Ways To Beat Sadness

No matter how positive of a person you are, we all get those days where we are just…sad. Not depressed, not angry, but just sad. Maybe something happened (or didn’t happen) or maybe you just woke up wrong and nothing will go your way. I have found that the hardest thing about days like this is trying to pull yourself out of it. However, I have compiled here for you a few ways to pull yourself out of your sadness and help you be positive again.

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Tip 1: Don’t listen to sad music.

Honestly, I never understood the people who listen to sad music when they’re sad. Sad music doesn’t do anything besides pull you in deeper. Personally, I like listening to upbeat music or a movie soundtrack. Good upbeat music would be Skillet or Lindsey Stirling. And a good movie soundtrack is Hugo or Merlin (the BBC series). Or maybe you just want to block out your own thoughts and rest some. I’ve got you covered there too. My favorite white noise to listen to is rain and thunder so I would highly recommend that. Rain on dry leaves is one of my favorites.

Tip 2: Have breakfast.

There’s a reason why everyone loves breakfast; it’s comfort food. Whether you want to go all out and have biscuits, gravy, bacon, eggs, and orange juice or if you want to go simple with a bowl of cereal, I cannot suggest this one enough. There’s something nice about making yourself a nice meal and sitting down to enjoy it and forgetting everything you’re worrying about. Also, tea washes down everything nicely too, so I would suggest a good cup of earl gray.

Tip 3: Light a candle.

Seriously though, have you ever caught yourself zoning out while staring at fire? Just me? Well…I always knew I was weird… Anyway, a candle is super relaxing and it helps if you pick a scent you really enjoy (as if you would pick one you hate…). My favorite is vanilla or pumpkin. But if you want to feel energized and happy, pick a citrus scent.

Tip 4: Take a shower.

I suggest this for everything, but that’s because a shower can cure anything. Suffering from boredom? Shower. Just broke up? Shower. Broke your leg? Shower…at the hospital. Taking a shower or bath helps reset your mood and clear your head. And it makes you clean and you smell good after so…how is this a bad plan?

Tip 5: Get out of the house.

Failing all else, go somewhere. Even if you walk or drive to the middle of nowhere, get out and get some fresh air. Much like the shower, this helps you refocus and relax. Find someplace that you’ve never been before and explore some. Maybe try walking around a store and people watching or visiting a park.

 

Tip 6: Find a friend or phone one.

Good friends are there for you when you need them most. They have the power to make you smile when you are sad and they can cheer you up when you can’t imagine laughing. A friend is the ear you can rant to and can provide you a new way of looking at things since they aren’t directly involved in the situation. Friends are a great source of comfort and are really the best for pulling you out of a bout of sadness. And remember this favor for when your friend needs you to be there for them next time.

 

Tip 7: Rant about it.

Now, I don’t mean rant about it on Facebook or call everyone you know and hash everything out. What this means is get a paper and write everything out or just stand in your room and rant to the wall. Even if you aren’t sure why you feel the way you do, just start talking and eventually you will stumble on the thing that is making you sad. This is especially helpful if you are a person like me who sometimes can’t figure out your feelings for days.

 

I hope these help some. I have personally tried all of these and I can vouch for their effectiveness. So, whether you are going through a sad spell at the moment, or there is someone you know who is, try these tips to help you get back on your feet.

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Rewind of 2016

It’s funny how simultaneously a year can feel so long and yet so short. 2016 has been one heck of a year, in good ways and bad. It’s been a busy, crazy, interesting, adventure filled year. I thought it would be a fun idea to do a rewind over each month and tell you about some of the best moments and fun times I had in 2016 🙂 I hope you enjoy! Let me know in the comments what was one thing about 2016 that you really liked!

 

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January:

A brand new and fresh start again. I started 2016 with a list of goals for the year (as I try to do every year) but what set this year apart was that I actually accomplished some of them! I didn’t do all of what I wanted to do, but since I’ve never actually stuck to my goals before, I’d say I did pretty good 🙂 The goals I accomplished were: Get my driver’s license, graduate high school when I’m supposed to, make new friends, and post to Girl on Fire more regularly.

I got my driver’s license at the end of June which isn’t when I had wanted to get it by, but hey, at least I got it. This was a big and necessary step in beating my procrastination, as it’s only been two years since I finished driver’s ed…but like I said in 19 Lessons in 19 years, “you don’t have to be the best, you only have to be better than you were yesterday.”

