Wrapping Up November With Thanks and Joy

Season’s greetings! Is it too early to say that? I’m in the Christmas spirit early this year, and genuinely want to share with everyone the joy this time of year brings to me.

An Easy and Special Thanksgiving

gathering greenery

We had a happy Thanksgiving. This year, we stayed in town and celebrated with my husband’s side of the family who live in town, too. Not traveling or hosting allowed us to make the day our own, and it was a day that really did remind me that there is so much in my life for which to be thankful.

Knowing that I needed greenery to make Christmas decorations, my husband surprised me with a special plan when Bitsy and I woke up Thanksgiving morning: we would be going to a friend’s horse farm to gather greenery. We dressed and got coffee on the way. It was a beautiful morning: sunny and mild, just cool enough for a sweater or light jacket. The farm looks beautiful in the fall, with all the colorful leaves and the evergreens getting their time to shine.

gathering greenery fun

Bitsy had a wonderful time. We watch her closely but give her plenty of room to play. At one time, we were in a fenced-in area where we could gather holly branches and let her explore. She walked alongside us and played her heart out. By the time we finished gathering, she was falling asleep in my arms. I got great exercise carrying her and the baskets full of branches, leaves, and pine cones!

farm finds

A Simple Sidedish: Kale Salad With Apples and Dried Cranberries

We came home in time for me to prepare the simple side dish I was bringing to Thanksgiving dinner: a kale salad with warm cranberry vinaigrette. All I had to do was wash and tear the kale, cut a couple Honeycrisp apples into thin slices, and prepare the vinaigrette (olive oil, garlic powder and 2 cups of dried cranberries, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of honey, juice & zest of half a lemon and half an orange, a pinch of brown sugar, and salt & pepper to taste) in a sauté pan, massage the kale with olive oil for about 90 seconds, then toss in the cranberry vinaigrette mixture and top with the apple slices and pecans. Bitsy napped the whole time I was preparing it–something else for which to be thankful! Those who like kale loved the salad, and those who don’t ate some to be polite 🙂 What more could I ask for?

My Most Precious Blessing

This was Bitsy’s second Thanksgiving, but the first since she started eating table foods. She loved the food, and had a wonderful time playing with cousins and made new friends with my sister-in-law’s brother-in-law’s children who are close to her age. She ran played, squealed, and laughed with the purest joy until she was all tuckered out.

And the Prettiest Sight You’ll See is the Holly that Will Be On Your Own Front Door

Christmas wreath

I’m usually not one to put up my Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. I like to wait until it’s officially Advent to even begin decorating for Christmas. Beautifying my home with Christmas decorations is part of my observance of Advent. “Make your homes fair as you are able,” says my favorite Advent hymn, “People Look East,” as we prepare for the coming of our greatest Christmas guest, Jesus Christ. This year is different because I’ve already collected all of this beautiful fresh holly, pine, and magnolia, and must go ahead and put it to use. I made my wreath and put it on the front door Saturday, and we are all enjoying it. For this one, and most Christmas wreaths I make, I used a metal wreath form, attaching the pieces with floral wire. Whenever I hang a wreath, Bitsy likes me to open and close the door so she can keep getting a look at it. I have plenty left over for more decorations, so I’ll be pretty busy decking the halls.

Loving the Fall and Looking Forward to Winter

It’s still fall for a while longer, but starting to feel like winter. Just a couple weeks ago we were enjoying the pleasant days of early fall, with lots of playing outside. I guess it wouldn’t be right to skip through the season without the obligatory toddler-playing-in-leaves blog post, so here we are having some family fun time outdoors a couple Sundays ago:

The day was still warm enough for bare feet, especially for my child who hates to wear socks and shoes.

leaves on porch

After helping Daddy with a little yard work…

approaching leaves

…it was time to play in the crisp dry leaves.

in the leaves xi

in the leaves 6

in the leaves xii

in the leaves xiv

Bundling Up

Now that the cooler weather is here, I’m happy we get to start wearing our coats and sweaters. I love this trench I got from Stitch Fix (this link will get each of us $25 off when you sign up and order your first box!) I got it two years ago, but it’s such a classic and high-quality piece that it should last me for years to come.

beforeMass Missal for Toddlers

Something to Read

In this pic we were just getting ready to leave for Mass. The book you see in the picture,  A Missal for Toddlers, is a recent purchase I’m so glad I made. Bitsy loves the book (as you can see her clinging to it in the picture), so it’s a great way to a) start getting her interested in what’s happening at Mass, and b) give her something to entertain herself with if she gets restless during Mass. This board book is hardcover, but soft enough (almost like a padded feel) that it won’t be noisy if your toddler bangs it against the pew. The language is simple and relatable for little ones, and the illustrations are adorable. I highly recommend it for Catholic families with small children.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time…

It’s a busy but happy and invigorating time for me as the semester winds down and the holidays approach. I have one last big assignment to do for my collection development class, and so much decorating to do! We have to come up with a plan b for our Christmas tree this year, since we don’t have a good way to baby-proof it, and Bitsy’s too young to understand that it’s off limits. I know it’s just the type of thing she’ll want to explore, from the water in the tree stand, to the branches, lights, and ornaments. Right now, the plan is to have a very small tree on an end table. I’ll check in again soon with more decorations, recipes, and holiday cheer!

