Monday, December 22, 2008

A Visit...

...from St. Nicholas

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 our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
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!"

--Clement Clarke Moore, 1822

S hine

How come it's sunshine...
but not snowshine?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

O Christmas Tree

Yesterday, after we cleared fourteen inches of snow from our driveway, we weren't inclined to do much more than sit before the fire, with our feet up and relax. We'd had enough of The Great Outdoors. Enough exercise to last a week. Enough frozen moments that vegetating for the rest of the afternoon seemed like an excellent idea.

We drank hot chocolate, ate Christmas cookies and watched holiday movies. The deal we made was that we'd alternate choosing movies. I graciously allowed hubby to make the first choice and he was predictable, as I'd expected he'd be. He chose A Christmas Carol, one of his all-time favorite films.

When my turn came I chose Surviving Christmas. Yes, we've already watched that one this season but after all those chain-rattling, graveyard-walking moments with Scrooge I needed something fun. Besides, watching James Gandolfini wear a Santa cap and sing O Christmas Tree just cracks me up every time.

By the time Surviving Christmas was over we knew we needed more than sugar cookies, so I pulled a fast pizza together and, with gourmet brownies that were a gift from a favorite aunt as dessert, we were ready to continue the movie marathon.

Hubby chose Christmas with the Kranks. I loved the John Grisham novel, Skipping Christmas, so this movie was, in my humble opinion, a great choice.

When Frosty was on the Kranks' roof and the credits had rolled, it was nearly ten pm. Yes, we'd watched movies, eaten less-than-healthy food and lazed about all day. We don't do that often here, so I make no apologies. Hubby wanted to head upstairs, his eyes bloodshot from so many hours staring at the screen but it was my turn to pick and I had decided hours before what my choice was going to be.

You guessed it. My favorite Christmas fellow, his green self so close to my heart that just the sound of the opening music makes me smile.

Hubby fell asleep on the sofa but I spent the last hours of the last Saturday night before Christmas with the Grinch. Oh, how I love that Grinch!

How did you spend your day? I hope you had as much fun as we did! Today we're supposed to get another pantload of snow so we'll probably be shoveling out again tomorrow.

Hmm...think I can get Hubby to watch the Grinch one more time? Maybe I can, if I bake a batch of his favorite fig cookies for him, and ply him with hot buttered rum. Yeah...that sounds like an idea worth investigating...

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
Not only green when summer's here,
But also when 'tis cold and drear.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me;
How often has the Christmas tree
Afforded me the greatest glee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me.

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
From base to summit, gay and bright,
There's only splendor for the sight.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

N utcracker

Last night we watched one of my favorite holiday stories, The Nutcracker Ballet. It doesn't matter how many times I see it, either live onstage or on the screen, I am captivated. The music, costumes and of course the story all enchant me.

The Nutcracker Ballet is based on a story written by E.T.A. Hoffman called The Nutcracker and the King of Mice. It is the tale of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads.

In 1891 choreographer Marius Petipa commissioned Tchaikovsky to write the music for the Nutcracker Ballet. The first performance of the Nutcracker took place at the Mariinsky Theatre of Russia in 1892. Thankfully it was a hit, and eventually made its way across Europe and to the United States.

The Nutcracker is one of our annual holiday traditions.

What about you? Is there one special performance that touches your heart?

Friday, December 19, 2008

S now, Again

...and again and again.

Remember last Friday's ice storm? The one that left us completely cut off from the rest of civilization for a number of days? The one I'll be cursing come spring when I've got to haul away all of the branches it brought down from our trees? You know, the storm that we're just now getting back to normal after?

Right, that Friday ice storm.

It looks like this Friday storm thing might be catching on. No, no ice today. Snow. Lots and lots of it...about twelve inches worth, if the prediction is accurate.

Bah! Humbug!

Now, don't get me wrong. I love snow. I love watching it fall, clearing it away. Mostly I love snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing on the stuff. Building snowpeople, I like that, too.

But the hint that so much snow falling in a very short period of time may leave us cut off again gives me the shivers. I'm just getting used to not hearing the generator's hum; thinking that we'll be using it again so soon--ugh. Just ugh.