I graduated homeschool high school in July and I only have to do some additional studying before I take the SAT and ACT tests because my math skills leave a lot to be desired. However, it was a success for me as if further cemented the fact that I am, indeed, and adult when I didn’t have to go back to school like my siblings did in September.

I made a lot of new friends in 2016 which is probably the biggest milestone yet. It’s not particularly easy for me to make friends because of my introvertedness and awkward tendencies. But you’ll hear more about this accomplishment when we get to talking about June/July.

I started posting to Girl on Fire weekly (three times a week if I did really good) and it became super fun. Not that it was ever not fun, but I really enjoyed putting together a fun or interesting post and seeing what my readers thought of it. I haven’t had the chance to post as often as I wanted towards the end of the year but Blogmas (which just ended and you will hear about later) was a huge success and a ton of fun. Hopefully 2017 is full of more good posts from me and on a more frequent schedule. 🙂

 

February:

February was fun because my family and I got to volunteer with Compassion International and serve at the Rock & Worship Roadshow in Boise. Rock & Worship Roadshow (if you don’t know) is a concert of seven Christian bands preforming for only $10. My family got to go for free because of Compassion and we had a great time, not only because of the concert, but also because we got to see firsthand how God can use people to be his hands and feet and help others. I believe the number of sponsored children that night was over 600! And we also got to watch the concert which included Family Force 5 and Newsboys.

 

March:

In March, not a whole lot happened. However I did do a piano festival for the third year in a row. For the festival I memorize two pieces for the piano and play them for a judge who ranks me on a scale of 1 to 5. Five points is a superior rating and I got a superior rating for the third year in a row, which earned me a trophy. Honestly, this year of festival was my poorest performance that I’ve ever done but somehow, the judge still thought I did well enough for a superior rating 🙂

 

April:

April was a lot of fun. I participated in a piano recital for the festival that I talked about previously. It was a lot of fun and unlike the festival performance, I think that was the best performance I’ve done.

Also, once again we (my mom and a few of my siblings and I) volunteered for Compassion International at a for King & Country concert. It was a pretty small venue and we got to once again pass out the Compassion packets and help people sponsor the children. In addition to that, we got to talk to the boy’s mom and she was a super nice lady 🙂 Not to mention this month started the beginning of my obsession with for King & Country XD

 

May:

May was fun because of Mother’s day. I took mom to Boise (well, she drove but I helped 🙂 and we went to lunch at The Cheesecake Factory and then we did some shopping. Later on that night we went to see the documentary The Abolitionist in the theater and there was a huge crowd of people there with signs protesting human trafficking. The show was completely sold out which was so amazing. It was a really cool experience to see so any people there with the same passion I have and who want to put an end to slavery in the 21st century.

 

June:

In June I took Dad out for a day in Boise as well and after a lunch at Red Lobster we went to see the second Independence Day in the theater. It was nice to have a day for just me and dad as I felt like we got to talk about a lot of good things that we didn’t normally talk about and catch up with each other.

Also at the end of June, in addition to getting my driver’s license, my family decided to try out a new church in town. It had been almost a year since we had been kicked out of our old church and I guess we were ready to try again. I’m so glad that we did because I ended up making some of the best friends I’ve had in my lifetime and they are the source of many of the best moments the rest of 2016. 🙂

 

July :

July was the month that I quit my two year job, which was a little disappointing and a little freeing at the same time. I also celebrated Forever Day with my very best friend of 4 years on the 7th of this month. In a nutshell, Forever Day comes from the saying “Best friends forever.” Forever Day for me and Bella is formally known as the “start of our ‘forever” as it marks the day she wrote her first letter to me as a reply to a pen pal add I had put in a newsletter we both subscribed to. 2016 marked our four year anniversary of being friends 🙂 (you’re awesome Bella! 🙂

 

August:

August had one highlight that I can remember and that would be the camping trip that me and my brother went on with our youth group at the new church we became a part of. It was such a great two days! We didn’t do anything super special but we got to spend some time with our new friends (who by now felt like we had known them forever) and it was the first camping trip that I had been on in at least a year (and the only camping trip I’ve been on since). It was super fun and I would love to do it again 🙂

