A Hallmark Christmas Story Beginning – Part 1

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

‘See the sunlight through the pines, taste the warmth of winter wine, dream of softly falling snow, winter’s cold, aspenglow...’ Noelle hummed along to one of her favorite John Denver songs as she wound the garland around the stairwell railing. All around her the staff was filling the house with holiday spirit for the Judge and Mrs. Carson.

She loved her job of personal assistant slash manager of this grand old mansion. Retired Judge Carson doted on his charming wife and she doted on him and Noelle. They had practically given Noelle carte blanche in decorating the house this year with only a few suggestions and she had taken off running with all of it.

Nearly every large room held one Christmas tree, be it big or small, and each room had a theme that flowed right into the next room. The front entry with it’s large grand staircase was classic red and green with poinsettias at the base of the stairs and green garlands wrapping up the railings. Then tiny fairy lights wrapping the greenery for a delicate glow. A tall fir graced the corner, decorated in red bows and ribbons, simple white lights , and a simple gold star.

The front living room was a white and ivory wonderland. The only green was from the blue spruce, but everything else was in shades of white and cream. Ivory beaded garlands were strung on the tree, which was decorated in cream birds and feathers, glittery snowflakes and delicate angels. A white winter village was set on the mantle with a fake snow batting softening the edges.

The dining room, with it’s large french doors overlooking the back gardens and gazing pool, had been trimmed in the simplest of greenery and clove studded oranges. Pomegranates and large bowls of potpourri decorated the table and scented the air in spice and warmth. Large magnolia and orange leaves were tucked into the long needled boughs and it was right out a very Scandinavian or French country.

The Carson’s entire family was coming home for the holidays, so each bedroom had to be perfect. Advent calendars and stockings decorated the great-grand kids and cousins rooms, while more simple and elegant things decorated the adult’s. Noelle had been planning the rooms since August. It was exciting to see all of it come into focus and reality. Mrs. Carson was delighted with every detail and even she had to concur with the judge, that his wife was as giddy as a schoolgirl with all the festivities in the house.

Noelle had even gone so far as to plan holiday meals each day and every evening since the first of December, light a candle each night for advent. She had found an elegant advent calendar  full of pretty sayings about the season. She had spruced it up with Mrs. Carson’s favorite chocolates, and now every evening after dinner, with their coffees, they would sit in her favorite decorated room. The grand, two story library, with a roaring fire. Mrs. Carson would open the numbered box. Noelle would light a green candle, and the judge would read part of the Christmas story. She had started the tradition the year before, when she had first started working for the Carsons, and now it was a cozy family thing they did. For the judge and his wife

viewed her as family since all of their sons, daughters, and grandchildren lived far away. Her family wasn’t nearby either, her parents still lived in her hometown three states away and 18 hours  of driving away. Her sister was friends with the Carson’s daughter and had recommended her for the job, but her sister also lived several hours away and hardly ever had the time to visit, what with being a housewife and mother of three very active little boys.

Various aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents were dispersed throughout the west, and on it went, so for her it had been absolutely lovely that the Carsons viewed her like and added granddaughter.

So with Mrs. Carson’s ever delightful support, she transformed the magnificent mansion to a Christmas wonderland. She also instrucked the gardeners on how to decorate dhte exterior. lights around the eaves and spiraled around the tall conical cypress that lined the driveway. They looked like glittering pillars every night when the first star would come out and the timers would click on . Flick! and there was a stellar driveway. The shrubs were covered with lighted nets that draped over, and various trees were decorated in the dripping icicle lights so they look drenched. If there was one thing she loved, it was lights.

She and the girls from the kitchen and maids had made snowmen families tucked into pockets of conifers throughout the gardens one afternoon when the snow had fallen thickly the night before. The judge had even found an old horse-drawn sleigh that was in need of massive repairs, but with some greenery and red bows and even more lights, it became the welcoming piece de resistance welcoming those at the front gate.

 

Part Two is in the next post. I just didn’t want to bog you all down with this little Hallmark-y story I started writing two years ago.  I only have parts one and two so far, but well I’m dabbling since I’m in the Christmas Season.

Kate

The Wisdom of Your Elders

This last week was challenging. I felt like someone was trying to push me to the breaking point and well, literally break me. Physically, mentally……. personally. Games played, moves made. Life is a chess match. If you don’t think it is, then you’re not doing it right. Because let me tell you, everyone is playing games. Even I play games, though less than others.

A knife isn’t necessarily just a knife. There is a lot more behind that, but I won’t go into it right now.

