Monday, December 22, 2014

Canvases of the Season (Winter is Here!)

Happy first full day of Winter to you!
Yesterday evening, the season officially turned... so exciting!

Each year, I am captivated by the renewed spirit and happiness
of this season so early on that it often feels like Winter much earlier
than it actually is.  It has felt that way this year and I have often
had to remind myself that it was technically still Fall, haha.
But now the most wonderful time of year is officially here! :)

One of the things I treasure and have a nostalgic
 love for is the beauty of Winter paintings and scenes.  
I thought it would be fun to welcome this glorious season with a "gallery"
of some of the most magnificent, dreamlike Winter paintings I have seen,
some of my favorites that I thought I would share.  
The more I gaze at them, the more  I realize how much serenity and seasonal
peace and joy they reflect back at me.  They are the picture- literally-
of the grace of snowy white Winters and nostalgic days of a simpler time.
They are painted by an artist that I have grown to love since I
 first became fascinated by her paintings a couple of years ago.
Her name is Trisha Romance.

The visions she puts onto her canvases are the dreams in my mind,
the places that are most heavenly to me that I travel to in my coziest thoughts.
In sharing a few of her pieces I love, I hope seeing them may bring you
 even more cheer and give you the calm loveliness of wonder in your
 heart as they have in mine when I "step into them."

Scenes like these are reminiscent of the wonder of this season, of memories of when we visited Colorado and got to see a winter wonderland all around, of Bedford Falls (which the first two paintings remind me of), of Laura Ingalls' charming descriptions of her log-house Winters, of childhood sweetness this time of year, and so much more...

Wintertime road trips through towns I love that I've always known, their familiar historic buildings strung with lights.

Sugar cookies fresh from the oven with colored sprinkles.

Rainy days with frosty windows.

The old-fashioned, peaceful songs of this season.

Crafting and working on something new, the fire going and cups of hot-chocolate on our work table.

The delight of waking up to a surprise snow.

Writing or reading by the window in the soft light coming through a cold pane.

Admiring the tall, strong Oaks in the country, newly bare of leaves and uniquely majestic.

Feeling cozy in a coat enveloping me like a hug.

Reading and feeling so thankful for letters and emails from loved ones and comments from friends like you who share your excitement for the season and fill my heart with your kindness.

That ethereal, dreamy light that streams through the windows on chilly mornings.

Watching old classics on icy nights, snuggly inside.

Staring into the scene inside a snow globe as the snow spins and settles delicately.

And perhaps closest of all to my heart...
drives together through the neighborhood to take in the houses aglow with their lights.

Winter makes me burst with joy and I am so thankful
for all of the restful, joyful time and special days we have to spend.
How special this time of year is, not in just the excitement for what the days
hold, but for the gift that we have in looking back on the year we have
just lived and remembering what those beautiful days held.

I hope you have a most magnificent season making new memories
and enjoying all that this time of year is to you- the happiness and
traditions unique to, and cherished by you.

I wish you the joy of every good and perfect gift from above,
every blessing this glorious season!
Have a wonderful beginning to the new year!

Love and blessings, until I "see" you in 2015!

God bless you♥

(all image sources linked above)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Faithful Friday: In His Arms


When I am saddened, tired out, look around at suffering that pains me to see, or just have unrest or worry in my heart, and every other moment of the day... I am so thankful to be this lamb.

Any picture of Jesus brings content and overwhelming peace to my soul, but this is perhaps the absolute most beautiful to me.  I gaze at it, or even just think of it, and I become that sweet little lamb as I bask in the cherished comfort that I feel to have the Lord by my side.  To feel embraced, loved, and cared for, knowing He cares for you and I.  I become that lamb and never want to leave that embrace, wanting to stay in what is the most warm and perfect place I can imagine.  I look at it and am somewhat reminded of a song played at the service for someone dear to me who passed away, called "In the Arms of the Angels", a song that I remember feeling peaceful when listening to... much like I do this picture.

