A Few of My Favorite CHRISTMAS Things

"The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Since it's jolly Christmas time, I thought it might be time for another of my postings on a few of my favorite things, but with a special emphasis on Christmas. Some of these are  perennial favorites of mine or our family's and others are more recent discoveries. As usual, I don't get any compensation for these recommendations, but I'll give you the sources, if you want to discover more (or purchase) for yourself...although some are delightfully free! Here are a few of my favorite Christmas things:

1.) Jenny Steffens Hobick's wrapping paper. Big shout out to her for designing gorgeous, distinctive, and high quality wrapping paper! The thickness of the paper is sheer luxury. And each roll comes in a cardboard tube for storage without a wrinkle. Seriously, why doesn't all wrapping paper come like this? These were the patterns I chose, but she has many other choices too. Ribbon and tags from JSH too! Click here for more.


2. Wassail recipe. For about 25 years now, our family has had a Christmas open house, and we have served this recipe every year. Some people even say...they come for the wassail. It's super simple. I heat it up on the stove and then add it to a crockpot to keep warm throughout the party.


Wassail

1 large jug of apple juice or cider
1/3 of a large can of pineapple juice
1 c. orange juice
1 T. whole allspice
1 T. whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks

Tie spices up in a square of cheesecloth, or place in a jumbo tea strainer. 
Put all juices in a large stockpot. Add spices and slowly heat, but not to boiling. Simmer for about 3-40 minutes to allow spices to infuse juices well. Remove spice bag. Serve.

3. Fresh greens. Nothing beats the fragrant beauty of fresh greens in our home! It doesn't really feel like Christmas until the banister has fresh roping draped from it and bits of greens are stuck in ironstone bowls and nestled in among bowls of ornaments. This year, I gathered them from our own property, but I have also been known to discretely *ahem* gather them in from less obvious places of the Christmas tree. 


4. Christmas mugs. Our collection of Christmas mugs (just a few shown here) just makes me smile. They are stored in a box with all the rest of our Christmas decorations, and they come out the day after Thanksgiving. We remove all the ordinary mugs from the cupboard, pack them into the Christmas box, and place the Christmas mugs into the cupboard. Then we reverse it all after New Year's. The plaid ones came from Williams-Sonoma (click here). The ones with the tartan initial came from Pottery Barn (click here). The adorable ones with the wreaths and sentiments are new from Target this year (click here). And the festive one with quilt squares and holly is designed by Susan Branch (click here).


5. The Gloucestershire Wassail. I love the imagery of this carol...the happy conviviality of the Christmas season that spreads peace and goodwill between all people...a time of wishing each other well and casting aside any ill feelings. I love almost every version of this song, but the one by Lorenna McKennitt is my favorite. Check for it on itunes, or listen to it here.

Image credit here. Photo by: Ann Elliot Cutting.
6. A mix of white Christmas lights. Haven't Christmas lights improved ten-fold in the last twenty years of so? I am just so thrilled with all the options we have now. My favorite way to use them is in a mix of styles, but all in white. We have warm white mixed with cool white on our Christmas tree, as well as twinkling and non-twinkling, and standard shaped lights and little round ball lights. The mix add interest and depth and sparkle!  The lights shown in this picture are entwined in some bare branches flanking our front door this season. They are: small pinecone-shaped lights (top), big clear balls (middle), and small white balls (bottom). Target is my go-to source for Christmas lights.


7. The Toad Hall Company Christmas cards. These are, without a doubt, some of my favorite Christmas cards we've ever sent! I purchased different Christmas cards from this same British artist for Christmas 2017, in honor of our trip to the UK last year. But I loved them so much, I went back for more this year. The artist, Rebecca Day, has her own website (click here) and an Etsy shop (click here). Check out all her cards, gift tags, and more!


8. Bayberry candle. When I was a child, my mother had a bayberry candle, a fat, pillar one, which she lit only on Christmas Eve. It was carefully packed away each year. And it lasted forever, since it was only burned for a few hours once a year. In fact, she may still have it! But the aroma of that bayberry candle...with all its botanical spiciness, is an instant Christmas memory trigger for me. For years and years, I searched in vain for a bayberry candle that smelled exactly like that. And at last I found one! It's available on Amazon (click here). It burns on our kitchen island every day during the Christmas season, and I hope our family always carries that scent memory with them.