The breaking point didn’t happen because I didn’t break. I was pissed beyond belief. I was so so angry. So angry that I didn’t even talk to my family for a good 12 hours because I knew once I started talking, like an explosion, I wouldn’t stop. I didn’t want to put that on them. So I went to bed, slept for six hours and went to my writing group.

Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

My writing group is mostly women that I would classify as extended moms to me. All older, except two, all wise. All with a collective mind that I don’t think they even talk about but wow are things synced up with them. With me.

I was given the most amazing advice, opinions, and thoughts from those lovely ladies. Their initial advice led me to write some poetry where I allowed myself to be angry. And they even mentioned that I had let the anger out in the poetry and it was so much better to do that then to express my anger through other means. I am kind of a pushover, cream-puff, watering-pot of a person, so I always find it funny to think of expressing my anger in a physical way. Which was what they meant.

The poem was titled “Hurricanes Are Named After Women For A Reason”. Isn’t that great?  Basically, it was about being pushed and me pushing back in my way.  Age does have a way of allowing for knowledge.  Which was where I was going with my title. God, sometimes my blonde, distracted moments really get to me. (I’m more blonde now after an afternoon of lightening)

This card comes from Wisdom of the Crone, a deck of 54 wisdom cards. Click on the highlighted title.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where I started going was how my parents have always told me that your elders are usually smarter. Not always. Age does not always mean knowledge, but seriously, when you have a group of ‘crones’, (that is not a dig, my ladies excel in crone knowledge) and your parents saying the exact same thing about dealing, anger, being pushed, games played, certain people and their personalities, and just kind of all-around advice, it’s so so comforting. I went home after my writing group and my family listened to me vent, then gave me advice. A lot of advice. So much advice that one might think it was overload. At times it has been, but this time, I sat there kind of stupefied that I was hearing exactly what I had heard an hour prior. The collective knowledge of your elders.

I love the Farmer’s car insurance commercial line, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two….” which I’ve used in life recently when people doubt my existence. But it also applies to one’s elders. My family and friends are my elders and they definitely know a thing or two. And after the collective wisdom of them all, I was able to get through the rest of my day perfectly fine. I was even able to mad dash run into work for a few hours when I was needed. I wasn’t supposed to be working, but one line I was able to use, which is really quite true, was “This is my restaurant too.” Meaning, this isn’t a favor to you, but to my restaurant that currently means the world to me. My loyalties run so deep. I can’t even explain it. But I was in such an excellent mood that my time was a fast-paced dream.

I think the only other one thing out of all of this comes from the fact that I am terrible about responding to people in person. Which was the crux of some of my anger. It takes me until I get home and hours later to have the perfect come back. The line that comes to mind comes from You’ve Got Mail.

What happens to me when I’m provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said. What should I have said, for example, to a bottom dweller who recently belittled my existence? – Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

That is me. And that was where all of this stemmed from. Wanting to say something. Needing to say something to a ‘bottom dweller’ who should have known better. But, well again, cream puff.

In conclusion, as I have rambled on. Listen to your elders. Listen to the crones. Listen to the wisdom of years. It really really knows what its talking about. They know what they are talking about. Experience is the best learning tool of life. My experience in life these past 7 months is unexplainable, and I will be able to carry it onwards through life. I value it much more than I ever would.

And I value my elders. Thank you. Moms, ladies, family, thank you.

Kate

Lizzy & Jane – A Review

_225_350_Book.1428.coverLizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay; the sophomore novel by the author of Dear Mr. Knightley, is just as charming as her first.  Lizzy and Jane, sisters, are nothing like their namesakes. In fact they are much more like Anne Elliot and Mrs. Musgrove from Persuasion if I had to pick two people from a Jane Austen book to compare these two. In fact, Lizzy, the one telling her story, alludes to Persuasion several times within the story.

Lizzy has lost her touch in cooking. Just just doesn’t have that zing she had when she first opened Feast a small restaurant in New York City, funded by the charming, but ruthless Paul Metzger. Paul decides Feast needs a bit of help, so in comes the dazzling and popular chef Trent Murray.

Now, not only has Lizzy lost the top position in her restaurant, but her sister is struggling with breast cancer and chemotherapy, something their mother succumbed to back when Lizzy was in high school. Lizzy has never forgiven Jane for leaving after high school, being eight years older, and never coming home during the time Lizzy’s mother passed away. Needless to say, there is animosity between the sisters.