As it is a time in this season when the minds of so many are set upon God and the great sacrifice of Jesus for us, I wanted to share this painting because of what it means to me.  I am a lover of art and many painters come to mind, as well as favorite pieces, but this beautiful painting, whose creator I don't even know the name of, far surpasses those other paintings when it comes to the way I feel when I look at it.

This painting evokes feelings of comfort and indescribably bursting joy, reflecting the greatest love that exists... the love of God and Jesus for us.  It also is a reminder to me at even a glance of all of the qualities of our Savior that I am so thankful for that I don't know how to express it...

Love, justice, peace, forgiveness, patience, mercy.

We may be going through something so difficult, or are feeling the pain of watching others go through immense trials, but recognizing these and so many more qualities of the immaculate character of our Savior should remind us that we are never alone.   God's love and mercy is always upon us.  Let us remember how blessed we are that through all our days, whether they are pleasant or hard, we have open arms to run into to feel that warm embrace enveloping our being.  We are that little lamb in the arms of a loving Savior.

Happy Friday!!

I hope your weekend is wonderful!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Cheer

I hope your Tuesday has been a wonderful one so far :)

It has been a relaxing, enjoyable day here and I am soaking in the 
beautiful reality of what it is to feel so free and light... elated.
  Isn't that the most wonderful feeling... to know that you have time
 to do whatever your heart pleases!
I feel so blessed as I think about all of the joy inside me at the fact that
 I get to wake up everyday for awhile and dream, think, write,
 create, and enjoy each day like I love to ♥

This week has been my first full week doing just that.
I love wrapping myself in Winter and all that it means... staying
home or going out with my family, simple and meaningful things,
and taking in the sights, sounds, and scents of this amazing season,
just some of the things that bring me cheer in my heart.


Picking out books at the library, taking in the sheer delight
of delving into new stories and tales that I have been eyeing each time 
we go- and now I have time to read!

Jewelry-making, sewing, embroidering, and creating loveliness
with my hands.  The happiness this brings my soul is immeasurable.
It has been so fun to get excited about the projects I am going
to work on as I bring home new patterns, pearls, and more.
I am beaming with anxious excitement to setup a new sewing room/
space together this coming week!!  I am dreaming of sitting in front
of the window, light flooding in as we create and enjoy time

Simply enjoying waking up each day to Winter cheer all around,
even in something like this perfect snowy scene on the
calendar in my room.  I can't help but imagine that I am inside
that painting, as I do with all Winter paintings because
their cozy, blue cast and soft snowy brushstrokes make me feel as if
 I'm drinking hot chocolate or on a sleigh ride just looking at them.

Nostalgic, old-world things I am surrounded by.
The aroma of this candle is heavenly, a snowy fresh, peppermint
scent.  Even more than the scent and the fact that it
is a mason jar candle, I love the vintage stamp on the lid. 
And of course, sipping whip-cream laden hot chocolate is
pretty wonderful, too.

"Sprinklings of Winter" around our home.
Some of the smallest parts of our decorations are my favorite because
we get to use them the most, like these poinsettia potholders we
got this year and place-mats with a snowman and cardinal that
make me smile with their cheer and primitive, country feel.
My other favorites are probably the old-fashioned tins that line our
hearth, adorned with paintings of winter scenes.

Baking love and memories this time of year...
because I think baking in Winter is more about that than anything.
Oh, how I get lost in the overwhelmingly perfect wonder of 
making delicious treats and trying recipes from our old cookbooks.
I'm so thankful I have been raised in a family where being in the 
kitchen together is a priceless part of everyday life and sweeter
than ever during this season.

