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Archive for the ‘Hospitality’ Category

Darkness is easy felt this time of year. Not just the short hours of daylight that leave too soon and come too late of a bitter cold morning when you’re rushing to get out the door. Not just the darkness caused by dryer lint grey skies that hang low and cast their shadows on our gritty, salt-covered world. This place where we move stiffly, feeling half the selves we were when sunlight bathed us on late July afternoons.

All of us who live in these hemispheres feel it in some way.

Some feel it a little bit more.

Because somehow the darkness is not just external. Somehow it makes its way in. Inside our hearts and our souls, and it can hurt. Physically hurt. Hurt like something trapped there in our hearts, trying to burst out.

It can be a joy-stealer, this darkness. A joy-stealer, and a hope-stealer, too. And often we can feel that it’s a bit of an identity-stealer, too. And you can look in the mirror and hardly recognize the face staring back at you..

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That’s how I found myself feeling just days ago. I sat here in this old brick house, my own tiny Downton Abbey, my own little Green Gables (isn’t a house like this what I’ve dreamed of?), and I’ve stared at the woodwork. The chandeliers. The hardwood floors. I played with my little men. Looked deep into their rounded eyes. Pressed their chubby hands. Kissed the softness of their necks (they’re growing fast, but they are still young). . . and felt almost nothing. Nothing of the joy I thought I should be feeling with gifts such as these.

Darkness is often like that–often takes even the things we love best, even those blessings our minds tell us should make us happy, and coats them in a shade of grey.

Darkness from the grey of winter. Darkness from the stresses of life.

Like moving house, and Christmas, and three birthdays, and feeling guilty that homeschooling has not only been on the back burner, but right off the cooker, and feeling not quite right physically, so tired you feel drugged.

I wrestle with God in the darkness. I question his methods. His goodness, even. His love. I lay prostrate before Him, confessing my lack of faith. Pleading He will help my unbelief.

I once again pour out before Him those longings that I have laid at His feet for decades now. Those things I do not understand. And I breathe a sigh of peace as I recall the many, many other prayers He has answered. How tenderly He has always dealt with me. And I pull my shoulders back and declare, “the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:7

My face like flint, pointed right at the Light of the World, and feeling shadows fade away. Opening my eyes and seeing three new blessings to light my path.

  1. Fire! Now you may not have a gas or wood-burning fire (we have one here in the new/old house, but it’s not working yet), BUT for those of you who have Netflix or even YouTube, an image of a crackling, glowing, slow-burning fire can fill your TV or computer screen and give your room a cozy glow. For Netflix, try searching for Fireplace for Your Home. Now you can snuggle up with a cup of tea and favorite book and embrace the winter, and the chance it gives you to reflect.
  2. More fire! But in a candle form, this time. A new friend who recently joined our church small group invited the other mums for tea last week. She took out her pretty china, lit candles, and put on classical music. It was delightful, and I was reminded of how very healing and important it can be to take a break for the routines of life and sit and laugh with friends.
  3. Still more fire–God, the consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), the Light of the World (John 8:12). I have often tried to memorize scripture, but not since I was eight years old have I tried to memorize an entire chapter. I am now. And those times I’d swipe through Pinterest or my Facebook feed–things that usually leave me feeling a little more grey–I am filling my mind with truth and turning to my Bible App as I work on memorizing the book I’ve chosen, 1 Peter 1.

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Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

I pray that in these lights, you too may feel the darkness slip away.

Avonlea x

 

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Usually it was fish and chips that they offered to bring. Crispy battered haddock and thick-cut fries doused with vinegar and a sprinkling of salt, picked up from the Chippy on their way over.

I’d start to tidy, but would remind myself not to worry too much. Just a quick wipe of the bathrooms, and a fresh hand towel (one of my personal hospitality must-do’s) would suffice.

