Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gift with a Story

Thinking back about this Christmas, I really received some wonderful gifts from family and friends. Several of them came with a story, so I decided to share them with you.

These two cookies were in my stocking. Jordan had decorated these with her own little hands, adding even more sweetness to the taste.

Did you ever get a gift that you did not know you even wanted? This is one of the gifts my husband gave me, and he assures me that with all the photos I'm taking these days, I really need and should "want" an external hard drive! Thanks dear--I needed that! 

Knowing my fascination with all the Keep Calm and Carry On items I wrote about in my blog, one of my friends found this notebook and just had to get it for me. Sounds like pretty good advice for this 21st century.

One of my sons and daughter-in-laws ordered this personalized plaque for me from the Israeli artist and jeweler, Michal Negrin. They knew of my fondness for her crystal embellished jewelry, so they discovered this little sign with "bling." If you want to treat yourself to some eye candy, go to her blog here.

Along the jewelry line, I've been looking lately for dainty short necklaces that can be layered with others, and my husband found this one for me designed by Mizuki. Appearing here larger than it really is, it's only the size of a pencil eraser. So sweet.

Shalimar by Guerlain is my very favorite perfume, and this year, my husband gave me the perfume and my other son and daughter-in-law treated me to the lotion. Shalimar is the fragrance that  my grandmother wore, and when I smell it, I always think of her. I've decided to try and wear Shalimar every time I am with my granddaughter, so that she will always associate that scent with me. Do you have a signature scent?

Now, as 2009 draws to a close, I'm reflecting on the sentiment on this plate that was given to me by a friend. Absolutely, the best gift of all is our faith, our family and our friends, and as the new year begins, I'm giving thanks for all of you and wishing you God's blessings in the year to come.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Swan Lake

Probably my favorite store in all of London is Fortnum and Mason. Today I close out my Christmas blogs, by inviting you in for a peek inside, as well as a tour of its incredible windows.

Being greeted at the oak doors is just one of the unique touches of entering this quintessential English store which has been around since 1707.

Upon entering, you are amazed at all the store has to offer. Their Christmas theme this year is Swan Lake,

as seen in their decor.

Feathers float down through the center of the store.

The story of Swan Lake is told in the window displays, as I quote,
"The Prince awakes with ghastly scream.
A giant swan has filled his dream.

The Queen acknowledges the crowds below.
Her son his feelings cannot show.

The ballet--brash and quite outré-
Just like his girlfriend on display.

He haunts the bars and clubs at night.
Seeking escape in forbidden delight.

The lonely prince with the saddest face
Finds love at last in the sun's embrace.

The palace ball will end this tale
Of love desired, and doomed to fail."
Now to leave you on such a sad note would not be a kind thing, so let me invite you to take an online virtual tour of the store guided by a lovely British voice. You can find it here at Fortnum and Mason. I promise you it will be a treat.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The French Crèche

One of the most important French Christmas symbols is that of the crèche, or nativity scene. Found in every church and most homes, the crèche is the scene of the birth of the Christ child. In France, the baby Jesus is not placed in the manger until Christmas Eve, as seen here in a photo taken earlier in the month at the nativity scene at Notre Dame Cathedral.

The shepherds and angels gather nearby.

The very first nativity scene ever, a living one, was assembled by St. Francis of Assisi in 1224, and the idea of a crèche became more popular by the time of the Renaissance. It was interesting on our recent trip to visit different churches in Paris to see their own interpretations. This one was in La Madeleine church. Life sized mannequins.

L'Eglise de St. Roch embellished its permanent monument to the Nativity.

This sweet one is from the church of St. Germain on the Left Bank of Paris,

and this one we found at the St. Sulpice church.

While having dinner in the home of some French friends, I spotted their simple family crèche,

surrounded by some of the townspeople.

The crèche that I bought in France years ago is one of the first things I bring out each year when decorating.

We saw this one outside of a restaurant near Notre Dame. I thought it was interesting that they covered the baby Jesus, and I assume they will remove the little blanket on Christmas Eve.

A tradition that first began during the French Revolution was to make little terracotta figures, or santons to place at the stable. At that time, many of the churches in France had been closed and Nativity scenes prohibited, so the people were looking for a way to remember the birth of Christ in their own homes. From the Provence region of France, came the custom of having not only the Biblical figures at the birth,

but also the townspeople. Often the mayor, the peasants, and all the characters representing different walks of life surround the stable. As you can see, the selection of santons is amazing.

The biggest display I have ever seen was in a Christmas market just outside the St. Sulpice church. You can see in the two photos just how extensive this crèche really is. Then click on the video for a panorama of the scene.

"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Jordan's Ready for Christmas

It's a very special Christmas year when you have a two year old granddaughter. Her excitement and jumping-for-joy enthusiasm are contagious. We can't wait to share the day with her, but the anticipation has been just as much fun as Christmas Day itself.

First there was decorating to do at Gigi's house,

and special kisses from one angel to another.

With her help on wrapping packages,

we got those spools of ribbon unrolled in lightning time!

Mickey Mouse cling-ons were a lot of fun,

and work better with little licks, of course.

And then the time came to meet Santa. Our annual Breakfast with Santa at our church provided a chance for her to visit the man in red.

Since he was such a scary guy,

we watched him from afar to check him out. That was some good "huggin" I was getting! And then it was her time to meet him face to face.

Well, maybe not face to face exactly, since she never gave him a look, but at least we got in the vicinity.

May the magic of the season as seen through the eyes of the child be yours and your loved ones.
Joy to the World!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Partying in the UK

The company that my husband works for has three offices in three different countries, and we were fortunate to be able to travel to all three this December to attend each of their Christmas parties. After attending the Houston party, we skipped across the Atlantic to attend the party in Scotland. We stayed and partied at the Marcliffe Hotel, a Scottish country hotel situated in beautiful grounds on the outskirts of the city of Aberdeen, often referred to as Europe's oil capital.

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner with our Scottish friends, and were amazed when two of the wait staff belted out in song. They were professional theater performers who wowed us with their music.

We enjoyed the songs from operas and theater both. I especially enjoyed the duets they performed from Phantom of the Opera. Chilling!

We closed the evening with a few carols and a rendition of God Save the Queen. (I've got to make it my New Year's resolution to learn those words! The tune, I know, since it's the same as My Country Tis of Thee.)

Those Scots sure know how to throw a party, and I look forward to joining them when they find the sunshine again. Winter days are way too short there. Happy Christmas, Aberdeen!

Two days later, we found ourselves at the Ritz Hotel in London for their dinner party.

The interiors are eye candy, and many guests were still enjoying their afternoon high tea when we arrived for an early dinner.

Our evening started with drinks in the Marie Antoinette room,

and then we moved onto dinner, where our crackers were waiting for us.

As tradition would have it, we crossed arms to pull the crackers, anticipating the loud pop! Inside were some very nice gifts, jokes, balloons, and crowns which brought an even more festive spirit to the evening.

If you'd like a quick peek at the Ritz Hotel reception areas, watch the video below. I was quite sneaky pulling out my Flip video to capture some of the sounds and sights of the hotel as we made our way into our party. Happy Christmas, London!