9. "Christmas According to Christ" - a sermon by Alistair Begg. This sermon. This sermon! This sermon delivered by this man. It's message is eternal and explains clearly why we celebrate this thing called Christmas. And if that wasn't recommendation enough, any sermon delivered with a Scottish brogue makes me listen more carefully, makes me smile at the occasional turn of phrase that tickles the mind, and fills my mind with awe at the emphasis on the glory of God. Click here to listen.

Photo credit: here.

10. King's College Cambridge - A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. This live broadcast of the Christmas Eve service of King's College Cambridge fills me with awe and joy in the Lord every Christmas Eve. Nothing else helps to focus my heart more on the true meaning of Christmas than this broadcast. The sound of voices filling a soaring cathedral in praises to God is a beauty almost indescribable and a foretaste of what heaven must be like. Click here to find out all the ways you can listen to it live this Christmas Eve.

Photo source: here.
I'd love to hear what some of your favorite Christmas things are! Please leave a comment and share!

Sabbath Rest


A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels' voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine o night
O night divine.

- Placide Cappeau

Free Shipping

Just a reminder that all stockings ship for FREE this Christmas season! There is still plenty of time to receive them before Christmas! Click here to visit the shop.


Christmas Tree Day

Last Saturday was Christmas tree day in our family! For the second year running, we made a day of it and headed to Homestead Farms in Walpole, NH. We LOVE getting a tree from this farm! 


First of all, it anything involves a horse-drawn wagon ride, sign me up! I am first in line! I am raising my hand! To me, it is just a priceless experience. Everyone queues up to get on the wagons and they take you down to the fields where the trees have been grown. And the search commences.



We were thrilled that there was just enough snow on the ground there (and surprised that we had more at our house) to make it really feel like winter and Christmas!


It never fails that when we step out of the wagon, we all express concern that the trees are so short. (Nothing but the one that comes close to the ceiling will do for our large collection of ornaments...not to mention our tall family.) But then, after meandering about in the field for a while, you realize that there are plenty of tall trees, and they all just seemed short initially because they are dwarfed by the oaks and maples standing sentry around the edges of the field. And in no time at all, we had found this year's tree!


The staff saws it down for you (yes, Colette yelled, "Timber!") and it gets hauled back to the wagon for the ride back up the hill. In the shop/bakery, the cheerful staff doles out complimentary, freshly-baked donuts and coffee and hot chocolate. It really is the BEST place!


We had a donut, and then we headed over to our favorite hot chocolate spot in New England...L.A. Burdick's. Prettiest, most festive chocolate shop around! Isn't everything just so decadently cozy? If you happen to stop in to this, or any of their other locations, I highly recommend a small hot chocolate, half milk- and half-dark chocolate. Velvety smooth and ooooh, so rich!



As always, the ribbons catch my eye.


Since we got such an early start, we missed the crowds at the tree farm AND we had time to get the lights on the tree and completely decorate it all in one day. A first for us.




I think doing it all in one day just may become a tradition! 

The Scents of Christmas

Balsam fir sachets are in the shop again for the season! These make great small gifts for friends, teachers, secret pals, co-workers, and more! They can be separated and serve as favors at everyone's place around the Christmas dinner table. 

Click here for the full details about the Christmas Carol Sachets:


And click here for details about he Tweed Sachets:




End of November


November comes
and November goes,
with the last red berries
and the first white snows.

With night coming early,
and dawn coming late,
and ice in the bucket,
and frost by the gate.

The fires burn
and the kettles sing,
and earth sinks to rest
until next spring.

- Clyde Watson

Sweet Faces


Look at those sweet faces! For years and years now, I have longed to own sheep. But...ahem...not everyone in the family agrees that this would be an outstanding idea. It's an impossible situation. So, I satisfy my sheep longing by visiting them whenever I can. I'm happy to report that I now know of three different farms where sheep are kept. I'm probably getting a reputation as a sheep stalker. Each time I drive by, I slow down or stop for a second to say "hello". Just look at those ears and those eager expressions! This fleecy trio practically came running over to greet us. Precious!