There wasn’t much point in frantically scooping Lego into toy bins or straightening out the sofa cushions. Our friends did, after all, have three little boys who’d be joining our two (at that time), and I knew I could expect the five of them to make quick work of emptying the wicker toy basket and turning the sofa into a pirate ship.

After the ketchup-soaked fish and chip papers had been cleared away and the children were in the other room hard at play, the adults would gather round the dining room table, within ear shot of the littles in case someone got a bump, or there was a lesson on sharing that needed to be learned.

There’d be coffee then, or tea, and some little nibbles, and the stresses of life would dissipate as we talked and shared, the fire crackling at our backs. They’d stay past bedtime, but we didn’t mind.

They were our last-minute friends. The spontaneous ones. And we loved it.

We loved it, and it went both ways.

I remember phoning once, on our way home from a day of picnicking and wading in the rock pools of St Andrews. And we were invited to “tea” (the evening meal in many parts of Scotland).

There were probably toys everywhere. Crumbs on the floor.  Some sprinkles on the toilet seat. But I don’t remember.

I remember the lamb chops smothered in curry paste, the homemade sweet potato chips sprinkled with salt and hot pepper seeds. I remember Mary’s smile. I remember there was cake.

Later on, Mary and I nursed cups of milky tea beside the patio doors while the men took the children into the cool autumn air to play on the trampoline. Two tired mamas, we talked, we laughed, we shared our hearts so that the other knew how to pray. We felt stronger. We knew love.

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You see, a mama doesn’t mind it. Not one little bit.

Doesn’t mind balancing her cup of tea as she picks her way over the minefield of toys to make her way to your couch.

Doesn’t mind grabbing a wad of toilet roll to wipe sprinkles from your toilet seat.

Has selective vision when it comes to the pile of dishes in your sink.

She didn’t come to inspect your house. She didn’t come to give you extra work.

She came for the friendship. The laughter.

She came to see you.

Friendship and laughter bring sanity. Clarity. Helps us see that most of the chaos is normal, and we’re not the only ones going through it all.

God made us that way. To bear one another’s burdens. To celebrate together.

And I have to remind myself of this often–

that my desire is to bless, not impress. 

That laughter is made brighter, tears are made lighter when there’s cake.

Cake, and of course, a hot cup of tea.

And so even if you are a tired mama, don’t let this stop you from letting others into your house, especially if they are a tired mama, too.

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She came one night with a raw chicken. I knew she’d be staying a while. And I welcomed her into the quiet of our little stone house.

John was away in London. Or Edinburgh, perhaps. And even with the woods and the beaches to walk, the days and nights grew long, just Baby and me.

Soon the oven warmed the kitchen, and the smells spread through the house. And she sat with me while I fed and changed him. Spoke with me, listened, like she’d nowhere else to go.

And when Baby was down, and our bellies were full, she sat a bit longer just to chat.

A few months on and we were headed south, leaving Inverness for the hills of Perthshire,

and she came back.

She and another friend, as if it were nothing.

They came with boxes, newspapers, and bags, and within a few days the house was wrapped and packed, and it was nothing I could have done on my own, not me and Baby, who climbed in and out of boxes, unpacking what I’d packed.

And I was grateful, oh so grateful, for their help.

But it was more than the job, of course, more than helping me move house.

It was also their time, their laughter, their there-ness

that spoke volumes to my tired mama heart. 

Saying that, I loved the help.

Acts of service is a love language I so appreciate and understand. 

But not every mama loves someone showing up with a dust rag and a mop.

An offer to help clean her house can make her feel inadequate. Like she’s failed as a homemaker and it’s clear to all the world that she’s drowning in laundry and dust.  

So if you know a tired mama and you really want to love her, 

first find out what kind of love* speaks to her tired mama heart. 

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If it’s Acts of Service, an offer to fold her laundry, wipe down the high chair, or wash her dishes will have her heart skip a happy little beat. And if you sit and chat with her while you do it, while she feeds the baby, she’ll appreciate it even more. Have a bit more time? Offer to sit with the children while she grocery shops solo. The sacrifice of your time and hard work will make her feel cared for more than anything else.