 

September:

September brings me to what I call “the best weekend of my life so far.” I’m talking about the Women’s Retreat that I was able to go on with the ladies of The Rock (our church.) It was up at a super nice retreat center near McCall and it was surrounded by lots of trees and hiking trails (which I was out walking on every day of the three days I was there). I got to know some of the girls a lot better than I did and both nights I stayed up super late talking to a few of them. I did a lot of great studying and I got to know the girls and Christ on a deeper level that I had before.I also got to go zip lining while I was there and that was so awesome 🙂  Of course, the next day after I got back, I got my wisdom teeth taken out which put a dampener on the whole thing XD But it wasn’t terrible 🙂

 

October:

October brought news of our impending move which I was not excited about in the least. It felt like I had just gotten to know all these wonderful people and now I was going to have to move across the country away from them for a long time (well, not so long now 😉 ) But there were many highlights in this month 🙂

I got tickets to go see Lindsey Stirling’s Brave Enough tour which came to Boise! I got a ticket for myself and Caleb and I happened to get an extra one so I was able to take a friend too. We didn’t know it at the time, but some of our other friends were going too and so we had a small group who went together. Lindsey Stirling is just as amazing live as she is on her albums and in her music videos! It was a great night, except that it was so cold!

I also had a super early birthday party/sleepover with my friends because I wouldn’t be there for my actual birthday. After having some homemade pizza we all went out to our camper where I presented everyone with some gifts I had made (which turned out way better than I thought they would) and some fair trade chocolate 🙂 We then played some games and Caleb and the two others who could stay the night stayed up until 6 in the morning. I wasn’t that brave however and went to bed at three instead 🙂 Then the next day we all met up at a park in town with a group of other friends and  had an epic battle of foam, pvc pipe, and duct tape weapons. It was really great 🙂

Now on to the best day of the year for me: the corn maze. For many reasons, this day was one of the best I’ve had. It would be super boring if I went over everything that I did, but it was awesome to spend time with good friends and have fun getting lost in a maze 🙂

 

November:

November was hard as it landed smack in the middle of a move. But we did have some good times as Caleb and I were able to fly back to visit everyone for a last time and go to a Disney Murder Mystery party that one of our friends held. She did an amazing job and everything looked great. I had been compiling my costume since she told me about the party (my character was the Evil Queen from Snow White) and as you can imagine, I tried to go all out with the evil theme. Everyone else looked amazing and did a great job of dressing as their character.

Also in November, I turned 19! Honestly, I don’t feel any different than I had before but it was still an interesting experience 🙂 I hope to put my newfound maturity to good use in the coming year though 😉

 

December:

December wasn’t the best month as far as the whole year goes. There were a lot of big changes for me and a lot of challenges.

I took on the challenge of once again doing three blog posts a week for “The 12 Days Of Blogmas” here on Girl on Fire. I was intending to write them ahead of time, but I didn’t get around to it so I usually had to write them the day before or the day that they were to be posted. But for the most part, I think Blogmas was a success and I’m already looking forward to doing it again next year. 🙂

Christmas was good, but a little different than what I’m used to. But it wasn’t bad in the least. We had a lot of extended family over on Christmas Eve which was nice as I hadn’t seen a lot of them in quite a while. The best part of Christmas for me though was the chance to gather gifts for my family and all my friends. It’s my favorite thing to do and I often spend all year choosing things to get or make for everyone. I was a little behind this year though because of the move and everything, but I hope I will have a better grasp on it next year.

 

 

So, that was pretty much all the good moments and fun times I had in 2016 and I am excited to see what 2017 will have for me. 2016 wasn’t all good, but the good moments outweighed the bad. I’m excited to see the fresh challenges of 2017 as well as how I will grow as a person. Thanks for supporting Girl on Fire by reading about all the randomness I post and I hope you will stick with me for another year 🙂

Happy new year, readers!

Bethany

Blogmas Day 12: The Final Post

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Blogmas has now come to a close as this is the twelfth and final post. I hope you enjoyed reading my odd Christmas ramblings; I had a lot of fun writing them 🙂

What now? What kinds of posts would you like to see from me in the coming year? Should I do Blogmas again next year?

I hope your Christmas is amazing and full of joy and good times with your family 🙂 And I hope your New Year gets off to a great start!