Christmas Decorating: Vision & Technique

Increasingly, my Christmas decorating plans begin with a different vision each year. Last year, the year we went to the UK on vacation, my vision for Christmas decorating was all about incorporating tartan and a few British customs and foods into our celebration. This year, my vision was "simple and magical" and started with a list of adjectives for the look I wanted to achieve:

- natural

- green

- simple

- sparkle

- light


Then I mentally started to break each element on my list of adjectives into the details:

Natural: fresh greens, pinecones, antlers, nuts, clementines, potted plants, Bosc pears.

Green: focus on fresh greens and follow a more natural color palette. Limit or eliminate red this year.

Simple: a reminder to edit, edit, edit. Less is more.

Sparkle: metals, mercury glass, glass.

Light: candles and more candles, Christmas lights, tiny battery-powered lights. More candles.

The happy news about this year's vision is that most of it could be obtained in the woods, the local nursery, and the grocery store. There's been the inevitable run to Target for more lights. Oh...and antique stores are essential for unique elements.


That's me, Saturday, in my element cutting greens from our own woods and kind of pinching myself that I can do this. For years, in California, I stared at the single palm tree on our property, and now I can go gather for Christmas with abandon in the woods! SO happy about that!

Christmas decorating is a lingering project around here. I have tubs and tubs of loose items that I paw through each year, picking and choosing just the right elements to fit this year's vision. That takes a while. And sometimes we pull it all together, stare at it for a few days, and then take it apart and redo it. Once it's all finished, I'll share photos with you. 

How about you? Do you stick with the same decorating each year, like a well-loved tradition? Or do you come up with a fresh vision each year?

30% Off All Shopping Bag

I've never had a sale in my Etsy shop, Jiggety Pig, before now. But it's happening! From now through Cyber Monday, you can take 30% off all shopping bags by entering the code: ETSYCYBER2018 at checkout. I make my bags super sturdy, so you can carry a heavy load in them...easily a gallon of milk and several other items in one bag, or a load of books from the library. Each one is machine washable. A great gift for someone who lives in a place that has banned plastic bags, a farmers' market devotee, or just treat yourself! Here is just a sampling of the ones that are still available. Click here to visit the shop and see them all.





Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you had a very blessed Thanksgiving Day! Ours was full of contemplating our blessings and enjoying them...food and feasting...phone calls to dear ones far away...worship and song...and giving thanks to the Lord, who provides for us all we need from His merciful goodness. And this was, quite possibly, my favorite moment from today.


Quick and Easy Thanksgiving Dessert Option

If you're looking for a quick and easy Thanksgiving Dessert option (particularly if you, like I, have family members that don't like pumpkin), you might want to give this recipe for Pear Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble from Smitten Kitchen a try. We tried it over the weekend, and were...well...completely smitten!



Bomber Hats

The shop is freshly stocked with bomber hats, after Colette and I scooped up the littlest grandkiddo and went for a photo shoot in the snow. SO much fun! We discovered that, away from his siblings, he never stops talking! Not for two solid seconds was there silence. Hilarious chatter and non-stop action, wild expressions, throwing of snow, throwing himself into the snow, and all the antics one would expect from an active three-year old.


And to say a bit about bomber hats. Actually, I probably shouldn't say this, but...I really do NOT like making them. They just aren't that fun to make. But I do...every year. And I do it for one reason...because it breaks my heart to see a child who is cold. So, when I set about to make these hats, I created them with warmth in mind. How to create the perfect, winter hat? 

- made from 100% American-made wool

- lined with fleece and sherpa suede, so that nothing itchy touches their head, because a hat that itches will be torn off and tossed, and then they're not warm

- the combination of wool and synthetics creates a warmer hat than one of just wool

- ties under the chin

- comes in sizes 1-2 years AND 2-4 years


And this year, 10% of the proceeds from every sale go to support a charity that helps children and women who are in need of care.