If it’s Quality Time, bring some muffins, just spend time with her, chaos and all. Or if you can, whisk her out for coffee and a chat. Or offer to join her on a trip to the park with the children. What this mama craves is your active presence. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, she just wants to see you and to build your friendship, whatever you do together.

If it’s Words of Affirmation, this mama needs encouragement, truth, and peace spoken into her life. Compliment her on her strengths, and what she’s doing right as a mother and wife. Tell her how you value her friendship. Remind her of God’s love for her, His child. If you can’t tell her in person, call or send a card.

If it’s Gifts, this mama would love you to turn up with a pot of soup and a loaf of bread. A bag of clothes that your little one has outgrown. A new diaper bag to replace hers, which is so worn out. Anything to let her know you were thinking of her. She probably wouldn’t turn down a gift certificate to her favourite restaurant or spa, but the price is not the issue. She’ll just be delighted to know you were thinking of her, whatever gift you bring.

If it’s Phyisical Touch, what this mama might need more anything else is a hug.

Being the mama (or daddy!) of little ones is not an easy task. Not a nine-to-five kind of job. It begins from the time we open our eyelids to the time we lay down our weary heads (and often continues through the night as well). We long to raise our children to be rich in faith, love, and good works, but such important work can seem overwhelming when running on such a little bit of sleep. So if there’s a tired mama in your life, find a way to help her be the faithful wife and mama she so longs to be by showing her love in a way that will strengthen her and help her run strong.

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 *Love Languages taken from The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman

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It’s been six months, but I’m still talking. Still telling what happened–what she did–with as much excitement as if I’d just stepped off the train.

January, Little Bear just a month old, still waking often, still calling me from shallow sleep to hold him, back-bent and weary, as I rock, rock, try to keep my head from nodding as I feed him off to sleep.

January, and I’m still recovering from his birth, still tender and swollen, still feeling lost as I try to wade my way through the emotions that come with newborns and returning to the country that was home for eight long years.

January, and in spite of craving sleep like an addict, I feel anxious to do some shopping for the belated Christmas we’d be sharing with my family back in the States.

I couldn’t drive, but there are trains there, and I decided catch one, just me and Little Bear, to Inverness, where we used to live and where one can find such delights as Primark, Debenhams, and Marks & Spencers.

I was set to do the return trip in a day, but the night before, I spoke to a friend from our old church. A trendy grandmother with a soft young voice, smiling eyes, and a penchant for the color blue. She convinced me—without much effort—that Little Bear and I should stay the night. Have two days in town instead of one.

The trip began disastrously. I spent half the time trying to ignore the stressful cries of a newborn, and the other half in the dressing room feeding and changing his nappy. I would have had to go home empty-handed, frustrated, in tears.

But instead came my friend with her car to meet me and whisk me and Little Bear off to her home for a hot dinner (she held the baby while I ate!), endless cups of tea (she said I must keep my strength up!), and a heart-to-heart conversation in a soft chair (I sat while she bathed the baby!). And that’s only the beginning. I haven’t yet mentioned the fruit and water bottles in my room in the event I needed a late night snack, the electric blanket that had been turned on to keep my bed warm and waiting, or the new home décor magazines that were set out in case I wanted to take a look.

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I laid my head on my crisp white pillow that night with a smile on my face and peace in my heart.

Just a night in that house and I felt rejuvenated. Encouraged. Loved.

Ministered to in every way.

And I could say my friend is just like that. Just the sort of person to convince you she liked sleeping on the floor and that you really should have her bed. And perhaps that’s a little bit true. But if you’ve seen her Bible then you’ll know it’s also a little bit more than that. Book marks sticking out like porcupine quills. Notes added to the margins in her tiny, dancing hand. She spends a great deal of time with that book, I gather. Probably a great deal of time on her knees, too.