But Lizzy needs a change. So she packs up and flies back to Seattle to visit and try to find that zing she has lost.  From dealing with her sister’s chemo treatments, reacquainting herself with her father and nephew and niece, and even meeting Nick, Jane’s colleague in the marketing world, Seattle is almost more than Lizzy bargained for. And Nick is more than Lizzy expected. Single father of an adorable little boy, he’s a cautious man that has been stunned by Lizzy’s sharp New York self. But he can’t stay away. Somewhat like a Mr. Darcy we all know and love.

Will Lizzy get her zing? Will she and Jane ever reconcile all their past hates? Will Lizzy end up with Paul, Trent, or Nick?  I want to tell you. I really do, but I say just read the book.

I cannot rave enough about this book. I loved Dear Mr. Knightley and I was hopeful Lizzy & Jane would hold up to the stellar review of Ms. Reay’s first book. It has and in a stunning novel. A book that made me want to cry, laugh and plot the ending myself. I seriously thought Lizzy should end up with Paul. Then Trent. And I really like Nick too. There were so many twists to this story, the theme of Jane Austen floating through the story, from food to sisters.  The food alone and descriptions made me want to eat my way through this book. (Ms. Reay, I wish you would have added in all the recipes for this book! Can we say bacon ice cream with maple syrup, anyone?)

This book is seriously within my favorites book. I want to share it with everyone, yet I will not give up my copy, it’s too good.  If you like Jane Austen, or read Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley, then you will love this book. Five out of Five stars.

This book was provided to me free through Harper Collins Christian Publishing via BookLookBloggers for my honest review.

Kate

 

 

Christmas Time Is Here

Our lovely patriotic tree. Done up in burgundy balls, turquoise baubles, and glittery icy white snowballs, icicles and dancing reindeer.

Our lovely patriotic tree. Done up in burgundy balls, turquoise baubles, and glittery icy white snowballs, icicles and dancing reindeer.

I’m sitting here looking at our lovely tree, dripping with icicles and red balls; gorgeous turquoise ornaments, and reindeer that leap and prance across the branches, twinkling with the most luscious glitter.  The tree sparkles and twinkles, dripping with jewels.  It is an elegant tree.

And it’s December 30th, 2012.  Yup, I am writing this post from last year.  Or it will be last year when this is eventually published.  I’m being proactive.  I never get around to posting an honest to goodness Christmas post here because I’m besieged with other holiday plans.  Like sitting back on the couch and reading because there is actually time.

I love Christmas.  My parents, growing up, had years of not the best Christmases and they more than made up for it for me and my sister.  I have adored Christmas since I can remember.  From the tree to the decorations, to the Mom and Pop bringing back special Christmas treats when they  came back from their mini vacation away from us two for a few days.  The Christmas season never lasted long enough, and still never does.  The one constant?  My family.

My family is always together for this holiday, partly because they can’t get rid of me.  I have had the luxury, though at times I don’t find it to be that way, of being able to spend all my Christmases with my family, excluding the one where I spent it in Pittsburgh with my then, boyfriend.

I love our traditions of watching The Holiday and The Santa Clause.  I love how we have our one Christmas cd we play over and over and over until it’s ingrained in our heads.  I love making homemade eggnog that every one raves about.  And I love just the whole spirit that is part of our family.

Christmas is definitely more about the family and spirit than the presents.  As the Grinch figured out And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

So, from the cold and snowy, White Christmas land of 2012, Merry Christmas dear readers.  Have a lovely Holiday.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Signing off

~Kate

Things I May Have Learned This Year

These may not make anyone laugh, but here are some things I’ve learned this year.

  1. I can never have too much of Ashland, OR.  It is one of the best towns ever!
  2. Bleaching your hair with hydrogen peroxide doesn’t always  work, and come Christmastime, yellow hair looks really crappy in the family photos.  Note to self, do not play hairdresser with medicine cabinet bottles.
  3. Tea does not dye the hair back.
  4. Query letters are a pain in the you- know- what.  And they take                                    F-O-R-E-V-E-R to write.
  5. There are some pop songs I will NEVER get out of my head, even though they drive me nuts most the time. Case in point.  Lady Gaga: Bad Romance (ugh on so many levels).  Katy Perry: California Gurls and possibly a few others.
  6. Always carry a notebook or paper to write on if you are a writer.  You never know when you will have an idea.  And do not lose those pieces, or you will go nuts for two weeks trying to find them!
  7. Jane Austen totally rocks!
  8. You can never have too many cups of tea  with friends.
  9. It is really hard to get back in the groove of yoga, jump rope, etc. once you have gotten sick.
  10.  Blogging on a regular basis is super hard to maintain!

Have a Happy New Year everyone!

Signing off

~Kate