Sunday, December 30, 2012

Nature's Jewelry- A Winter Walk

We had about 6 inches of snow last night. I think this is about the perfect amount of snowfall, not too much and not too little. Although the temperature was in the 20 degree range and there was a howling wind, I ventured out to see nature at her best.

My hometown looks very Currier and Ives-esque after a winter storm. You would think that since snow is white that everything snow covered would look bigger but it is just the opposite. Everything looks smaller and in my opinion more beautiful.

The gazebo on the Town Common looks like something out of a Victorian painting. All we need is a small pondand a few skaters to add a little more romance to the scene. And of course, if we're creating a painting we can leave the snowplow out.

I walked down one of the streets in my neighborhood just admiring the pristine snow. The plants and bushes had little ice pellets on them and they were breathtaking.

I was hoping the beauty I saw through my lens would translate to my photos but it's not quite right. In person, it looked like crystals and diamonds were shining on the trees in the late afternoon sun.  As if someone had flicked a switch and turned on thousands of twinkle lights.

The snow has a way of hitting just the right spots on a house like the turret on my friend Kim's house.

I tried to zoom in closer to capture nature's crystal and diamonds on the branches.

Smow is really nature's jewelry. There is nothing prettier to me. It is special because it is so temporary. The ice on the branches melts once the temperatures rise so it is constantly changing.

Once the sun hits those icy branches, the melting begins, but not today. It was too cold for any melting and I was able to enjoy nature's illumination.

The snow and ice made for some magical views. And the sky would eventually turn a lovely pastel pink. Had my fingers not been flirting with hypothermia I would have stayed to record the beautiful sunset.

Icy coldness just adds to the flavor of the shot and makes the painfullly numb fingers and face worthwhile.
Some of the homes looked Christmas card perfect. The snow was better than any holiday decoration.

My neighbor's yard took on a wintry mystique. A big gust of wind blew snow off the barn roof just as I was taking this shot. So cool!

His garden ornament was dancing for joy at the beauty around him. Or maybe he was just trying to keep warm!

And in my own yard, some perfectly formed snow and ice crystals make a lovely statement piece for nature's jewelry.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Festivities

One of the social events of the season is Jolie's Christmas Party. You may remember my post about her last year's party.  This year's party did not disappoint.  The food, the holiday decor, the company, was all superb.

Jolie's home is so warm and cozy.  She has an artist's eye for decor and her home especially sparkles during the holidays. I just drink it in and snap away, wanting to share it all with you. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing all the details of her home.

She has a collection of lighted buildings. It looks so gorgeous when it is the only illumination in the living room.

Greenery decorations on each window. And there are so many windows in the house.

Another view of the lighted village. There are some whimsical touches here like a flash of light illuminating Santa as if Santa is being photographed.

Jolie created this yule log complete with meringue mushrooms and real greenery on the tray. The outside of the log tasted like chocolate ganache. There was a "dusting" of snow on the top. It was crazy good!

 I mean really, these meringue mushrooms were so realistic! And tasted so fantastic!

All the food was so exceptionally presented. I vowed to try one of everything but there was so much to eat I could not eat it all.

See what I mean? This was so festive and delicious looking, how could one resist?

I loved this pot rack with all the copper pans and Jolie put them to good use. Jolie and her kids made everything for the party. The preparation is immense and takes days I am sure.

Red and green olives for Christmas. All so artfully displayed.  I am taking notes on all of this.

Lots of smiling faces on this night. The two people on the left travelled all the way from Sweden to attend Jolie's party! Only kidding, they were here for a few weeks visiting the US.

More great food to be consumed. The meatballs were delicious! So was the cranberry sauce and the tarts with cream cheese, goat cheese, parsley and peach jam. I lost count of how many of those mini tarts I ate.

The tree looked lovely and the gifts were already wrapped. Where does she find the time?

Back to the food, look at the bread selection. More than at Panera Bread!

Wait til you see all the main courses. There was a baked ham with sauce.

And a pork tenderloin and turkey with gravy and sauces to accompany them.

Guests were helping themselves to the meats from the stovetop. There was no room on the island for the big meat platters.

There were many generations of people at this party from kids to a woman in her nineties.

Those in the dining room were the luckiest of all as they were closest to the desserts!

More of the Swedish contingent. They were heading to New York after the party.

