Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas At Our House









    Christmas has now come out in full splendor at our house--- well, three feet and up, that is. We are not doing our big tree this year because, well, 11 month old. I don't need that kind of stress in my life ;) so the big tree and all those breakable little things...will snuggle in the attic for another season.

   We were still able to get out a lot of our favorite festive things--- like a new Tasha Tudor Advent Calendar sent to us by our friend Patricia, and we created our own Advent table top wreath out of candles we already had on hand and greens from the backyard strung with some berries I got at Michaels last year.

   Our mantle is one of my most favorite parts of this old house, however the top is cold hard stone; to be able to hang our stockings, and to give the whole thing more homey warmth, I've put an old crochet table cloth that belonged to my husband's grandmother on the mantle and hung the stockings with these fancy things called....paper clips ;)

  I also love getting out my Nicol Sayre Santas, the majority of which I've gotten from Bayberry Cove. My mama always collected santa when I was little, and I think I've caught that interest. The fabric "St. Nick" with the red cape is one I made myself and he was in Prims Magazine last winter (although he very modest about it with the other santas, hehe)

  With a week left til Christmas, all our gifts are now bought and I'm just ready to cuddle in and enjoy some simple festivities while avoiding the holiday craziness. As I get older and more opinionated and set in my ways, I'm beginning to feel like the frenzy part of this time of year is not truly Christmas. I'm beginning to resist the idea that we 'must consume' and stimulate the economy in order to show those we love that we love them.  And just between you and me, I'm sort of looking forward to the sudden quiet that comes with January.....I know for many the second half of winter feels like a cold and dreary let down, but I'm going to do my best to appreciate the quiet and much slower pace. I'm also going to take part in the Hibernate retreat over at Beauty that Moves. Heather is so good at creating an environment of intentional focus and gratitude, I can't wait for it to start!

  Well, as usually happens, the baby has lost his patience with me sitting down and not giving him all of my attention. So I will sign off for now!

  Just know I appreciate you coming here to visit--- and a HUGE Scandinavian "Thank You!!" TACK!! for those who participated in the St. Lucia Blog Procession! It was our best yet and I LOVED reading all your posts! Thanks so much! And a very merry Christmas--- God Jul!~!

Merry Blessings,
H

Saturday, December 13, 2014

St. Lucia Day Blog Procession


    HAPPY ST. LUCIA DAY!
   Welcome to my second "St. Lucia Blog Procession" here at Audrey Eclectic! I'm so glad you could stop in to visit--- and please join us in the procession if you'd like to! (you can add your blog link to the linky tool at the end of this post)


      Something about the story and tradition of St. Lucia and Scandinavian Christmas in general has always spoken to me. Blame it on the Kirsten Doll I got in the second grade, but I've always loved the home spun sweetness of a Scandinavian Christmas!
   
    Here in the US, where we are very far from the land of reindeer and the Northern Lights, we still have our Scandinavian elements. Many Scandinavian immigrants came out to the prairie that I call home, bringing with them their customs of straw ornaments, good food, and tales of a beautiful saint bringing light and sweet goodies on a dark winter's night.


   A couple of years ago we were able to visit Lindsborg, Kansas for their St. Lucia Festival (you can read all about it in my 2012 Saint Lucia Procession Post!) and it was so magical to see the Scandinavian culture and heritage through the lens of American pioneers.

   The simplicity and love of nature inherent in a Scandinavian Christmas are also very appealing to me--- and I love gathering recipes and craft ideas for things to do during the holidays from my favorite Scandinavian Christmas books--- like these by Trine Hahnemann and Hege Barnholt:


    One thing that I LOVE about Scandinavian Christmas is that nature is so close at hand. In Lindsborg we bought sheaves of wheat to leave out for the birds, according to custom. But this year-- far from Lindsborg and no wheat fields to gather from, we took inspiration from the book Handmade Scandinavian Christmas to make ''bird cakes" for our feathered friends this winter.


    Audrey was very eager and willing to help out with this project--- she loves watching the birds outside our windows just as much as I do, and this was a great project to get a little gooey and creative with.
   The ingredients for the bird cakes were simple; we used birds seed and lard. Yep, lard. Or you can say 'rendered fat' if that makes you feel fancier. I know it does for me ;)


 
    Making these little bird cake ornaments were so easy and so fun. All we did was put some big dollops of lard in a bowl, mix in some bird seed so that the lard was pretty well covered in seeds, then we rolled out the 'dough' to cut with cookie cutters, or roll into shape like play dough.
   To be honest, the rolling method was easiest. The concoction was just a little too fluid to work well with the cookie cutters, although we had more success with some shapes than others.
   In the end, the best ways to make the cakes were to roll the dough into balls, or mold it into hearts.
  With some of the ornaments, I poked a hole through the middle with a wooden skewer, although some I just left whole.
    When we had all the ornaments we needed, we put them on a tray and stuck them in the freezer. When they'd set (they were harder but still a bit sticky) we tied them with string to make into ornaments!