I'm going to be optimistic about today's event, and hope the snow comes without any havoc to newly restored services. But if I disappear for a day or two you'll know what happened.

Just to be on the safe side, I'm going to spend another day in the kitchen baking cookies. Today it'll be pignoli cookies, strawberry filled cookies and good, old chocolate chip cookies. That ought to hold us through any kind of snowstorm, don't you think?

What have you got planned for this Friday before Christmas? Anything you'd care to share?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

G ood Enough to Eat

Guess what I'm doing today? Gotta have something for the Big Man to munch on when he visits, don't I?

Sugar Cookies
3 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
3. Cut in butter and blend with a pastry blender
until mixture is crumbly.
Stir in lightly beaten egg, vanilla and cream.
4. On a floured surface, roll out dough.
Cut into shapes.
Place on ungreased baking sheet.
5. Bake 7 minutes, or until lightly brown.

R eindeer Travels

I've missed talking with you every morning. Fortunately it looks like life in the aftermath of our monster ice storm is slowly returning to normal. You know what that means, don't you? Yeah, that's right...soon I'll be caught up with everything and back to chatting with you first thing every morning.

Still on the rush to catch up, so I'm just going to share a quick, but true story with you. I hope it'll make you smile the way it did me.

The names have been omitted to protect the innocent.

Picture of those morning Breakfast with Santa deals. Lots of happy children, fabulous Santa, French toast sticks to die for. All good, right?

After breakfast has officially ended, one little girl goes to restroom to use facilities. Still, all good. When smiling child emerges from bathroom, who does she see? Why, Santa, of course! Only now, Santa is in street clothes and heading for parking lot, where he gets into a pick-up truck and drives off. Now, not so good.

How to explain this to wonderful child?

Simple. Everyone knows that sometimes the reindeer fly ahead and meet Santa at his next stop, don't they?

All I can say is I'm glad Santa didn't shave in the men's room. Now that would've been really hard to explain!

Monday, December 15, 2008

E astern Sparkle

Right now, we've got power, cable and phone. It was a pleasant surprise to wake up and find that was so. But I've finally been able to watch the news and this return to civilization isn't predicted to last long. The reason? We've got high winds which are knocking restored lines down again. So I'm not going to get used to being connected.

I just wanted to say hi, let you know we're all right here. We've got a generator we've been using sparingly and enough wood to keep us warm for months. We've played chess, wrapped holiday packages and read by candlelight. We have cooked soup on the woodstove and even danced by firelight. All in all, we are faring well.

I see I've got lots of emails to answer but I hope you'll excuse me if I don't answer them until I'm sure the power will stay on. My first order of business? A hot shower and a hot meal!

Hope you're all well!

E lves at Play?

T insel

Friday, December 12, 2008

I ce

We are in the middle of a monster storm. Yesterday we had ice and sleet fall all day and through the night.

The roads in the county are all closed to anything but emergency vehicles but of course there's always an, committed soul who decides he "has" to go to work. I just saw one slide sideways past the house.

It's ugly out there but also beautiful. Everything is coated in ice and sparkles. If it wasn't so treacherous underfoot I'd go out and shoot some photos but I'm staying inside, and on my feet.

I'd best go and get some work done before the power fails. We are supposed to get a foot of snow on top of the ice and that's going to make everything very interesting.

Hope you're warm wherever you are!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

N aughty List?

Ever felt like you should be on Santa’s Naughty List? Not in the sense that you’ve done something big and bad, but more like you’re not doing all that you should be doing? Like maybe your To-Do List is getting out of hand? And if it is, in fact, growing as large as the Abominable Snowman’s belly, who’s to blame? The person who wrote the list, of course! And in this case, that would be me.

Yes, I’m having a bit of pre-holiday angst here. Thankfully I generally shake angst of any kind pretty quickly so I’m not worried this will linger. But…it’s there. Lurking beneath the surface, like a fat toad waiting to snap its tongue at an unsuspecting mosquito.

My To-Do List? Totally out of control. I’ve been chipping at it for hours and I’ve gotten enough done that it’s shrinking but I can’t help but wonder how it grew so fat and long without my realizing it.

Has that ever happened to you? One moment you’ve got four or five things on the list—then, the next time you look down, there are a dozen? Or more?