•     •     •

These are just a few things that bring me the greatest cheer
this time of year that I am so grateful to be captivated with recently.
Even the simplest of things bring such a festive, ecstatic, 
childlike joy.
A mainstream of all these aspects of the happiness inside me
is creativity.  I am SO thankful for the time and the cozy Winter
days to create and let my mind wander into new 
and lovely places... creating... in everything 
from memories to sugar cookies ;)

And speaking of creating, I love designing and using
color and had so much fun re-decorating my blog 
for the season- and adding a blog "footer" at the bottom!
My header is inspired by things that are close to my heart
that exude seasonal beauty to me... cardinals, poinsettias, and
Southern plantations and homes, which the beautiful painting
reminded me of so much.
  I hope the new design brings as much
cheer and delight to you while you're visiting my blog
as it did to me when I was redoing it.

Blessings, friends!

I hope you have a wonderful day!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Faithful Friday: My Soul Thirsts

This speaks to my heart so.  It is one of my favorite verses ever.
I love it like I do because of the beautiful scene that is painted (much like
this painting) of what it truly feels like to thirst for God.
I cannot think of a better way to express this.  

This verse always reminds me of a quote that I think is very much
connected to it.  It was said by Ann B. Davis, who played Alice in
"The Brady Bunch".
  I read it one day after she passed away this
 Summer and I thought it was so beautifully said and one of
the truest statements I have ever heard or read.

"I am convinced we all have a God-shaped space in us,
and until we fill that space with God, we'll never know
 what it is to be whole."

I am so thankful that this is true.  A trillion times more wonderful
and meaningful is my life to have God fill that space inside me.
My soul truly does thirst for God, sometimes in ways that I feel cannot
be quenched because my longing for everything that IS God, that
is pure and righteous, is so great.

I just love the blessing of being created with the intrinsic need
for God... because without God, all there is is emptiness.
How refreshing to our souls it is to
be "filled up" with Him when our souls are thirsting...
which is always, because we are always in need of God :)
... in need of a "drink" in this dry world.

Blessings to you!

Have a great weekend, everyone ♥

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lord Byron Said it Well

When I sit down to write a letter or a card, I have a feeling that is unlike writing anything else.... not a book, in my journal, or anyplace else.  I love writing letters and sending cards because it is a way of connecting with those I miss and love that has a nostalgic, days-of-old, sentimental wonder.  The fact that letters are still written is a sign, which brings peace and happiness to my old-soul, that not all the charm of days past are gone in this world.
Just feeling that card or crisp piece of paper in my hands as I fold it up and place it in an envelope, to run my hand over a stiff envelope after it's all sealed, and feeling the texture of a card as I admire the glorious scene emblazoned on it, is one of those simple, unequivocally delightful things that brings a smile to my face.

As far as the serenity and loveliness that is found in writing someone, I think Lord Byron said it well:

"Letter writing is the only device for
combining solitude with good

I look forward to spending quiet moments out of my days to come this Winter doing so more often.
Such a relaxing joy it is to sit down, as I have done in spare moments lately, to write to others.   It has made my soul happy, as these things have, also...

•Drinking tea (a little change from my usual hot chocolate☻) while writing letters
•Gazing dreamily at the snow globe on the shelf with the Kinkade-like scene
•Falling asleep in front of the glowing fire
•Being free from school very soon to delve into things I've missed doing
•Opening a package with a beautiful handmade gift from a friend who is more of a blessing
 than she knows

The last one reminds me of what a treasure it is not only to have friends who bless your heart with thoughtfulness, but of what cheerfulness it brings to open a letter or package.  Is that not just one of the most wonderful feelings in the world, to know someone cares about you so much to send a personal note of love or encouragement in the mail?  I love receiving mail, but even more so I love sending mail- keeping it mind that it is better to give than to receive.  

Thinking about this, I wanted to share with you a way to give through a personal letter to individuals who perhaps need encouragement more than most right now.  Recently, I was inspired to look into sending letters to soldiers, to up-build them and just let them know a complete stranger is thinking of them and wishing them well, especially in a time when it is probably extra difficult to be away from their home with the holidays coming.  Although I am still looking for a way to send a hand-written, paper letter (there are several organizations to write through), I thought I would share one way that I have started out with.  It is through the Forgotten Soldiers Outreach.  You can click the link to write you own letter to the soldiers who are overseas right now and who will be this Winter and will not get to make it home to be with their families.  You can even write several letters and pour out
warm and comforting thoughts.  You never know what something you say will mean for
a soldier who is homesick and reads your loving words.
  The letter you write will be printed out and placed in one of the packages that is sent
 to them and they will get to read your encouraging words!

