really had not heard much about and only chose to stay in because a D. E. Stevenson friend, Alison Bunting, was there at the time, living in the little market town Diss. So this book brought me a lot of happy memories. But quite without that pleasure, it is well worth reading. Smith is discursive, intelligent, unpretentious, and has a satisfying sense of life and value. This world is a good one to be in.

The book I’m reading this morning is Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, whom I knew when she was part of the Maud Hart Lovelace discussion list which I’ve been on since 1997. This is a children’s book, really a picaresque gentle adventure strewn tale for readers of every age, set in a magical past in China and  full of charm and satisfaction as the heroine Minli  (whose name means quick thinking) attempts to change the fortunes of her family, meeting talking goldfish, dragons (at least one so far) and a helpful young king along the  way. You can see Grace’s interview on the Today show at her website.


Otherwise, this is just a quiet time of year with a little bit of urgency, but far far less than formerly, to be ready for Christmas. I have a live Norfolk Island Pine on the stone table in my living room for my Christmas tree this year and just a few decorations. The Christmas plates from my mother are on the hutch, the new lovely kirigami snow flakes (made by Cynthia Emerlye  of http://www.emerlyearts.com) hang from the chandelier in the book room.

The creche should be set up this afternoon. There are also potted poinsettias scattered about, angels and a very small nativity on the window sill above the kitchen sink, and small surprises on tables and shelves, and I will try to post pictures of some of this later today. I’ve tried to have something Christmasy in most rooms, but it’s much much less that what we used to do. But that needed jumping up and down on ladders for hours, and I am not sad to move to something less intense.

Yesterday was bright and sunny and today is quite gloomy and dark without. But I’m trying to light a little candle in my heart and I hope you all catch the warmth!

Last Year's tree, tabletop cut Frazier fir

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