It seems the holidays, even though they are wonderful, heartwarming and joyful, come with a built-in list. Believe me, I’m not complaining. I’m just saying.

So, before I forget, some things from my list that I’d like to share with you…

Yesterday was my day to take part in Cindy K. Green’s White Christmas Jubilee. I had a blast visiting with Cindy—she always throws a great party! If you haven’t had a chance to peek in at the Jubilee, the link is here. Today’s blog guests are Kara Lynn Russell & Anna Kathryn Lanier, two very talented authors. I hope you'll head over there and say "Hi!" to all the particpating authors.

A few days ago I realized a few days ago that Proclamations, one of my short stories at The Wild Rose Press, is on sale. It’s right on the homepage, if you’d care to check it out. The direct link is here.

I went over there last week and picked up some great stories to give as holiday gifts. I’m attaching them to e-cards I’m sending to some cyber-friends. Ebooks make economical, earth-friendly gifts; who wouldn’t be pleasantly surprised to find one in their mailbox?

On the fourteenth I’m blogging at Paranormal Romance Writers . It’s my first time blogging there so I’m pretty psyched! I hope you’ll stop in and say hello. The link is on my profile page.

Something else I’m excited about—next week I’ll be the Tuesday interview over at The Long and The Short of It! Isn’t that great?

All right, now that I’ve shared some stuff I don’t feel half as stressed. Isn’t it great how that happens? You share what’s on your mind with friends, and voila! Instant stress reduction. Thanks for listening.

Before I forget, I want to let you know I'm going to have Author Chats a couple of times each week at From the Pages. Lots of talented authors have signed on to be interviewed. Look for breaking news of upcoming releases as well as titles that are already available, the inside scoop on some of your favorite authors, as well as wonderful giveaways. I think it's going to be fun for everyone. Who knows? We all may find some fabulous new-to-us authors whose work will find space on our "keeper" shelves.

If you're an author interested in appearing on From the Pages, just drop me an email. I'd love to have you visit!

So, what about you? Are you feeling a little swamped this December morning? What's on your plate today? Anything you'd care to share?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

G rinch

“He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!” —Dr. Seuss

The expression on his face might have frightened another woman. Not her. She knew better than to be afraid of anything about the man. His furrowed brow, pinched lips and shaking head just made her giggle.

“You’re kidding, right?” He folded his arms across his chest and closed his eyes. Bowed his head, as if praying for deliverance.

“You know I’m not.”

Year after year, they had the same discussion. And year after year, she won out. In the past he had tried everything to dissuade her, but now he just stood with his head down, eyes closed, and waited.

She ignored his distress and grabbed the television remote off the coffee table. Within seconds she took control of the situation, pulling the man down onto the sofa beside her. When he opened his eyes and met her gaze, she kissed him. Fast and hard, so he couldn’t speak. Their kiss lasted until the familiar music began to play.

With a sigh, he turned toward the television, where the opening credits rolled across the screen.

“You’re not kidding, then?”

“Uh uh,” she said, snugging her body into the crook of his arm. “It’s a tradition.”

“So is your Aunt Carol’s fruitcake but that doesn’t mean we have to eat any of it. Can’t we just pass on this, too?”

“Shh! Don’t say anything about that fruitcake. She bakes it because—” Why did anyone bake fruitcake? “—just because she thinks we like it. And this is better than fruitcake. Come on, get into the spirit of things. You know this is my favorite Christmas movie.”

“This thing doesn’t even have real people in it—”

“He is real!”

“And this is a cartoon. I hardly think it counts as a movie—”

“Shh! It’s starting!” Her heart warmed as she saw the object of her affection.

He stretched his legs out in front of him and pulled her close. Her head rested on his shoulder and she heard his small sigh. Capitulation.

“That’s right,” he murmured. “It’s starting. And we wouldn’t want you to miss a minute of his Grinch-iness, would we?”

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

S now

I told you that we had a humdinger of a little snowstorm on Sunday. The hills behind our house sparkle. Towering oaks and pines look like they’ve been dipped in sugar. And all the summer gardens are covered, their tilled soil finally hidden from view. It is so pretty here it almost defies description.