 

Until next time,

Bethany

Blogmas Day 11: Winter Photos

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As the bright sun shines through the sparse clouds and lands on the green grass of our yard that happens to be completely devoid of snow, it’s hard to remind myself that the calendar states, “First day of Winter!” It certainly doesn’t feel that way. And so if you’re in a similar predicament as me and would like a little snow, here are some winter pictures for you 🙂

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Hope you enjoy and that now you’re in a little more of a wintry mood 🙂 All these pictures were taken by be a few years ago.

 

Blogmas Day 10: Hosting a Holiday Tea

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Tea parties are one of my all time favorite things to do and I love hosting them. So what could be better than combining my favorite activity with my favorite holiday? My mom and us girls hosted a few Christmas teas in our time and though it’s been a while, I still think I have the hosting down 🙂 Here I will give you a list of things you can do to host a great party. I hope you enjoy!

Themes are important for the tea as they provide a good guideline for the kind of decorations to use, food to serve, and activities to include. And around Christmas there are so many different and interesting ideas to go with. If you don’t really fancy any of the suggestions I have here, try going to a craft store like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s and look at their craft and party stuff to get ideas. Th ideas I’ll lay out here are: Gingerbread, Christmas Trees, Snow, Candy Canes (or Peppermint), and a Fancy Victorian Tea.

 

Decorations:

Gingerbread:

Gingerbread is one of the easiest themes to do, at least as far as table decorations go. What we did when we hosted it was take a few gingerbread house kits and put up (undecorated) a day before. Then you can use them as the centerpieces for the tables along with the decorating icing and any decoration candies of your choice. Then your guests can decorate the one at their table and at the end of a party, a judge chooses the best and the table wins a prize.

Christmas Trees:

You can use much the same idea for this one. Get a couple of the small trees at the store and use them as the centerpiece of the tables along with some small garland and ornaments. The prettiest one wins the table a prize.

Snow:

Snow is fun because you can just play off the silver and white theme of snow in general White lights and simple things like cranberries and pine cones can be used as a centerpiece, or you can fill a candle holder with Epsom salts and a red candle to make a pretty piece for the tables. And of course, paper snowflakes are a must for the decorations.

Peppermint:

Red and white (of course). This one is simple and pretty and can be taken care of with a trip to the craft store. Lights are nice when used as a border around the tables but you might want to try the battery powered ones as they are easier to deal with and don’t get as hot as the other ones do.

Fancy Victorian Tea:

The theme for this one is all about Victorian elegance and classic Victorian Christmas decorations are a must. Candles in place of string lights, paper snowflakes, and more nature inspired centerpieces.

 

Tea:

Gingerbread theme:

Gingerbread tea is an okay choice but in my experience, it isn’t the best tasting stuff. Also it might be a little too much on top of the gingerbread cookies and such that you’re serving. However, that is your choice. But as for myself I would probably opt for a hot chocolate instead.

Christmas Trees:

This theme leaves the tea paring up to the imagination. Something Christmasy would be perfect and I love the Twinnings Christmas Tea Blend for this time of year.

Snow:

Once again, I would go for hot chocolate on this one because I think it suits the theme of snow so well. Additionally you could pair a white tea instead to go along with the white theme of everything.

Peppermint:

Need I say this one? Of course, plain peppermint tea is nice but I would suggest you try Celestial Seasoning’s Candy Cane Lane tea. It’s slightly sweeter than the normal peppermint and much more festive.

Fancy Victorian:

I would say for this one to go with the Christmas Tea fro Twinnings again, or try a nice Vanilla Chai.

 

This is a little less detailed than I would’ve liked but hopefully next time I will have pictures 🙂 Look for another post on Wednesday!

Blogmas Day 9: Holiday Wrapping

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I love wrapping presents almost as much as I love finding them for people. To me, if I went to the trouble to find the right gift, I should make it look pretty. Most of what I do is about the ribbon (as you will be able to see in these pictures) but I also like to find nice paper too. Also, these are actual gifts I have gotten for people so if you open a package and recognize one, now you know why : )

 

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This is a bit of an underwhelming post but I will have a more exciting post for you on Monday:) It’s weird to think that we’re approaching the end of Blogmas 2016! It’s been super fun so far and I’m looking forward to planning the posts for next year! Have a great weekend!

