Saturday, December 29, 2018

An Afternoon Tea at The Secret Garden

Hello, Dear Friends, I wanted to share one last 
  Christmas post before the holidays were over.


Recently, my daughter, Heather,
  her mother-in-law, Patty, and I went 
to 'The Secret Garden' for afternoon tea. 

It's one of my favorite places. 

A quick pic of Heather, right before we went inside. 
She is the mother of 3 little boys - a 2 year old, 
and 1 year old twins.
She is a very busy Mom.
Her dear husband took over for the day
so she could get a much-deserved time out.  

Both Patty and I each help out
2 days a week while they work,
 so Heather wanted to treat us. 

While we waited for our table, we stood in 
the front foyer, enjoying the ambiance.
The long, narrow hallway by the staircase   
was beautifully decorated for the holidays
with treasures that were all for sale. 

We were escorted to a cozy, back room 
that we had all to ourselves. 
But only briefly......we were just ahead of the lunch crowd.
Each table is uniquely different. 

Our table was tucked next to a window with lace curtains. 

Patty and I with our backs to the wonderful rosy wallpaper. 

Heather, next to one of the many decorated trees. 


After we ordered tea (I had a winter chai), 
the first course was a delicious pumpkin-ginger bisque. 

Next, was a raspberry sorbet to cleanse the palate. 
Don't you just love the tiny serving cup?

We were served on
Royal Albert china; Old Country Roses. 

Scones were served next......

We used nearly every bit of that Devonshire cream,
 oh yes, we did! 

Next was a delicious orzo salad with olives and peas. 
Doesn't it look so pretty on the Royal Albert plate? 

Then this wonderful array of delectable's arrived!

So many pretty and dainty delicacies. 

We had such a good time chatting, sipping tea, and popping 
wonderful little morsels into our mouths, that we lost track of time. 

But all good things must come to an end,
so we reluctantly gathered up our very substantial
 'doggy' bags, after whiling away this enjoyable afternoon together. 

Another beautiful tree next to a shelf of interesting things
as we make our way into the gift shop.....

I wanted to take lots of photos, but it was so full
of patrons.....I will just tell you that it was a tea-lover,
Victorian lover, Christmas lover's paradise. 

The treasure that I brought home.

I also found the prettiest pressed glass vase
in the most delicate shade of green.
I am saving that for spring. 


It was a  most wonderful day!

And while I have your undivided attention.....
we took a family photo on Christmas Eve.

We had an ugly sweater contest :)

The winners!
Newlyweds, Steve and daughter Jennie (1st and 2nd),
with daughter Heather coming in at 3rd.
I found the award ribbons at Target.
They say, 'Ugly, Uglier, and Ugliest'!

DIL, Jen holds one of our little elves.
He was smiling a moment before,
but is very suspicious of the camera.
As soon as the camera is put away,
he's all smiles once more :)

Son Dustin, hamming it up.
He was in pain from his Achilles tendon injury,
but kept us smiling all day.
He is healing slowly but surely and can finally put
a little bit of weight on his foot, but still needs a crutch.

This is what happens when Grandpa tries to get a photo
with all four of the grands.

*    *

It was a beautiful, winter day, and not too very cold,
 so we were able to take lots of photos.

Kai with his Christmas toy.
Just try and take it away from him!

He gleefully runs, and he's very fast!

I can't leave any kind of stuffed animal within his reach.

His favorite game is 'keep away'.
He always wins.

I made this pumpkin gingerbread streusel cake at Christmas
for the first time and it was so delicious,
especially with a pouf of whipped cream.

Here's the recipe.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Streusel Cake

2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup cold butter (1 and 1/2 sticks)
2 cups canned pumpkin (lg can)
 2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease and flour a deep 9x9 inch square or round baking pan.

In large mixing bowl, combine first six dry ingredients.
Add the cold butter in small pieces.
Cut in with a pastry blender or fork until mixture forms pea-sized crumbs.

Measure 3/4 cups of mixture and set aside for streusel topping.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together pumpkin,
eggs, molasses, buttermilk, and baking soda.

Make a well in dry ingredients and add pumpkin mixture,
  mixing with spoon until well blended.

Spread evenly into prepared baking pan.
Sprinkle with streusel topping.

Bake for approx. 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

This cake will keep very well,
and improves in flavor each day.

I also made some peppermint bark, and decorated it with sprinkles.

We had an ornament and treat exchange, which was
really fun.

Well, the clock is ticking, Dear Friends.........

Happy New Year!
Thank you for your sweet friendship!


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Another Year Over and a New One yet to Come.

Hello, Dear Friends and Family, I hope that your 
Christmas was filled with sweet blessings of hope. 

I know that the holidays are not always happy for so 
many of us, and can magnify grief or loss, 
 difficult circumstances, distance from loved ones, 
and failed expectations.

Life has its challenging moments and the holidays 
can bring many emotions and memories to the surface,
some not so merry.  