I know a lot of people don’t like snow. I know they don’t like to drive in it. Schlep to work wearing less-than-fashionable snow boots. Clear their cars, walks or driveways. I understand all that. Really, I do.

But me? I love snow like a fish loves water. I’m thrilled that the forecaster didn’t get this one right, that we got much more snow than was anticipated. I figure a few more storms and we’ll have enough on the ground to go snow-shoeing. And me? I adore snow-shoeing. Am simply crazy for the sport.

What about you? Snow? Or no snow?

Monday, December 08, 2008

E lf

Here in the middle of nowhere we had a snowstorm yesterday. The Weather Channel called for two inches of the white stuff, and only a 40% chance of anything at all. The forecaster obviously didn’t take our backyard into consideration when he made that optimistic prediction. Believe me, it snowed up here—and a heck of a lot more than a few inches.

We didn’t mind one bit. Nestled inside the house, with the fire roaring and Christmas music playing, we were snug. It was the perfect sort of day for decorating the tree in our great room, so we did that first. Then, we wrapped packages. Once every bow and ribbon was in place we looked at each other for a minute.

Now what?

There was no time wasted trying to figure out an answer to that question! During the warm-weather months we’re so busy here that an empty afternoon is rare. But now, with Old Man Winter howling, we’ll probably get quite a few of them.

Oh…what did we do? We settled in and had a movie marathon. All holiday movies!

We started with cheese and crackers, and Surviving Christmas—James Gandolfini cracks me up in this one. Certainly not a Sopranos adventure, that's for sure!

Then we watched Christmas Vacation, with Chevy Chase. It doesn’t matter how many times we see that movie—I always laugh until I cry. It was dinnertime by the time we popped this into the DVD player, so we made a pepper-and-onion pizza—and ate every last bite.

The funniest we saved for last. At least that’s what I think. My husband thinks we watched the funny movie first but shh! Let’s not tell him that it was the other way around. While we watched this last movie we consumed more snickerdoodles than I care to admit. Well, since we’re all friends here…let’s just say I ate more than five but less than fifty.

Hmm…? The movie? Oh! Sorry! The final feature of our movie marathon was Elf, starring Will Ferrell and James Caan. Honestly, how can anyone not think Will Ferrell wearing yellow tights and riding the elevator while doing a split isn’t funny? I have to admit, I howl at this movie. Hubby thinks I’m nuts but hey—every nut has its season. Mine just happens to be December.

How did you spend your Sunday?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

V isions of...

gift wrap. Tape. Ribbons, bows and bubble wrap.

You expected me to say sugarplums, didn't you? Sorry to disappoint, but this morning I'm all about the wrapping. Sugarplums can wait. What exactly is a sugarplum, anyway? Anyone know?

Back to boxes and bows. This morning we're going to get down to wrapping the holiday gifts. That way we'll have everything in the mail by the end of the week. Sounds like a plan, doesn't it? Let's hope it works. Every year I forget to buy something for this big wrapping event. Last year? Tape. Can you believe it? I forgot the to pick up an extra roll of tape. This year I've got the tape but I'm sure something else will prove to be in short supply.

Uh oh.

Anyone know where I can buy tissue paper early on a Sunday morning? Hmm?

On another front, I've been mulling over a few things where blogging and writing are concerned. I've got a plan for the new year, writing-wise, but I'm thinking that I'll try some new, hopefully fun and interesting, things here on the blog beginning in January.

First, I think I'll post two or three new recipes a week on the From the Kitchen page. I've gotten emails asking when I'll begin sharing more recipes so I've decided to do that.

Then, I think I'll begin hosting author interviews here on the blog. This morning I put out a call to some of the author groups asking for victims--uh, volunteers. The post looked like this:

Good morning authors!

I hope you're enjoying a peaceful weekend. Here in chilly New York I'm decorating the house and sitting by the fire and...thinking. Yes, I've been mulling over a few New Year's ideas. Why am I telling you this? Well, because one of my ideas includes you. Yes, you!

Starting in January I'm going to do guest author interviews on my blog. I think it will be fun, and I believe my readers will enjoy getting to know different authors. Interested in being a guest author? If you are, please drop me a note at with the word "Interview" in the subject line. Give me a few days to compile a list of interested authors. Then I'll send out a list of questions and we'll get started.