Blogmas Day 8: Holiday Traditions

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Being the sentimental time that it is,often during Christmas we find ourselves doing things that don’t necessarily make sense or we can’t remember how they got started. Here are a few of these things with their origins explained, so now you can impress your friends and family with your newfound knowledge 🙂

 

Advent:

Advent is a season of preparation. It’s a time to make yourself ready for Christ and Christmas. Advent is celebrated on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas and is represented with 5 candles. Traditionally there are three purple, one pink, and one white. The candles are usually placed in a wreath with the white in the center. The first Sunday you light the first purple candle. It is known as the Prophesy candle or the Candle of Hope. The second Sunday of Advent you light the first candle again as well as the second purple candle which is known as the Bethlehem Candle. The third Sunday, light the first two candles as well at the pink candle which is known as the Candle of Joy or the Shepherd Candle. The fourth Sunday light the first three and the last purple candle which is called the Angel Candle or the Candle of Love. Finally on Christmas Eve, light all 5 candles with the white candle being the Christ Candle.

 

Stockings:

The idea of hanging out stockings comes out of a famous story of the real St. Nicholas. It was said that there were three daughters of a poor family who had no dowry for their marriage, so they couldn’t marry. Nicholas heard of this and in the middle of the night, threw bags of gold coins down their chimney. The bags landed in the girls stockings, which they had hung out to dry and paid the girl’s dowry and saved them from slavery.

 

Boxing Day: In England it was customary for churches to open their alms boxes to the poor on the first workday after Christmas in an attempt to cheer up those who couldn’t afford a merry Christmas. It evolved into what is now known at Boxing Day, on which service people would collect money or other gifts from their employers.

 

Holly: 

Holly is renown as a seasonal decoration as much for its beauty as its symbolism. The leaves that stay green all year serve as a reminder of out everlasting life with Christ, while the red berries remind us of the blood spilled for out salvation. Holly begun as a decoration in Celtic cultures where it was used as a sign of hospitality and kindness because they believed that fairies and other small beings would come and use the holly leaves as shelter from the snow (as weird as this sounds, I’m not making this up!). As Christianity became more popular, Christians adopted the tradition of using holly as a decoration and they made the connection and symbolism with the story of Christ.

 

Christmas Caroling:

The word “Carol” means a song or dance of joy. Because of this, it makes perfect sense that “Caroling” would take place at Christmas time when we are celebrating the joyful arrival of our Savior. The singing of these joyful songs was pretty rare until about 1223 when St. Frances of Assisi started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The characters in the plays would sing carols which told stories of what was happening. These songs were occasionally in Latin but most were sung in the native language of the audience so that they could join in. Fast forward to the Victorian period and we come to official groups of carolers called “Waits” because they preformed publicly on Christmas Eve (also known as waitnight or watchnight) at celebrations. Now carolers go door to door singing these traditional songs of joy and celebration all through the Christmas season 🙂

Blogmas Day 7: Holiday Bucket List

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Ok, disclaimer; this isn’t actually a bucket list, at least not in the traditional sense. But here is a short list of a few things that I like to do in December that make the holiday special for me.

 

Baking: Where on earth would the holidays be without baking?! I’ve already done a post on a few recipes that my family uses every Christmas so if you would like some ideas, feel free to go to that post! Baking for me is an all day activity that usually involves making a huge mess. But it’s one of my favorite things to do when I have the house to myself 🙂

 

Ice Skating: I’ve only ever done this one twice but it was so much fun an if I had the opportunity to, I would do it every Christmas. It’s a little like rollerblading but somewhat different as you aren’t using wheels. In my opinion it’s actually a little easier than normal skating.

 

Decorating: Decorating for Christmas is what I look forward to every year. The day after Thanksgiving is the time for me to get out the lights and garland and staple them all around the hallway ceiling, the living room, around the stair rails, all around the fireplace and mantle, and sometimes around the front door and dining room. For me, the more lights the better 🙂

 

Gifting: There is actually nothing I like better than looking for a gift for someone I love. Gift giving is probably my favorite part of Christmas and I usually spend the whole year looking for gifts for people. And when I find one it’s so hard to wait until Christmas to give it to them 🙂

 

Wrapping: As a fairly crafty person, wrapping presents is how I can use my artistic abilities to make the gift even better. I’m not super detailed in what I do, but I’ll be doing a post on that next time.