(This post contains affiliate links.)

 

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Reviving My Cut Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are so beautiful in arrangements, so it’s a shame they don’t last long as cut flowers. In the early stages of planning my wedding, I considered using hydrangeas. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Still, I just couldn’t resist some gorgeous blue hydrangeas at the supermarket yesterday. They were so perfect with the beautiful, very healthy sunflowers they had there. Add in some salmon-colored carnations, and the little bit of purple statice I already had at home from another otherwise wilted arrangement, and I had such a joyful mix of colors and textures.

Seeing how wilted my hydrangeas were this morning was disappointing, but this floral arrangement was bringing me too much joy to give up on it just yet. I found some advice on extending the life of cut hydrangeas from a florist’s web site, Kay’s Flower School. They were already very wilted, so it was too late for preventative measures. I followed her advice on reviving rapidly-wilting hydrangeas. Dunk the entire flower head in a bowl of room temperature water–they drink from the flower heads.

all heads in the water

Here they are mostly, but not completely, submerged. I decided to stand them up and lean the stems into the rest of the flower arrangement next to them, like so:

after propping up

Another site, Associated Cut Flower Company, recommends leaving them in the water for 20-30 minutes. I ended up leaving them in there for about 35 minutes.

The results were very minimal at first. They were still quite wilted. I wasn’t sure if I’d see much improvement, but I decided to wait and see. I’m glad I did! After about 10 or 15 minutes, they perked up dramatically.

before pictoo

Before

after photo

After

They weren’t as good as new, but much improved from the soak. I’ll spritz the heads with water and get another day or two out of them.

Be sure to place a towel underneath the vase once you’ve returned the flowers after soaking, because they will be dripping water.

arrangement on towel

 

I’m really enjoying the colors this adds to our home. These flowers are a great way to celebrate the beauties of summer as they give way to fall.

arrangement on twl2

Something We Read: I Am a Bunny by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry

reading i am a bunny

I love each season. I’m happy to see the new ones come, and experience little moments of melancholy as I watch each one end. The cozy times spent indoors in the winter are replaced by the vibrant colors of spring. Lush, green, carefree summers fade into crisp, quiet autumn. Each season has its own beautiful fragrances. My favorite summer aromas are tomato vines and fresh basil. I had one of those brief, melancholy end-of-season reveries this week when I was gathering basil for a light summer pasta and saw that this year’s basil is coming to an end.

last basil of summer

I’ll miss the smell, the taste, and the experience of walking outside to the small kitchen garden to collect basil for our food, but I thought happily of what good use we derived from the plants this year, how much we enjoyed them. This summer has been a particularly special one, with Bitsy’s first birthday, a trip to celebrate a centennial birthday in the family, first steps, and first visits to the pool. It’s now time to start ordering bulbs to chill and plant in the late fall/early winter. All year long, I look forward to my spring tulips and hyacinths. I hope to share this love of the changing seasons with my daughter. It has brought me so much joy and reassurance through changing times all my life.

One way I can share this love of the seasons with Bitsy is by sharing with her one of my favorite books from childhood, I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry.

iamabunny.jpg

My adults read this book to me so often when I was a baby/toddler that I memorized it then, and have memorized it again now as it has become Bitsy’s favorite. The illustrations are beautiful, the tone is peaceful and happy, the text sweet and concise. Nicholas, the titular bunny, enjoys the entire year by finding something beautiful in the natural world to celebrate in each season.

He picks flowers and chases butterflies in the spring, blows dandelion seeds in the summer, watches falling leaves and snow, and enjoys seeing wildlife in every season.

chasing butterflies

Readers are reminded that winter is not the end, that the cycle begins anew, when Nicholas curls up to for a winter’s nap and dreams about spring.

dreamsaboutspring

Sharing this beloved book with my daughter, seeing her love it, too, helps me to see the beauty of change and the passing of time, just as the changing seasons do. My mother and I bonded over this book, now Bitsy and I love reading it together over and over again. I am reminded of my grandmother, how she would take me outside in the afternoons and point out the plants and animals we saw, helping me to share in her love of nature and watching things grow. I remember picking flowers for her from our yard.

This book is pretty in a very simple way. There is no major action, exciting plot, or gimmick, just a poetic love of the natural world and a gentle character who finds pure joy in all seasons. It is so dear to me, and I hope you can share it with the little ones in your life. Even more so, I hope you get to share with them the books you loved most as a child. What better way to pass on to children a love of reading?

This post contains a link to an Amazon listing for the book discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

“Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”–Philippians 4:8