And somehow, in a way that surpasses all comprehension, spending time with that book has the power to transform us. Help us stop thinking of our own needs and see the needs of others. Help us see what a teary-eyed, bone-weary Mama needs more than anything else.

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“Pretend you’re eating with the Queen,” she’d say, my mother, in those preschool years when my younger sisters and I would gather around the dining room table for our lunch of cottage cheese and tinned pineapple rings. Oh, and we knew something of the Queen, over in her castle in England, and of Princess Diana and all her lovely clothes. I owned copies of them, after all, paper copies, which fit neatly onto my Princess Diana paper doll. 

And so when she’d say it, and our minds were filled with pictures of a royal banquet at Buckingham Palace, my sisters and I made sure to keep our elbows off the table, chew with our mouths closed, and always say “Please pass,” instead of stretching for something out of our reach. 

But they weren’t quite enough, those lessons in manners, didn’t quite do the trick when, sixteen years later, I found myself dining with real royalty–well, they were only 42nd in line for the throne, as I was told, but for this young American, that came close enough.

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I arrived by train. My friend was there to greet me, and as we climbed into the car and whizzed down the single track road towards his family home, I felt as though I were being driven to another world. Through the maze of green hedgerows that towered around us, I caught glimpses of thatched cottages and gently rolling fields.  The sky grew smaller as the hedgerows grew taller, and in the next couple of days, I would grow smaller, too. 

“My mother is hosting a dinner party,” he said, my friend, “and you should probably apologize for arriving in the middle of it.”

Wide-eyed, I assented, and when we arrived at the most ancient of large cottages that his family called home, I found his parents and six of their friends gathered around a table (which was really a 400-year-old door) for a casual four-course summer evening meal. 

I dutifully apologized, was met with murmured acceptances of that apology, and was then seated to the left of his mother. 

The meal could have gone worse, I suppose, if I’d tried to make it so, though I a made a small disaster of the affair quite well without even having to try. 

And what did I do that was so very wrong?

I could have laughed a little quieter, eaten a little less, declined the cheese course. But I did not. 

And when the man to my left made a comment about the side-by-side American style refrigerator that my friend’s family had just purchased, followed by the statement that everything in America is large, I could have smiled demurely and said something diplomatic like, “Perhaps that is so, but bigger does not always mean better.” But I did not. 

And when, for the first time in my life, my nose started to bleed, I could have quietly slipped from the table into the other room until it stopped. But as I had a proper handkerchief with me, I decided to use that to dab at my nose, thinking the bleeding would soon stop. But it did not, and I waited until the elderly man who sat across from me looked at me with a measure of horror before I decided to slip away. 

But there is more. 

The next day I awoke to find my hosts in the garden wearing their wellies, having just returned from a countryside stroll with their king Charles spaniel. I was offered some strawberries that sat in a large basket on the kitchen door-table and asked how I had slept.

The main activity of the day was watching my friend play cricket, that most English of games. I sat with his parents to watch the match, where we could look down at the local castle and admire how brilliantly the men’s white cricket uniforms stood out against the green.

“Do you ride?” I was asked. 

I had taken horseback riding lessons, but as it had been a few years, I replied with an honest, “No.”

His parents looked thoroughly unimpressed. 

And later on back at the house, as I sat beside the enormous fireplace while my friend watched a football match, I was asked, “And what do your parents do?”

It was all a bit too much like that scene in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth Bennett visits Rosings Park and is interrogated by Lady Catherine De Bourgh. “Do you play and sing?” and “Do you draw?” and all the rest. 

I cringe as I remember the humiliation I endured, though I didn’t realize I was enduring it at the time.

I sigh as I recall the golden English June sunlight that bathed those few days, illuminating the green of the fields and and pouring through the windows of that old house.

I laugh at the shock I must have given my friend’s family, especially when I imagine the fear they must have felt that he would fall in love with me and that they would have to welcome me into the family.