 

Playing Christmas Music: CD’s or on the piano, Christmas songs are awesome because they’re pretty easy to figure out and everyone knows them. I haven’t actually played for anyone much, but we’ll see if I can get over my nervousness and try it 🙂

 

 

So, there we go; a few things that make Christmas special to me. Let me know in the comments what you love doing for Christmas!

Blogmas Day 6: Halfway Over?!

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Yes, it is Blogmas Day 6 which means we’re halfway through Blogmas! Only 6 more posts to go!

How are you enjoying Blogmas so far? Should I do it again next year? Also, what posts would you like to see for the rest of Blogmas?

 

Since today is a bit of a different Blogmas post, I have for you a very special reading that is an annual tradition for my family. So without further ado:

A Child’s Christmas In Wales by Dylan Thomas.

 

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero’s garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows – eternal, ever since Wednesday – that we never heard Mrs. Prothero’s first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor’s polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder.
“Fire!” cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, “A fine Christmas!” and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.

“Call the fire brigade,” cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong.
“There won’t be there,” said Mr. Prothero, “it’s Christmas.”
There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting.
“Do something,” he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke – I think we missed Mr. Prothero – and ran out of the house to the telephone box.
“Let’s call the police as well,” Jim said. “And the ambulance.” “And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires.”

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim’s Aunt, Miss. Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, “Would you like anything to read?”

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: “It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.”

“But that was not the same snow,” I say. “Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards.”

“Were there postmen then, too?”
“With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells.”
“You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?”
“I mean that the bells the children could hear were inside them.”
“I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells.”
“There were church bells, too.”
“Inside them?”
“No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged town, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence.”

“Get back to the postmen”
“They were just ordinary postmen, found of walking and dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on the doors with blue knuckles ….”
“Ours has got a black knocker….”
“And then they stood on the white Welcome mat in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making ghosts with their breath, and jogged from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out.”
“And then the presents?”
“And then the Presents, after the Christmas box. And the cold postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on fishmonger’s slabs. “He wagged his bag like a frozen camel’s hump, dizzily turned the corner on one foot, and, by God, he was gone.”

“Get back to the Presents.”
“There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o’-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o’-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us. And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles’ pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why.”

“Go on the Useless Presents.”
“Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor’s cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast under the balloons.”

“Were there Uncles like in our house?”
“There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas morning, with dog-disturbing whistle and sugar fags, I would scour the swatched town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out. Men and women wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles their stiff black jarring feathers against the irreligious snow. Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in their fur-abouts watched the fires; and the high-heaped fire spat, all ready for the chestnuts and the mulling pokers. Some few large men sat in the front parlors, without their collars, Uncles almost certainly, trying their new cigars, holding them out judiciously at arms’ length, returning them to their mouths, coughing, then holding them out again as though waiting for the explosion; and some few small aunts, not wanted in the kitchen, nor anywhere else for that matter, sat on the very edge of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to break, like faded cups and saucers.”

Not many those mornings trod the piling streets: an old man always, fawn-bowlered, yellow-gloved and, at this time of year, with spats of snow, would take his constitutional to the white bowling green and back, as he would take it wet or fire on Christmas Day or Doomsday; sometimes two hale young men, with big pipes blazing, no overcoats and wind blown scarfs, would trudge, unspeaking, down to the forlorn sea, to work up an appetite, to blow away the fumes, who knows, to walk into the waves until nothing of them was left but the two furling smoke clouds of their inextinguishable briars. Then I would be slap-dashing home, the gravy smell of the dinners of others, the bird smell, the brandy, the pudding and mince, coiling up to my nostrils, when out of a snow-clogged side lane would come a boy the spit of myself, with a pink-tipped cigarette and the violet past of a black eye, cocky as a bullfinch, leering all to himself.