I hope to hear from you!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend. :)


And finally this cold, snowy Sunday morning, I'm going to remind everyone that my new mystery, Sandswept, released this past week. I've been so caught up in the spirit of the holiday that I've spent practically no time promoting the book.

Remember, books make great holiday gifts! And wrapping them requires no tissue paper at all!

Everyone has a secret. One they hide.
Sometimes, one they run from—fast and hard,
without stopping to consider the
consequences of that mad dash for sanity.

Kelley Garrett? She's got a secret. A big one.
She's hoping to shake its grip but even
someplace as peaceful as Chincoteague Island
may not be able to shelter her.

Then again, who knows? Maybe it will.
That's a chance Kelley's willing to gamble on
—with her life.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

E ntertaining Angels

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ~Hebrews 13:2

Holiday time sure brings people out of the woodwork, doesn't it? Here at the farm we see more unexpected visitors and get more surprise phone calls in December than we do at any other time of the year. Every day brings a new connection from someone we know and love, but who perhaps isn't part of our day-to-day living.

I like it. A lot.

Yesterday we received a call from someone we haven't heard from since last holiday season. It's funny, but when I heard the familiar voice the months between our last conversation melted away. We chatted for nearly an hour. Laughed over silly things. Shared success and sadness. Then, we hung up. There were no false promises to "stay in touch" or "talk soon" that are so often offered in such instances. No, we know we probably won't speak again for months and that's all right. We know that when we do hear each other's voices next there will be that same delight we always feel when we reconnect.

A few days ago we had a drop-in visit from one of Hubby's old work acquaintances. He came bearing cookies his wife had baked. Of course we were happy to see him, and we welcomed him into our home. We sat beside the fire for a while, drinking tea and nibbling cookies. When the fellow left, he and Hubby hugged and spoke of getting together in the spring to work on a building project.

This morning I'm going to bake a cinnamon loaf, just in case we hear the doorbell ring this afternoon. I love these impromptu holiday visits, and am secretly hoping someone shows up.

What about you? Are you reconnecting with anyone special? Or are you one of the drop-ins or wonderful, unexpected callers?

Hope you have a fabulous Saturday!

Friday, December 05, 2008

R aspberry Tart

Here on the farm we grow raspberries and pears. This summer I froze and canned our excess so now we'll enjoy summer-like treats all winter long. I baked the first tart of the winter season yesterday. I thought you might enjoy making the simple, yet scrumptious, dessert at your house. I used a basic, no-frills tart pastry. Use whatever one your family likes best.


Raspberry Pear Tart

2 cups raspberries
3 cups sliced pears
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar

Toss sliced pears in lemon juice to keep fruit from turning brown.
Add raspberries and toss fruit together.
In a separate bowl, combine flour,
cinnamon, ginger and sugar. Add fruit and mix well.

Place all ingredients in an unbaked tart shell.
A free-form, rustic kind of shell works especially well for this tart.
Bake in 375-degree oven for approximately 45 minutes.
Cool before serving.
Serve with ice cream, whipped cream
or vanilla bean yogurt.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Y es, Virginia...

there is a Santa Claus.

So much about the holiday season asks us to suspend belief. Have faith. Expect miracles. I realize that for some this is difficult. For me? It just comes naturally. Every day I believe in miracles and have faith in the unseen. It's a way of life in this house.

Not to say we're not down-to-earth, rational types. We are. In fact, sometimes I think we're too practical and logical. Still, there's room for more than one facet on any personality.

I believe. Do you?

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

--Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun. A quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. It was the work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

O rnaments

"That's the last one." He dropped the large green-and-red plastic tote on the floor. It landed beside six identical boxes.

A fast mental calculation. "Um...I don't think so."

"What do you mean? These are all the Christmas colored ones in that corner of the loft. The only thing left are the boxes you've marked 'Outdoor Lights' and a couple of spares."

"The spares? Are they blue?"

"Yeah. Big blue boxes." His brow furrowed. "You don't mean...?"

"I do. Those are Christmas boxes, too." A glance out the window. Snow mixed with sleet had just begun to fall. "We'll get those another time."