And what I wouldn’t give to go back and re-do the visit. Not to deny who I was–the great-granddaughter of poor immigrants who chose to make America their home–but to present myself with more of the discretion, thoughtfulness, and self-respect that I now possess. But that was then, and this is now, and had the visit gone differently then I wouldn’t have been left with such a fine story to tell.  

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Etiquette, it seems, is a thing of the past in the minds of many people. And this, to me, is just a little sad.  For I am a person who admires the finer. I appreciate a well-laid table, enjoy dressing up for a special event, and, should I ever really meet the Queen, would like to learn what I ought to say ;). The British tradition of etiquette–from the days of chivalrous knights to the decorum of the Victorian era–is something I have always admired.

What I don’t admire, can’t quite look up to, is when someone uses their position, their intelligence, their wealth to make others feel inferior. Smaller. Less. For etiquette and manners must go hand-in-hand, and real manners are about making the other person feel respected, appreciated, at ease.

The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones.  – Gabirol, The Choice of Pearls

That being said, if we are to avoid making others feel uncomfortable, neglected, patronized, hurt, I do feel that we must all learn to be a little more thoughtful and careful in how we behave. And if we’re to aim for a little more than that, and hope to earn others’ admiration and trust so that our good life’s work (whatever that may be) will not be compromised by our thoughtlessness and indiscretion, then we should aim for a little polish, a little beauty, as well.

A few rules of etiquette that I think worth noting?

1. Mobile/Cell Phones – Put them away when it’s time to be with people. If you’re at a restaurant they should be tucked away in a handbag or pocket. If you need to check your messages, excuse yourself and step away for a moment, or at least let your friends know that you are about to mentally switch off from what they’re saying, then check your messages quickly and discreetly. The same applies if you are a guest at someone’s home, or if they are a guest at yours. The phone should not act as an extra person in the room, taking your attention away from the real people you are supposed to be spending time with. Always put your phone away for hellos and goodbyes.

2. Conversation – Avoid speaking ill of others. Give genuine compliments to those you are with, and also speak well of those who are absent. Don’t spend the entire time speaking about your problems or everything exciting that you’ve been doing. Your close friends will of course want to know when you’re struggling, but don’t be a little black rain cloud and drag others down with complaints, or a long list of every little thing that is wrong with your life. Ask people questions about themselves, listen attentively, and give encouragement whenever you can. Wait until others have finished their sentences or thoughts, and don’t jump in or cut them off. Let your thank-yous be genuine. Statement such as, “Wow, thank you for the purple vase. We changed our decor to more neutral colors now, but thanks anyway,” are transparent and cannot really be considered as thanks.

Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were.  – Author Unknown

3. Entertaining – You may not have time to make your house spotless before your guests arrive (aren’t we all comfortable with a little clutter?), but do clean your toilet and make sure the bathroom is supplied with toilet paper, a clean hand towel, and soap. As for the meal, there’s nothing wrong with simple. Your guests have come to see you, and if they’re busy parents then they’re probably just glad that someone else is cooking. However, if it’s within your power to give them a treat and make them feel special, then do so, and provide as delicious a meal as possible. Your table spread can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish. I love lighting candles, using the good dishes, and putting out fresh flowers, but actual sit-down dinners aren’t always practical or possible when you’re expecting a house full of children. Just relax, and let your guests take the lead. Never make them feel uncomfortable for doing things differently from the way you do them.

4. Going Visiting – If you’re invited to someone else’s home, let them take the lead on how things are done. If your hosts are sock-footed or wearing slippers, then offer to remove your shoes at the door. Bring your host or hostess a small thank you gift, such as a candle, flowers, or a bottle of wine. If you have children, spend at least a little time helping to tidy the toys before you go. And if you if happen to notice a slightly unpleasant odor coming from your youngest, ask to use the changing table or take your baby to the bathroom to change his nappy. Never change a nappy right in front of your hosts, especially if people are eating. After baby is fresh and clean, wash and dry your hands in the bathroom, not at the kitchen sink.