I think that we can all relate to these things. 
How many of us have spent holidays in ICU wards, 
or hospice, or had a child who was ill......
How many of us have found ourselves far away
from those we love and possibly alone.......
How many of us have had lean years, or 
sorrowful years when we have lost loved ones, or have 
been battling illness or injury ourselves? 

I'm sure every one of us can raise our hands.

And let's all remember the honorable and self-sacrificing
military personnel and their families, which are in
a special category all their own, and deserve our
utmost gratitude and consideration. 

My Dear Mother was always sad during the holidays. 
It brought back memories for her of a difficult 
childhood, growing up in the depression, 
when sometimes they wouldn't even get one gift. 
There were 8 children, and my Grandfather was a 
commercial fisherman. 

At least he had a job.......
But they were fiercely proud, and when, one year
a charity came to the door with a bag full of presents, 
my Grandmother sent them away. 

Christmas would fill my Mother with these sad memories,
and she was frequently melancholy, which affected 
her own family, too. 
Many times she would have to retreat to her room, 
leaving me, as the eldest, to carry on for 
my 4 younger siblings and my Dad. 

My Mother battled depression her whole life. 
Or I should say, our whole family battled my 
Mother's depression all our life. 

Christmas was frequently a sad and somber affair for us all, 
even as adults, because of this. 

Christmas has always been a sad reminder for 
my sweet Ramblin' Man of how far away 
we are from his own family. 

We left them all behind when we moved out west 
as newlyweds, knowing not a soul, 
and too poor to travel back home. 

One Christmas day, soon after we left, 
we found ourselves in a little cafe' feeling sorry for ourselves. 
We had no telephone (it was years before cell phones), 
and we used up our cache' of quarters at the 
phone booth in the parking lot to call 'home', 
getting only 3 minutes per family to send our love. 

As we ate our humble pie in our window booth, 
we looked out to see a little family - a man, a woman, 
and a little child, obviously homeless, walking by with backpacks
and raggedy clothes. 

At that moment we realized how fortunate we were. 
We were healthy, we had shelter and food, 
and we had hope. 

 Later, as a Father of four, 
traveling 'home' for Christmas was financially 
and logistically out of reach. 

Then, right before Christmas just a couple of years ago,
we lost his Dear Mother, which now makes Christmas especially poignant. 

All four of our parents are gone now, and no matter 
how old you get to be, losing your parents can 
make you feel quite like an orphan. 

Even (or maybe especially) if some of those 
relationships were difficult. 
Sometimes there is no closure. 

And sometimes Christmas wasn't a day of joy. 

Also, with each year that goes by, we are acutely aware 
of friends and co-workers that are no longer with us. 

And hardest of all, many have lost
  beloved partners or children. 

Christmas can seem like a terrible joke. 
All that sparkle, glitter, and 'cheer'
can seem cruel when you are grieving and all alone. 

We must translate our emotions into something meaningful
and heartfelt. We must honor those we have lost, reach out 
to those we miss, and share our feelings with those we love. 

We must find our own reason to shine. 

As another year comes to a close, we can 
look back and take stock of all that we have experienced, 
putting it all into a basket labeled, 'live and learn'. 

We can add meaning to our lives by looking at difficult 
moments and losses as gifts. 
Gifts of compassion. 

Not only do we have compassion for others who experience 
these things, but we must have compassion for ourselves, too. 

Compassion, not with self-pity, but with insight into 
how we can become better people by overcoming 
our pasts, our sorrows, and our grief by honoring our loved ones
who have left us behind. 
Honoring the struggles we have faced with courage. 
Honoring the losses we have suffered by 
emulating all those good qualities that were passed along to us, 
honoring our disappointments with gratitude for all 
that we have.  

The word I have chosen for 2019 is 'kindness'. 

Kindness not only for others, but kindness for ourselves. 
Kindness is the brother of 'forgiveness'. 
When we can be kind and forgiving to ourselves, 
we can pass this on to others. 

In a world of diminishing compassion, we must fight 
this trend with kindness and understanding. 

It all begins in our own hearts. 

And because of my Irish roots, I would like to 
offer an Irish New Year Blessing or two......

Always remember to forget
The troubles that pass away. 
But never forget to remember
The Blessings that come each day. 


Count your blessings instead of your crosses.
Count your gains instead of your losses. 
Count your joys instead of your woes.
Count your friends instead of your foes. 
Count your smiles instead of your tears. 
Count your courage instead of your fears. 
Count your full times instead of your lean. 
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean. 
Count your health instead of your wealth. 
Love your neighbor instead of your self. 


Wishing all of you a New Year filled with hope, courage and faith. 
And plenty of kindness. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Hello, Dear Friends, I hope that you are filled with
the spirit of Christmas as we prepare to celebrate
this most wonderful day. 

In my own small way, I try to bring this  
happy spirit of Christmas home, as I decorate, 
bake, and wrap those special gifts 
for precious little ones.

