Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! It's 4:00 am here in California and I'm awake, probably a habit from many years of beating my kids to their stockings on Christmas morning so there would be a few trinkets inside when they peeked. Now they are grown, though still slumbering in their childhood rooms, visiting me for the holiday.

In the last week I've heard a couple of people mention a lack of usual Christmas spirit this year. Perhaps it is partly due to the times we live in. So much horrible news, harshness and selfishness in this world, a decline of kindness and even every day courtesy and respect. It's enough to make one feel helpless, overwhelmed, and broken-hearted for mankind.

"And in despair I bowed my head:
'There is no peace on earth,' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

However, I have a friend who told me that she and her husband made a pact that whenever they heard of someone experiencing pain or of some calamity on the news, they would counteract it by doing a random act of kindness -- big or small. What a wonderful way to live. I may add that to my list of  new year's resolutions! We may not be able to change the world, but we can soften it for those within our reach.

"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
~ from I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day 
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Yesterday I had the house to myself for a couple of hours. The rain was softly falling against the window panes, the kitchen was filled with the aroma of baking apple cake, and I was putting the last few bows on presents, when I recognized a sense of peace. The world may feel like it's spinning out of control, but God has blessed me with health and loving daughters, a home to care for, a decent job. And in that moment I knew that was what the Christmas spirit was all about -- a simple sense of peace, pushing the pause button on life and enjoying in slow motion the moments we have today.

May you feel a sense of peace for all your blessings this Christmas!

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6

Jesus is the reason for the season!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Time on Cannery Row

Sunday was my birthday and it was delightful! For one thing, both of my daughters came down for the day. We went to Cannery Row in Monterey and had lunch at Bubba Gump's, then walked around enjoying the scenery.

John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors and he wrote a novel based on life in Cannery Row's early days. His bust is immortalized in "Steinbeck Plaza" there.
Now there is another statue there. Dedicated in Feburary 2014, this large work (too large, according to critics) has Steinbeck sitting on the top of the rock and his friend marine biologist Ed Ricketts on the bottom (a prominent figure in his book). Other figures are reminiscent of the area's busy sardine canning days. Someone decided to dress them for the holidays with red Santa hats.
Clouds were rolling in by the time we left, and we've had rain for the last two days -- much needed here in California. We saw "Star Wars" at Del Monte Center's theater, then went home for chocolate fudge cake. My girls know how to make my birthday special!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Celebrating the Season in San Francisco

 "City sidewalks, busy sidewalks,
Dressed in holiday style,
In the air there's a feeling of Christmas!"

That was the song playing in my head as I spent the weekend with my daughters in San Francisco this weekend. We began with dinner out, then Christmas movies in our pj's Saturday night, for some cozy catch-up time. Who needs a real fireplace when you can set the Christmasy mood on TV via Netflix, complete with crackling and popping sounds?
Sunday morning arrived in a rainy, blustering fashion, but we made our way downtown to the Hyatt to enjoy their beautiful display... or so we thought.
 The Ferry Building across the street matched the gray skies.
 We were glad to get out of the rain and into the lobby.

To our disappointment, however, the lobby was undergoing renovations and there were just a few decorations and the large Christmas tree at the top. So after grabbing hot drinks and bagels at Starbucks across the street, we got back in the car and drove to Golden Gate Park's Museum of Natural Science. Now we were in for holiday treats!

We knew we were in the right place when we walked through the front doors 
to face a dinosaur skeleton surrounded by giant snowflakes!
 We entered the first exhibit hall and were greeted by carols playing, 
snow flurries falling around us, and a big snowman theater!
 Hands-on educational exhibits about reindeer lined the glass walls...
 ...and outside were two beautiful live reindeer -- Frosty and Holiday. 
My, what big antlers you have, Frosty!
 We learned a lot about reindeer. 
As hard as those antlers are, they feel velvety soft to the touch!

 We also enjoyed the penguin display with several adorable penguins.
This one kept everyone entertained by getting right up to the edge, but never quite taking the plunge.
 We decided he knew exactly what he was doing!
 The rain forest is a favorite exhibit, with many tropical animals and butterflies!
 With temperatures in the 80's, we were shedding our coats 
as we advanced the walkway up three floors, through the forest.
From there we descended to the aquarium with the tunnel 
that allows huge fish to swim over your head.
 By the time we left, the rain had lifted.
"Soon it will be Christmas Day!"

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Christmas Tea

Time for a little Christmas ambiance!

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is softened when we take time out to pamper ourselves a little or reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Last night I was treated to both as I attended a Christmas Tea! 

It was an evening arranged by the women's ministry at my church, and the tables were decorated with all the things we girls like: crystal, china, Christmas trees, lights, and cute treat bags with gingerbread cookies and chocolates. Each round table was set up by a "china hostess," who signed up to bring eight place settings of china and tea cups, glasses, a tablecloth, and whatever else she wanted to provide to make the table extra pretty and her table mates feel special. Anyone could reserve a table to hostess as the china hostess. Such a lovely idea! Wasn't our china pattern beautiful?
Look at the gorgeous lights and decor! 
I loved the white chest of drawers with the Christmas trees and decorations!

 So clever -- crates arranged in the shape of a tree...
 ...each filled with lovely winter themed objects, crystal or baubles!
Trays of food were brought to our tables for a light supper. Canapes, tart-sized quiches, sweet muffins, chicken wraps, and tiny chocolate eclairs, were all so savory. We sang carols, were entertained by a funny skit, and were serenaded by a guitarist who told the Christmas story in song.

   We all left filled with the Christmas Spirit!