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.  – Emily Post

5. Common Courtesy – Please, thank you, and excuse me are still good manners. So is being a courteous driver, opening the door for the person behind you, and offering your seat to an elderly person or a lady (especially if the lady is pregnant, or a very tired mother with three young children in tow). Wearing a hat inside (gentlemen), beeping your horn at or tailing other drivers, and chewing gum are still not (while I realize the need for a little breath-freshening, there is no faster way to resemble a cow. Chomp, chomp).

6. A Little Note on Tea – In the UK, you can’t be in a person’s home for more than 60 seconds before you’re offered a cup of tea. It’s a good rule to go by, and a wonderful way to make your guests feel comfortable and welcome. Don’t let your guests sit for a good couple of hours before they finally break down and ask if the can help themselves to a glass of water from the kitchen tap. As soon as they’re settled, always offer your guests a drink (tea, coffee, juice, whatever is the norm for you). If they decline, it is still polite to bring them a glass of water in case they change their mind and become thirsty.

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For a complete list and very entertaining read on British etiquette, visit the experts at Debrett’s. 

Oh, but my world just now is not a public one. Not a world of garden parties or white-tie events. And it can be easy, in the midst of potty training, and high-chair scrubbing, and meal scrounging, to forget a thing called manners. To move through my routine, scoot my children where I need them to be–to the table, to the bathroom, off to bed–without once using please or thank you. Without saying excuse me, or kneeling down to listen carefully to what they’re trying to say. 

And the steps are all so small just now. Learning to eat with cutlery, reminders not to laugh or speak about bodily functions over the dinner table. But really, really, I want my home to be a haven, and it’s not the details that will matter most in the end, but what my children come to understand about the heart of it all

And I must remember that if gruffness, mumbled answers, sarcasm, are acceptable at home, then I should not expect my children to behave any differently when they’re out. Because I’m raising a good army. Three little ones who will become three grown men. And when they’re ready, when they go, I want them to know fully their worth–because of how we treated each other at home. Because they know how much they’re loved. And when they’re ready, when they go, I want them to know how to treat others as though they have worth. I want them to know how to live, serve, love well in whatever circumstances they are called–royal courts or grass huts. And that, really, is the heart of it all. 

Because where the world is concerned, it is not our job to teach and correct, but simply to love. 

For love covers a multitude of sins, and a multitude of bad manners, too. 

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Everywhere, there were walls. Day by day, they’d grown up around us till every house and shop and school and road had its own borders, its own barriers. Keeping things out, keeping them in. Walls, like the walls all over Scotland where we used to live. Garden walls, and farm walls. Walls where you wouldn’t imagine a person could live, there in the beautiful bleakness of the Highlands, following the steep rise of a hill till out of sight. Walls, still there three hundred years on from when a man first placed stone upon stone, keeping thieves out and sheep in.

And yes we have them now, too, running all over this frozen land. Only ours won’t last, at least not as long, for our walls, of course, are made of snow. Not that the barriers were intentional, when we all went out with our shovels, our blowers, and our plows. But the walls came anyway, as we made a path from door to car, from car to sidewalk, from sidewalk to road. But at our house, I’m glad to say, we also had a path. A path between our neighbour’s house and our own.

Not that we’d used it often, that imaginary gateway, that break in the wall. No, not in such a winter when the snowfall set records and people had to shovel their roofs so they wouldn’t collapse under the weight, and icicles hung like thick stalactites from gutters, and the painful wind and cold brought tears to your eyes and chapped hands and cheeks and lips. No, not in such a winter.

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But then there came a day, one soft and snowy Sunday, when we did. Church had been canceled after an ice storm left thousands without power. So we were home, the day before us a little lonely and uncertain and unfilled. But then there came a knock.

I shuffled back to the mud room in my slippers, found the tall frame of our neighbour filling the glass door. Expecting him to ask John’s help with the snow or maybe something to do with frozen pipes, I reached for the handle, hoping all was well.