And last but not least, Morgan, the family dog. Morgan is a gentle giant and his space was invaded by all those party guests.  He was a good sport and did not make a peep at the party. I am sure he could not wait until everyone went home and he could attack the leftovers.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I was on my best behavior..  After all, I want an invitation again next year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Harvard Square epiphany

I had a vacation day from work today and my plans got cancelled so I offered to help my sister with her Christmas shopping. She had made a list so it seemed like an easy task. She wanted me to go to one store in Harvard Square, Joie de Vivre, a small very quirky shop on Massachusetts Ave or Mass Ave as we natives call it.

The forecast was for wind driven rain but not too cold temperatures. I wore a light rain coat, blue jeans and snow boots. It was steadily raining but the monsoon had not arrived yet.

Parking was a nightmare. It usually is in that area but it was exacerbated by those doing Christmas shopping. I could not find a space near the store so I circled around to the opposite side of this busy street. I found one, not real close and the meter was for a mere 30 minutes. I hoped the meter maids did not want to go out in a nor'easter and I could be spared a ticket. I rushed out of the car and hurried to the store.

What a great store, Joie de Vivre. Lots of retro stuff, many low priced items, wacky stocking stuffers, and hilarious cards. Of course, 4 of the items on the list were sold out. So I improvised. Got some great stuff. My sister said if I found something I liked to get it because she needed a gift for me too. I bought a lamp for my new downstairs office. Photos to be posted later.

After visiting a second store, the Paper Source, for wrapping paper and a few small gifts, I took a mochaccino break at Rosie's Bakery.  At this point, the wind driven rain had arrived. I could not see my car and I figured the parking ticket was a certainty. I added a Mediterranean omelet to my drink order and I settled in to enjoy my breakfast.

Afterwards, I ventured out into the wild and wooly weather. You know, the kind of weather that if you were driving on the highway you would pull off because you couldn't see two feet in front of you. Umbrellas were virtually useless as they immediately blew inside out. I was having a hard time holding on to my 3 parcels. It took forever to cross the street, traffic, puddles, yuck!  I was not amused.

 I walked up the street a couple of blocks and could not find my car. At this point, the paper shopping bags were saturated and so was I.  One of the paper bags was starting to rip. I thought I would try to find a shop that had plastic bags and so I entered City Sports. The nice clerk said he would get me a plastic bag but came back with clear trash bags for me. He said he brought me the clear trash bags so I wouldn't look like a homeless person. Mmm, ok.

Continuing up the street, I still could not find my car. I turned and started walking in the other direction. The rain was coming down sideways and the winds were kicking up. My jeans were soaked and sticking to my legs. The water was dripping off my hair and rolling down my neck. I was getting chilled.  My bangs were so wet I had to slick them back and then the rain was hitting my face and eyelashes so hard I could hardly see. Plus when it is raining that hard it actually hurts. Real nice on my broken nose.

I walked into a store named Nomad just to get out of the rain and catch my breath. My arms were hurting from carrying my packages awkwardly so they wouldn't drag on the ground. The store had beautiful handcrafted items from all over the world. A young woman came up to me and said she would take my packages and put them behind the counter. She saw they were trash bags and then she told me she would just leave them by a display that she couldn't put them behind the counter. I told her no, she would not leave them out in the open and I took them and left the store. I am convinced she thought I was a homeless person and that's when her attitude changed.

I realized my car was not on this end of the street so I backtracked again. While I walked, I planned out all the wonderful things I was going to do when I found my car. A hot shower with my favorite Philosophy salt scrub and shower gel, a hot cup of tea and a gingerbread cookie while relaxing on the couch under my soft plush blanket. Aw, yes that will be wonderful but then my thoughts turned to the homeless. What if I were homeless and I got caught in the rainstorm and had no other clothes but the ones I had on? How would I ever get dry or warm? And how would people treat me? Would anyone help me? The temperature was scheduled to drop after today. How would I survive? I don't think I would.

Finally I found my car and I was never so happy to see it. I immediately turned up the heat to the max and I drove straight home. Christmas music on the radio and out of the rain, my mood immediately improved.