Click here to visit them in the shop. Makes a great Christmas gift for the little one on your list!

Comments on Colors

I've realized that I am particularly fond of color. Although I admire those clean, white homes, or those with varying shades of white (like Nora Murphy's gorgeous home), I just don't think I could ever create that for our home. I just adore color so much. I have been known to stop in my tracks to study a particular color combo. I stare, agape, at displays of colored pencils. I stop and study the nuances of green in moss growing on a rock or tree. I like analyzing the composition of a color..does it have yellow undertones?...or brown? Perhaps I'm just a bit obsessed.

I love studying interesting color combinations in clothing. I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to it. There I pin intriguing color combos that one doesn't see every day, or were more popular in the past. Did you realize that certain color combos were very popular in past fashions eras, but we rarely see them now? And nature, being created by the Author of color, has unending colors and combinations that never fail to awe and bless us with their beauty. Here is some color inspiration for you. I hope it inspires you to look through your wardrobe and try something new!

Robin's Egg Blue and Rose-Pink: This is one of my favorite color combos from the past. If you watch for it in old paintings, you will see it everywhere. But you won't see it much at the local mall.

A Pensive Moment, Eugene de Blaas
Source: here
Thus Perish the Memory of Our Love: 1865
Source: here

And it can be varied with great results too! For instance, you can increase the red in the pink-rose:

Red & Blue Fair Isle
Source: here
Or you can deepen the blue:

Blue-green and salmon-red together.
Source: here
Or add a bit more green to the robin's egg blue and alter the pink-rose to a salmon, and you get a striking color combination!

Pretty for autumn.
Source: here
.
Source: here
Different tones of brown: Brown is an underappreciated color. I never appreciated it until I moved to New England (probably because so much of the natural world in southern California is brown). I never owned a single article of brown clothing until I moved here. And now it's one of my favorite colors to wear in the autumn. It's frightfully out of fashion this season. I know because I'm in need of a new brown turtleneck, and haven't seen a single one for sale anywhere. But check out these beautiful ensembles from past eras made striking by just altering the tone (the shade or tint) of the brown.

Toffee brown and coffee brown.  (Dress 1880, American, Made of silk)
Source: here
Coffee on toffee.  Coat    1898    The Metropolitan Museum of Art  #1890s
Source: here
Dress 1818, British, Made of silk (Gothic Regency)
Source: here
This is probably my all-time favorite brown-on-brown ensemble. Isn't she elegant? She looks like a cup of tafetta hot cocoa! Brown makes a stunning evening color...when it's done right. And this ticks all the boxes!

Brown on brown.  Brown is an under used color for evening wear...but how stunning it can be!
Source unknown.
Cobalt blue and green. Cobalt blue has the distinction of looking good when paired with a myriad of greens. And the combo looks equally good on men and women.

Purple-blues and green. "Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty." -- John Ruskin
Source: here
Jacket from a skirt suit, made in Great Britain, c.1895 (source). to love many things
Source: here
Olive and denim blue..
Source unknown.
Wine and Pomegranate Red: This is one of my favorite combinations to wear. I wore it just last week. Looks great paired with gold jewelry. And it can vary into burgundy and purple and look just as good.

red and purple-brown
Source: here.
Autumn Red
Source: here.
Eggplant and greens: I must admit to not having much eggplant in my wardrobe, but someday it's going to happen. Just look at the gorgeousness here!

Vogue September 1993 The Velvet Touch
Source unknown.
aubergine and blue-green #wedding bouquet + eucalyptus
Source: here.
And in the "honorable mention" category, since I don't have many images of these combos (yet), are:

Midnight blue and purple: (note how they photographed this against a green background).

navy and eggplant
Source: here.
Navy blue and brown:

Navy and brown . C. 1905 Afternoon Dress Marine blue silk & chiffon dress with gold soutache
Source: here.
Grape purple and copper-brown:

Lavender and copper-brown.
Source: here.
I hope you enjoyed this little dose of pretty and found something to inspire you! Thanks for letting me "geek out" (as my kids would say) about my passion for color.
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