    Once we had them all secure with the string (I used cotton yarn you can find for just a couple of dollars at the craft store) we took them outside and hung them on our little maple tree to entice our little feathered friends!


We had so much fun making these ornaments--- and it was a pretty quick and easy project, that are good for nature as well! Since its so cold in the winter, these ornaments will keep their shape, yet they remain soft enough that the birds will be able to pick out the seeds.
   The lard (or suet if you'd rather use beef fat instead of pork) is actually very good for birds during the winter. It will help them keep warm and give them an extra energy boost that is so important in keeping them healthy during the cold winter months.
   You can use these little ornaments all through the winter and cool part of spring, but they are not recommended to be used during hot summer months.
 
   So perhaps if you have a gray winter day that needs a simple and fun activity, I highly recommend this one-- the birds will thank you for it!

**********

And so....thus concludes MY St. Lucia Blog Procession Post- but we're just getting started!
    I have many friends who are joining in the fun--- and you're welcome to join in too! There is a linky tool at the end of this post where other participating blogs are listed, please take a moment and give them a visit! Perhaps with some coffee and a Lucia Bun in hand? I know my friends out here on the internet have some wonderful things to share! And please, feel free to join in the fun!
Thank you for stopping by today!~!
God Jul,
Heather

Thursday, December 11, 2014

St. Lucia Day Approaches!


  Can you believe it?! It's almost St. Lucia Day! And time for the St. Lucia Day Blog Procession! If you'd like to join in, just create a post on your own blog pertaining to the theme of St. Lucia or Scandinavian Christmas. I'd love to see what you come up with! And then we can have a little online holiday party of sorts :)
   I will post a linky tool on my post here on Dec 13 (saturday) where you can leave the URL of your post and an image. It should automatically add you to the list of participating blogs and we will all be able to see eachother's posts and visit each other!
  Definitely just something to have fun with, no pressure! And if you aren't able to post it Dec. 13, no worries! Feel free to add your post as the week goes on! And be sure to check back to see if there are any new additions! :D

Advent Blessings to you and yours!~
Heather

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tis the season of Giving


    So, you know I've been working on trying to have a quiet Advent and Christmas. I think a better word for it would be: Intentional. Trying to cut down on things that aren't absolutely needed ( please. Don't worry about the 11 month old! Right now he loves crinkly paper and spoons he steals from the dish washer!)
   When thinking about my own intentional giving, I wanted to do something in that vein through my shop, and I've decided on my sweet little "A Child's Prayer" as the piece with which to do some good with art.
   You might remember I created this painting this past summer and auctioned off to raise funds for International Orthodox Christian Charities. I was inspired to do so by the plight of the Christian and other ethnic minorities facing such terrible treatment and conditions in the middle east. They are being forced to flee their homeland of centuries, sacred relics and sites have been destroyed, families have been separated and people have been hurt or killed in the most inhumane ways.
   My heart is still with these people--- and thinking about what this Advent and Christmas season might be for them makes me want to do whatever I can to ease their stress, sadness and fear and bring any small comfort and joy. I think that is the true, distilled meaning of this season.

  And so--- my offer to you, if you'd like to help contribute-- is simple! For every purchase of this piece as a print ($18) I will donate $10 and for every purchase of a card set ($10) I will donate $5. That's all you'll need to do! I will collect the money until December 24 and then send the funds to IOCC earmarked especially for their middle east programs. Since the Christians in this area enduring this trauma or Orthodox, I felt that the IOCC was the most appropriate organization to support with these funds.

   Anyhow--- thanks so much for coming here today to visit with me! I hope you have a wonderful week!~
heather

   

Saturday, December 6, 2014

St. Nicholas Day Blessings!


    Happy St. Nicholas Day! One of my favorite holidays of the year, and when the Christmas season really and truly begins to start! This is particular was a nice one, since I had treats from friends waiting for me, and I got out all my sweet little St. Nicholas things (my mama cross stitched the St. Nick sampler, and my sweet friend Winnie sent me the dutch clogs from her trip to Holland a while back!)
   Recently I saw this adorable little St. Nicholas doll from Shining Light Dolls and I knew...I had to make him mine! When its not St. Nicholas Day he will live with my best tea cups and the clogs and dala horses in my china cabinet. The doll comes with a prayer card and info about the saint--- they have a wide variety of dolls, including several international Madonnas.
   