I hated him on sight and sound, and would be about to put my dog whistle to my lips and blow him off the face of Christmas when suddenly he, with a violet wink, put his whistle to his lips and blew so stridently, so high, so exquisitely loud, that gobbling faces, their cheeks bulged with goose, would press against their tinsled windows, the whole length of the white echoing street. For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens. Auntie Bessie, who had already been frightened, twice, by a clock-work mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and had some elderberry wine. The dog was sick. Auntie Dosie had to have three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush. I would blow up balloons to see how big they would blow up to; and, when they burst, which they all did, the Uncles jumped and rumbled. In the rich and heavy afternoon, the Uncles breathing like dolphins and the snow descending, I would sit among festoons and Chinese lanterns and nibble dates and try to make a model man-o’-war, following the Instructions for Little Engineers, and produce what might be mistaken for a sea-going tramcar.

Or I would go out, my bright new boots squeaking, into the white world, on to the seaward hill, to call on Jim and Dan and Jack and to pad through the still streets, leaving huge footprints on the hidden pavements.
“I bet people will think there’s been hippos.”
“What would you do if you saw a hippo coming down our street?”
“I’d go like this, bang! I’d throw him over the railings and roll him down the hill and then I’d tickle him under the ear and he’d wag his tail.”
“What would you do if you saw two hippos?”

Iron-flanked and bellowing he-hippos clanked and battered through the scudding snow toward us as we passed Mr. Daniel’s house.
“Let’s post Mr. Daniel a snow-ball through his letter box.”
“Let’s write things in the snow.”
“Let’s write, ‘Mr. Daniel looks like a spaniel’ all over his lawn.”
Or we walked on the white shore. “Can the fishes see it’s snowing?”

The silent one-clouded heavens drifted on to the sea. Now we were snow-blind travelers lost on the north hills, and vast dewlapped dogs, with flasks round their necks, ambled and shambled up to us, baying “Excelsior.” We returned home through the poor streets where only a few children fumbled with bare red fingers in the wheel-rutted snow and cat-called after us, their voices fading away, as we trudged uphill, into the cries of the dock birds and the hooting of ships out in the whirling bay. And then, at tea the recovered Uncles would be jolly; and the ice cake loomed in the center of the table like a marble grave. Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year.

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. Ghosts whooed like owls in the long nights when I dared not look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn’t the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets. At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house. “What shall we give them? Hark the Herald?”
“No,” Jack said, “Good King Wencelas. I’ll count three.” One, two three, and we began to sing, our voices high and seemingly distant in the snow-felted darkness round the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. We stood close together, near the dark door. Good King Wencelas looked out On the Feast of Stephen … And then a small, dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry, eggshell voice from the other side of the door: a small dry voice through the keyhole. And when we stopped running we were outside our house; the front room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-gulping gas; everything was good again and shone over the town.
“Perhaps it was a ghost,” Jim said.
“Perhaps it was trolls,” Dan said, who was always reading.
“Let’s go in and see if there’s any jelly left,” Jack said. And we did that.

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang “Cherry Ripe,” and another uncle sang “Drake’s Drum.” It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird’s Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

Blogmas Day 5: Essential Treats for Christmas

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Christmas cookies are a must for the month of December. After all, what would Christmas be without dusting off the family recipes and making the favorites from previous years?

Here are a few of my family’s favorite cookie (and over all treat) recipes!

 

Peanut Butter Cookies:

This is quite possibly the easiest cookie recipe I’ve ever seen. It only has three ingredients!

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and roll into small balls (about 1 TBSP per ball). Place on a cookie sheet and crisscross the top with a fork. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

 

Chocolate fudge:

This one is so easy and takes maybe 5 minutes to make!

1 bag chocolate chips

1 can sweetened condensed milk

splash vanilla extract

Combine chocolate and milk in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 1 minute. Stir  and heat for another minute. Keep doing this until the mixture is smooth and all the chocolate is melted. Add the vanilla and stir then pour into a parchment lined glass pan and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until solid.

(note: you can make this peanut butter fudge if you use a bag of peanut butter chips instead of the chocolate chips and add a half of a bag of white chocolate chips and a spoon full of peanut butter.)

 

Chocolate chip cookies:

There are thousands (okay, maybe only about a hundred) different recipes for chocolate chip cookies out there, but in my opinion the best ones will  always be the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies.

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating in completely in between additions. Gradually beat in flour mixture until fully combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon full on ungreased baking sheets (or line your sheets with parchment for easy clean up;) and bake 9 to 11 minutes until golden brown.

 

Enjoy and in the comments, tell me what your favorite holiday treat is 🙂