I arrived at home to see the entire contents of my recycling bin strewn across the driveway, lawn and the neighbor's property. Cat food cans everywhere, water bottles, plastic take out containers. and a Tidy Cats Kitty Litter container. As I picked up the debris it was still pouring. This discomfort is temporary I told myself.  You are minutes away from a hot shower, clean clothes and that cup of tea.

And finally, after the hot shower, I had my cup of tea and gingerbread man. While I was in the shower the sun came out!

Today's trials and tribulations had an impact on me. Just yesterday I had decided to join the 26 acts of kindness movement when a friend posted about it on Facebook. The 26 acts idea was created by NBC News' Ann Curry and was posted on Twitter at #26acts. Last night, I was thinking of doing things that the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting would have cared about but now I think my random acts of kindness will be centered on the homeless.

I found a non profit organization called Birthday Wishes and I am going to volunteer.  Their mission is to bring birthday parties to children living in shelters. Some of the shelters allow volunteers to come in and interact with the kids.  Other shelters are called safe shelters and the volunteers put together birthday boxes of gifts and supplies but they can't attend the parties. I am excited about this opportunity and I am going to round up my own group of volunteers.

So how about you? Are you in for #26acts? I did my first one today, Christmas shopping for my sister.  I have 25 more opportunities for kindness.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Mischief and Mishaps

Anything I would post about seems so frivilous after hearing the news from Connecticut yesterday.
I watched the coverage and was actually disgusted by the reporters asking for interviews from the children and their parents. I think they could have used a little more compassion.

I watched the interview with the teacher who locked her kids in the bathroom. What a brave, compassionate young woman. She is a true hero and if I had kids I would want her to be their teacher.

Anyway, I did write a post about my Christmas decoration progress today. If you want to escape the sadness for a few minutes read on:

I am finally getting down to decorating the condo for Christmas.  Last weekend, I decorated the mantle in the dining room but I am still tweaking it.  Tonight, I worked on the fireplace in the living room. It really doesn't take me long to decorate the condo since it's a small space.

This week I had a little mishap and it set me back on my decorating. On Tuesday, I fell in the parking lot where I work and I broke my nose. I tumbled feet flying behind me and I crashed onto the concrete face first. Well, first my knee then my hands then my nose and my forehead. What a bloody mess! I had my first ambulance ride and I spent about 3 hours in the emergency room.

I am one lucky girl. I did not have a concussion although I hit my head and I didn't break my kneecap although I hit my knee before breaking my nose. Just a broken nose, sore knee and facial cuts.
I think I have a guardian angel. It could have been so much worse!

Back to the fun stuff. I have a prelit garland that I use on the fireplace in the living room. This year I dressed it up with some gold leaves, gold pinecones and strands of gold beads. I wanted it to really shimmer.

I took about 10 seconds after I'd finished the fireplace for Percy to investigate. I think he can read, he went right to the stocking with his name on it. I should have known shimmery things would attract a curious cat.

How long do you think the garland will last on the fireplace? I am guessing not even 24 hours.

Right now he is back to resting on the cable box so hopefully he's done sniffing around. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Victorian Tea in Chelmsford

On Saturday, I met my friend Karen for a Victorian Tea. The event was a fundraiser for the Chelmsford Center for the Arts.  It was good to see Karen as we haven't seen each other in almost a year. We communicate through Facebook mostly.

My sister's friend is the Director at the Center and my sister who did not attend decided to contribute her painting of Queen Victoria to the festivities.

The tea was billed as a celebration of Charles Dickens 200th birthday. I was happy to see good attendance at the event!.

Cranberry scones wewre served with strawberry jam, orange curd and clotted cream. They were oh so delicious. We sat with a woman named Mary and her friend Betty.  Mary was from England and she said she loved the scuns. That' s how they pronounce scones in England.

The sandwiches were fantastic too! I especially liked the cheese and onion. I could have eaten an entire plate of just the cheese and onion!

The mini cheesecakes looked like they were deep dish. They were yummy!

Everyone got a mini Christmas fruitcake and a madeleine. I selected the most well done cookie. I do love madeleines and these were great.

There were two flavors of tea served, Earl Grey and Ceylon. Mary did not like Earl Grey so she got her own pot of ceylon. What a cute teapot!
A company was hired to provide food and drink for the event. The Vintage Tea and Cake Company of Medford did a wonderful job.
I was told there will be more tea events at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts. The director would like to have quarterly teas. I look forward to the next one!


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