    Well, its another cold gray here today, but all the pretty Christmas things and music have me feeling festive. Tomorrow is the St. Nicholas Day festival at our church, and there's also Lessons and Carols. We'll also take part in Las Posadas and a living nativity later on in the month. It's my hope that the things we do to celebrate the season will be the meaningful things--- the rest I can do without! I don't remember where I heard it, but the saying "saying no to one thing means saying yes to another."
   We might say 'no' to some activities, but that just means we're deciding to spend our time and effort on something else. That 'something else' might be knitting in bed with hot chocolate, but hey-- to me that's time well spent ;)

   Wishing you a wonderful weekend full of simple things that make you happy---
Til next time
H


PS-- Don't forget YOU are invited to join me in celebrating St. Lucia Day with a blog procession on Dec. 13! All you'll need to do to take part is create a blog post somehow tying into St. Lucia or Scandinavian Christmas, then come here and add your post web address to the list I will provide! Cant wait to celebrate with you!

Friday, December 5, 2014

New postcards, and Quiet Christmas





     I am very, very pleased to share that I have some new holiday postcard sets in my etsy shop right now! New designs include Winter Knitting, Stille Nacht, A Child's Prayer and a mixed collection of some old and new images. Perhaps there is a set that speaks to you?

  I wanted to say thank you too for your comments and emails on my last post. I appreciate it, and its good to know that I'm not alone in my longing for a quiet Christmas. I am making good steps towards it-- although it takes a decided effort. The world wants everything to spin out of control, but I have learned to turn off the tv, step away from whatever is grating on my nerves-- be it the radio, the internet, whatever, and find somewhere quiet to be.

  Around here the weather has been wet,moody, overcast, and perfect for this quiet Christmas endeavor. This morning baby and I packed up the stroller and did our post office run, and it was so drizzly and gray--- but about 65 degrees, so it felt nice. All the gardens and yards are brown and wet with faded autumn, the birds are out scouting for food, and things are pretty quiet aside from the handsome decorations on the old mansion by the post office and the wreathes and christmas lights on all the houses along the way.

   These little things are what make me happy--- that and some fresh gingerbread cookies with coffee! Or pretty candles on a dim holiday mantle, and Christmas music (the soft kind) playing through the house.

   Wishing you a little bit of quiet time this Advent and Christmas. And if you've made Audrey Eclectic a part of your holidays, please know I appreciate it so so much!~

~H

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


  It's so strange....I spend most of the year preparing for Christmas. I paint snow and nativities when its 100 degrees outside. And then suddenly, the world joins in and it feels like the rush is on.

   Today Baby and I took a walk after we did our post office errands (art is on its way! :) ) and it did me good to try and calm my mind. It's only December 2 and I feel like I need to make real effort to keep things quiet and calm, at least within my door. The world is all a-frenzy--- we are told to buy and do, and be merry and be together, even if you don't feel like being or doing much of either!

   I admit, this time of year brings out the antisocial stay-at-home bird in me. I even wished for a little bit of that Thanksgiving snow you all got in the northeast, the perfect excuse for cuddling in and staying home! As for me, I try to go out strategically, when the least amount of people are out. And as it gets colder, I just want to stay indoors and paint--- maybe go for a quiet walk, but that's it; just the birds, animals and a baby in tow.

   Speaking of babies....this one here has been very clingy and fussy lately. New teeth are coming (do babies REALLY need so many teeth? I think we're good with what he's got...we need a teething break!) It's hard to have a coherent thought, much less paint something, when someone is constantly clinging to your legs whining and crying. 
   The other morning he woke up at 4 a.m., ready to go and start the day. Wearily I got up, made myself some coffee and looked out the curtains at the dawn decidedly not coming. It was dark and cold outside, and I just longed for my bed. 
   It wasn't long though, before thoughts of all I need to do started coming. It is frustrating when a chore list that would have taken me 30 minutes to complete a year or so ago now takes all day. I'm still a dishwasher load behind since Thanksgiving. 
   I decided to light a candle on the mantle while I sat on the couch with my coffee and the baby babbled and crawled, quite satisfied with his early rise. Sitting there watching the flame flicker, however, was calming. It's something we loose with all these electric lights. 
   As the flame danced, my mind relaxed and my teeth unclenched. Suddenly, I didn't feel the urgency or hurry. And it was really nice. 
    
    So now, that is what I want for Advent. Light the candles; be together. Don't let the flip side of holiday merriment--- which is worry, frenzy, disappointment and frustration-- take hold of the season. Find the quiet where you can. That perhaps imperfect, but much needed quiet. And a little light in the dark.