Wishing y'all a blessed day!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Faithful Friday: Set Your Mind on Things ABOVE


This inspired me, challenged me to think differently and to do so more often... to think on things above.

How beautifully reshaped my thoughts become when I focus on things above instead of Earthly things.  I find it difficult sometimes to keep my mind strayed from the depressing, difficult things of life when they are around me- cancer and other illnesses, hearing of accidents and people losing their lives, of babies, children, and precious little animals who are being abused.  These things are so hard to think about because they make me feel so much sorrow.  I think as humans, it is a part of our nature that cannot be helped to feel sick at things like this that we see, to feel especially upset for the fact that for the most part we cannot do anything about the suffering or other terrible things we hear about.

But this verse is bringing me out of that more than I ever could myself... to ponder of things above is to think of heavenly things- heaven itself- and all that is above us.  No matter how hard it is, I don't want to focus on the sadness that may be around us.  The realization comes that I should pray about these thins, but God doesn't want us to be concentrated on sadness.   How comforting and peaceful it is to redirect our thoughts to things above... of angels, of God, of what may be going on in heaven right now.   Even just looking up at the sky and watching the clouds slowly moving above is so pleasant and soul-calming as I stare up and think of how amazing it is that somewhere beyond those clouds is heaven.

I am thankful for this verse because it reminds me to think on these beautiful, heavenly things instead of those that are painful to have in our minds.  To put our focus on God and angels is a blessing and has the power to bring us into a state of mind that proclaims peace and serenity- even in a world such as this.

Have a wonderful first weekend of December!

Blessings to you!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thankful, Cozy, & Full

Happy December!

I hope you had a blessed week and moments of making memories,
relaxing, and enjoying your blessings with the ones you love.
My week off with my family was so nice... a time that was a beautiful
reminder of how much I have to be grateful for.  I thought today I would share
a glimpse of it, mostly involving the meal we were so blessed with.

I was away from blogging this whole week and it feels good
 to have my fingers typing again and writing :)
  I actually decided to take most of the week as a break from
 being on my computer at all and I cannot tell you what
a great feeling that was, to focus on the simple and real things, the
beauty around me- in the ever-changing leaves, the quiet moments,
 time with family, making & enjoying a delicious meal we were blessed
 to have- and to just take a rest from being on the computer since I
constantly have to be when it comes to my studies.

Some of my favorite moments this week were surely
spent in the kitchen, watching the parade from the bar as I helped
prepare the meal.  I love burning candles while we cook or
bake and a new Winter Vanilla scent, along with the very appropriate
"Be Thankful" scent, added to the perfect childlike wonder and 
coziness that is already so plentiful on this day each year.

On the stove... my Mama had potatoes going in the pot to begin
her amazing homemade mashed-potatoes recipe, and the cornbread
was cooling to be crumbled up and added to the mixing bowl for
my dressing.

There aren't a lot of things that wet my appetite more than the sounds
and smells of sauteing vegetables in butter.  It was no different that
morning as I started the dressing recipe and sauteed celery and onions
to be added in.

Out of the oven!
This is hands down the best dressing I have ever tasted.  Our family cannot
get enough of it and I think we would all agree that we don't even want
to try any other recipe because of how delectable, moist, and flavorful
this one is.  It is Southern-style dressing and is nothing short of heavenly.
The recipe is from Paula Deen and it's called Southern Cornbread Dressing.
It's hard to write about and look at in this photo now that it's gone!
This is what I fill up on every year with seconds... thirds...
If you are looking to have a Southern-style family meal, you can't go
wrong with this... and deviled eggs, of course.