Heaving a theatrical groan, he flopped down into an armchair. He reached for the closest box, pried off the lid and pulled out an ornament. It dangled from the end of his index finger. An elf, its long arms curled around its legs. Its holiday suit, made of green flocked fabric, was worn thin in spots.

He smiled. "This one was..."

"Your mother's," she said softly. Settling on the floor beside his chair, she watched as he laid the elf down with care before he dug in the tote again. Next he brought out a tissue-wrapped bundle. A delicate purple metallic teardrop. "And that's one of the ones my mom gave me. I remember picking that one out when I was...oh, maybe five or six. See the little tag dangling on the top? It's got my name on it. I watched her write that tag. Then I hung it as high as I could on the tree so it wouldn't get broken."

He placed the teardrop beside the elf. Then he pulled out a small box filled with red and silver balls. A grin stole over his handsome face. "These?"

"You know what they are."

"Um...maybe I do. Maybe I don't," he teased. A quick kiss. Holding one of the balls by its slender silver wire, he looked deep into her eyes. "Would these be the first ornaments we bought to hang on our--"

"First Christmas tree."

"I thought so. If memory serves me, they were the only balls we had on our tree, weren't they?"

"They were the only ones we could afford, remember?" She put her hand on his and together they held the simple ornament up to the window. The falling snow and ice flashed across its surface, sending dancing rays of light over the room. "We chose well, I think. They're--"

"Beautiful," he murmured, drawing her close.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

N oel

Every family has its own treasures. What may be priceless to one person may be junk to another. I believe most things carry a "value" that has absolutely nothing to do with dollar signs.

Today I'm sharing one of my treasures with you. The NOEL letters are one of my earliest memories of Christmas. When I was a child, my mother put them out right after Thanksgiving. They stayed in place until January when she put the house back to post-holiday order. I remember running a fingertip over the leaves and berries almost reverently. I was afraid to break them so I was very, very careful. My mother wouldn't have said a word had I damaged the letters but I loved them so I didn't want to harm them.

When I got married my mother gave me the NOEL. It's been part of our holiday tradition every year since. The letters come out early, and stay until January. And I still run a fingertip lovingly over the swirls and berries.

Hubby and I were only married a year or so before we saw an identical NOEL in an antique shop. We purchased the second set and we gave them to my mom. Now we both enjoy NOELs...mine a gift from her and hers a gift from us.

Why am I so crazy about these little letters? They're not expensive. Not one-of-a-kind, limited edition collectibles. They're not even particularly gorgeous. Still, I love 'em.

Of course the reason these are one of my "treasures" is because they remind me of my childhood. Happy memories. Love. Wonder. Excitement. They make me feel like a little girl again, bring back the warmth in the center of my chest that bloomed every year while I watched my mother unwrap the NOEL.

So, our NOEL is out. We're ready for the holiday season.

What about you? Is there anything that your family enjoys each season that brings the warm glow of childhood back to your life? Care to share?

Monday, December 01, 2008

E nter, December

I've got to admit it. I love December. Everything about it. The music. The food. The way strangers smile at each other. Midnight Mass. Small secrets, kept with love. I just love it all.

We've begun putting out our holiday decorations and they make me feel like a kid again. Which, I assure you, is a near-miracle given the fact that my kiddie years are in the distant *sigh* past. Yesterday morning we hauled boxes of stuff from the barn loft into the house, moving swiftly beneath an ominous, gray sky. I worried we'd have to call our decorating spree off due to inclement weather but my concern was wasted. Old Man Winter must've known better than to begin blowing and snowing on our parade! He waited until we'd brought the decorations inside, and I was grateful for his consideration.

It's always heartwarming to unwrap the "treasures" in our holiday boxes. The preserved dough hand of a child. Cards from years gone by, some with letters written by those we've loved but have had to bid farewell. Trinkets picked up during years of marriage. Heirlooms, bits and pieces that come together and tell the history of our families. Of our life. Things that would mean nothing to someone else but bring immediate laughter as we painstakingly unwrap. Discover. Relive. Yeah, there's joy in the boxes.

So, enter December! Bring your wave of cheer and good tidings!

What about you? Are you as jazzed as we are to welcome the new month? And what's in your treasure boxes? Anything you'd like to share with us?