Our family has grown and we are blessed,
so we have agreed that only the children
will receive gifts as we go forward.

Our gifts to each other are in spending time together
over a good meal, with a nice bottle of wine,
sharing plenty of love and laughter.

As I have gone about my tasks, 
 I have been thinking about the true spirit of Christmas
and how I might honor this spirit every single day.

I've come up with one simple word to abide by....

Let's go inside for a cup of hot cocoa
and get warmed by the fire!

You can hang your coat and hat here....
My dear Father made the metal coat rack
and his wool jacket, which I often wear, hangs here. 

I really miss him this time of year. 
He had a love of all things Christmas, and delighted
in sharing the magic with his children and grandchildren,
 making wonderful, hand-crafted gifts.

This wooden snowman on the front step 
was hand-crafted by him and painted by my dear Mom. 
I love the sweet, wistful expression.

My rustic living room lends itself to very simple greenery.....

I revamped the wreath, garland and little trees this year by 'tipping'
the branches and cones with 'snow'. This was easily done 
with acrylic craft paint (in warm white), and a small paint brush. 

It took only a few minutes and I was pleased with the results.

I'll light the fire....

And the tree. 

A few favorite ornaments - some were lovely gifts. 

The angel we bought together for our first Christmas. 

I've started collecting glass pine-cones. 

The larger one is from our recent trip to the Christmas tree farm.
The smaller one was from a shopping trip with my daughters 
a couple of years ago.  

Decorating the tree brings me down memory lane.....

I made the pillow from an embroidered tea towel. 

A favorite book - a gift from my parents to my 
children when they were small. Now to be enjoyed 
by my grandchildren. 

The illustrations by Tasha Tudor are so sweetly endearing.  

 Please come into 
the kitchen and I'll heat the kettle.....

 I've added a few holiday touches to my kitchen shelves
as I think of how many Christmas celebrations we've had here.
We built the house in 1982-83 and raised our four children here. 

Hand-sewn elf and mushrooms. 

I made the cookie houses out of graham crackers
a couple of  years ago. 
They keep nicely, wrapped in tissue and stored in a large tin. 

You can see my tutorial on how to make them Here.

I tried to make my kitchen a bright, happy place 
for the grandchildren this year.  
We are hosting the family on Christmas Eve. 

My hand-made Santa. 
He sits on my vintage rolling cart. 

The shelves underneath hold
my candy stash.  

I used red and chartreuse green  
on my daybed this year. 

I made the pillows from tea-towels and linen napkins.
The 'Let it Snow' towel was the inspiration for the color-scheme. 

The plaid tea-towels have lovely embroidery. 

Holiday pillows can be expensive, but if you 
have a basic knowledge of sewing, 
you can whip these up for very little money. 

A cozy place for tea and a chapter or two. 

I decorated a grand-children's tree with a 'candy' garland
that I've had since my own children were small. 

A hand-stitched snow-man angel. 

I was able to unpack a few precious memories from long ago.....

The kettle is done....please have a seat, won't you? 

But first you'll have to pick your favorite cup. 

The tiny bottle holds green glitter and is labeled 'Christmas Magic'. 

The snowmen are a sugar bowl and creamer. 

Cocoa's ready! 

My pantry corner. 

I found the enameled metal sign
at the Christmas tree farm in my last post. 

My collection of vintage potholders
just simply makes me happy. 

I drove a wood panel vehicle
like this one when our children were young :) 

A lovely portrait of Santa and one of his favorite reindeer.
I think it might be Blixen, or maybe Prancer. 
Let's go out and watch the sunset.

The days are short and the sun sets early, 
magically turning gray clouds into cotton candy
for a few splendid moments. 

And if you believe in magic......

This little elf has taken over the care of the fairy garden, 
and built a log cabin! 
(The fairies have flown south for the winter)

He's busily decorating for Christmas, too! 


The world is truly full of magic if we 
keep our hearts and minds open. 

This angel in velvet, holds a rosary with beads made 
from my dear Mother-in-law's flowers. 

My Sis-in-law, sent this amazing angel to us
in commemoration of her sweet memory. 

She had a collection of Christmas tree pins, 
and I have one to remember her by. 

The Nutcracker music box was a gift from my dear Mother.
She took all the 'girls' in the family to see the Nutcracker ballet 
in Seattle one year. There were 10 of us. 

One more beautiful bauble to remember 
a special day....
A recent trip to a lovely tea house with my 
daughter and her Mother-in-law - a dear friend. 

I will share that day with you soon. 

This lovely Fenton angel was a gift from my son.

As you can tell, I love angels, and believe in their 
loving devotion to man-kind. 

There is a tender sentimentality to this time of year
that I love. 

It's a magical quality of faith, hope and joy, 
mixed with a child-like sense of wonder and imagination.

So as we celebrate this special day together, Dear Friends, 
I wish you all a Merry Little Christmas, 
filled with love, sweet memories, a little treat or two, 
and plenty of hope and faith to carry you along 
through the new year ahead. 

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