Starting the pumpkin roll.
My excitement was sky high as I began the recipe for
the pumpkin roll/log.  I have been wanting to make this for a couple of years
now and always ended up making something else for some reason, but this
year I finally got to make it!

The finished pumpkin roll was more pleasing in a gustatory
sense than in an aesthetic one, haha.  The recipe says to use a towel when
you get to the step where you roll up the cake- I don't recommend that!
It ripped pieces of the cake/roll off and they were stuck to the towel.
It didn't rip all the way through,
which I was so thankful for, but it did give the roll a little bit of a 
"unique" look.  I am excited to make another one before too long so that
 I can do my best to make it look a little more like I envisioned, haha.

Looking past that, this turned out to be one of the most
delicious desserts.  
If you enjoy pumpkin bread or carrot cake (because the flavor 
reminded me a lot of that), then I'm sure you will enjoy this moist,
 rich, amazing dessert.  I can't wait to make it again!

This was gone way faster than it should have been, hehe.
But it was seriously too delicious.  Sprinkling powdered sugar
on the slices, drizzling leftover cream cheese filling on top, and 
warming it up didn't help with the temptation at all.

I highly recommend this recipe for a fun and delicious dessert.
I can attest to the fact that it is not only delicious- it also really put me
in the baking mood of the season!  It takes a little time to prepare,
but the result is more than worth it!
Here is the recipe I used:

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup Libby's Pure Pumpkin
1 cup chopped walnuts (if desired)

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar (plus more for dusting)
6 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla

*I also added 1/4 cup extra powdered sugar
and 1/4 cup granulated sugar, but you 
can tailor it to your tastes :)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan.  Line with parchment paper.
Grease and flour the paper, set aside.  Arrange thin, cotton kitchen
towel on counter and sprinkle with powdered sugar (but mine stuck to the
towel, so I would suggest using parchment paper instead of the towel!)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves
and salt in a small bowl.  Combine eggs and sugar in larger bowl and 
beat until thickened.  Add in pumpkin and beat until well mixed.  Stir in
flour mixture.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.  Sprinkle with walnuts
if desired.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
Remove from oven and loosen cake from edges of pan immediately.
Invert onto prepared towel (or parchment paper).  Remove pan, carefully peel
off paper from back.  Roll up cake in towel (or parchment paper) while hot,
starting with 10-inch side.  Cool completely on wire rack while rolled.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, softened butter and vanilla
in small bowl until smooth.  Carefully unroll cake and remove towel/paper.
Spreak cream cheese mixture over cake.  Reroll cake.  Wrap in plastic wrap
and refrigerate at least one hour.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar
before serving if desired.

How many simply sweet, treasured moments are locked in my heart 
as new memories, making up what thankfulness IS to me this year...

Seeing my Grandma on her visit to see us

Cozy afternoons by the fire during our colder days early in the week

Quiet, relaxing time staying home and crafting

Listening to the heavy rain and thunder during the storm 

Walking through the piling leaves of the Post Oak in front of our house

Relaxing in the familiar pages of Laura Ingalls Wilder's writing

Cooking and baking together

The fun of having the dog show on in the background

Having the cornbread dressing be my job and seeing my family smile
 as they tasted it

The bursting joy I feel at having a huge family- even though we are apart
and do not live nearby, just knowing that love is there between us

...Some of these in particular are sweet reminders
to me of how grateful my heart is for where I am in life right now. 
I have so much to be joyful over and I am enjoying the simple and 
wonderful things of what is home, soaking up the moments as I learn, laugh,
and work at things I love, and spend time with those I am blessed to love.

 I am most thankful for family
and for my faith and relationship with God, who makes family
and love possible in the first place, and I feel more aware each year of how
precious those whose hands He placed my life in- my whole family- 
are and how priceless every conversation, every meal shared
 together, every hug, every everything is.
What a blessed week I had to ponder over that, the most real
and true thing in my life.

Hoping you had a most wonderful week

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