“We’re not going anywhere today, and neither are you,” he said. “We’ve got a ham in the oven and we’re hoping you’ll come over and help us eat it.”

Well, such an invitation! Such a welcome invitation on such a silent, snowy day.

And so when the time was right we put on our boots, didn’t bother with coats, and filled the silence with our chatter as we walked that path, that break in the wall of snow, and into our neighbour’s large kitchen.

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We stayed for hours. And I couldn’t tell you what it meant to sit there round their table, surrounded by photos of their grandchildren and a collection of Eiffel Towers. But it was more than the ham and potatoes and veg that we ate while we talked and laughed. More than the tea and cookies and jello that came next. More than the stories from days past, told with such animation, that we laughed over till our sides hurt. More than our neighbours themselves, who began as kind strangers and had turned into friends.

It was the sum of it all that filled us that day, warmed us from the inside out, made us feel that winter was the most wonderful of seasons because it had brought us together, could bring us close to other family and friends before spring came and the world opened up and let us sprawl out, warm in the sun but far from each other.

March is nearly upon us, but the temperatures are still frigid, and until the warmth comes to melt the mountains of snow and banish the walls, we will have winter. And for as long as it lasts, for all those long Saturday afternoons and black winter nights, I’ll be searching for ways warm our home, warm the hearts of our friends. With big pots of chili, and spontaneous tea parties with plates of shortbread taken from the rations John’s parents bring.

And that is the best way to not just survive winter, but love it.

It is said that good fences make good neighbours, and I would agree completely. Good fences, good walls, they make good neighbours, but only when there is a gate.

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And there is quite a different sort of conversation around a fire than there is in the shadow of a beech tree…. [F]our dry logs have in them all the circumstance necessary to a conversation of four or five hours, with chestnuts on the plate and a jug of wine between the legs. Yes, let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.

~Pietro Aretino, translated from Italian

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Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.

~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

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For friend hearts, and sweethearts, and parent hearts, too,

for hungry tummies, and open arms, this one’s for you.

Some truth, some fluff, some real love stuff . . .

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Ah, Janey, make us swoon.

To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.

~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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Love? Yeah . . . You’ll be crying . . .

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Well, well . . .

Handsome is as handsome does.

~J.R.R. Tolkien

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Ah, at last . . .

I don’t want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want you.

~Lucy Maud Montgomery,

Anne of the Island

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Sweetest video ever made–send this one to your honey.

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And this is what you can tell them over Valentine’s dinner 😉

Opening her eyes again, and seeing her husband’s face across the table, she leaned forward to give it a pat on the cheek, and sat down to supper, declaring it to be the best face in the world.

~Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

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Love? Oh, WOW.

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Love comforteth like sunshine after rain.

~William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis

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A little something for the Valentine table.

For your children, for your honey, or for you!

Beetroot and Parsnip Soup with Horseradish*

(nope, not tomato!)

pink soup? think of that! and jolly easy to make!

30 grams butter

1 potato, peeled and chopped

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 large or 4 small beetroot,

peeled and chopped

800 ml vegetable stock

1oo ml cream and sour cream,

combined

1 T horseradish mixed with

1 T olive oil and 1 t vinegar

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. And the onion and cook till soft but not brown, then add the potato, parsnip, and vegetable stock/broth. Bring to the boil and then add the beetroot, cooking for a further 15 minutes. Don’t overcook, as the beetroot will go from a lovely deep pink to a red color. When the vegetables are tender, remove from heat and puree with a stick blender (or blender) until the soup is smooth, but with a few lumps. Stir in the cream, sour cream, and horseradish mix and season with salt and black pepper. Exquisite!

*Recipe adapted from Delicious Soups by Belinda Williams

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Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.

~C.S. Lewis

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Wishing the happiest of Valentine weekends to you!

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh is now on Pinterest! Join me there?

http://www.pinterest.com/happylittlesigh/

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