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Archive for the ‘Hospitality’ Category

I took the final photo of this series yesterday and thought I ought to post it here, since this blog is named after my house.

Here is Cheery Hill as seen through my cherry tree through the seasons.

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall

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Winter Berries at Sunset

Winter Berries at Sunset

I’m taking a cue from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy and Katie at Cakes, Tea and Dreams and asking the question, “What’s saving my life right now?” I love this discipline of focusing on the positive things, as little as they may seem.

This verse comes to mind:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

This one, too:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Here are some of the things that I am thankful for, or, that are saving my life, this winter:

  • Lighting candles. I bought a couple of brass candlesticks in November and lit tapers every time I had friends over during the holidays and burned through several candles. I light them when I’m home alone, too. The glow from just two candles can fill an evening with comfort and warmth.
Candles are meant to be lit.

Candles are meant to be lit.

  • Hosting family and friends. In December, I hosted a Christmas party for my small group, a Lessons and Carols service, dinner and movie nights, Christmas Eve with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and six-year-old niece. In January, I hosted a pizza and game night, spent an afternoon watching movies with my niece, and hosted my small group. I love having people over and I love making memories in my little house.
Late night pie

Late night pie

Morning at home

Morning at home

  • Lavender Body Butter. Minnesota winters are dry, resulting in extremely dry skin. My hands  I bought a jar of this body butter at a roadside stand on the Old Mission Peninsula while on vacation in Traverse City, Michigan two summers ago and it was well worth it. I’m sensitive to harsh chemicals and fragrances, and lotions tend to make my skin drier. This body butter is fabulous. On my desk at work, I keep a bar of hard lotion that my mom made from many of the same ingredients.
  • Hot Chocolate. I love coffee and tea, both. But this winter I rediscovered my childhood love: hot chocolate. I gave Smitten Kitchen’s Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix to my coworkers last Christmas, and made some for myself as well. I have savored many marshmallow-topped mugs this winter.
Cuppa Hot Chocolate

Cuppa Hot Chocolate

  • 5ft inf. I don’t know how or when I discovered this website and Instagram feed, but I’m sure glad I did. The cheerful and creative arrangements of flowers and objects are like Vitamin D for my soul.
  • Sunsets. A couple weeks ago, I noticed that the sun set after I got off work. That is a hopeful sign indeed. The darkest days are past and spring isn’t far off. While winter is lovely, I savor the little signs of warmer and brighter days ahead.
The sun sets after 5 pm!

The sun sets after 5 pm!

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All ready for guests...

All ready for my Sunday afternoon into-to-knitting party. That is, until I realized just how bad the weather had gotten. An inch of slick ice covering the streets made travel difficult, so we decided to cancel the party.

Someone didn't get the message until her husband pulled up to drop her off!

Someone didn’t get the message until her husband pulled up to drop her off! Good thing I told her that, in the event she didn’t get the message in time, she was still welcome to come. (I know, it was sort of a pointless message to leave. 😉 )

We spent the afternoon playing Puerto Rico.

We spent the afternoon playing Puerto Rico, a strategy game that takes place in the days of settlers, colonists, prospectors and traders. If you like Settlers and/or Carcassonne, but are looking for something different with a little less luck involved, I’d highly recommend this game. It’s great fun and a lot less complicated than it appears… 🙂

Meanwhile, their daughter watched Tangled, played with Zo and Dash and looked at my children's books.

Meanwhile, their daughter watched Tangled, played with the kitties, and looked at my children’s books.

After an afternoon of entertaining a four-year-old, Dashy was ready to relax.

After an afternoon of entertaining a four-year-old, Dashy was ready to relax. (I love how he sometimes thinks he’s a human! And his stripes and extra toes and how BIG he’s gotten since July when I could hold him in palms of my hands…)

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O come let us adore him!

O come let us adore him!

I love going to concerts, and I especially love going to concerts at Christmastime. I kicked off my concert season last Thursday with Jason Gray’s Christmas Tour in Mankato. His new album has quickly become a favorite of mine. He approached the album by asking what the first Christmas might have looked like from the perspective of the characters themselves. He got to bring a band along with him on tour, including his 16-year-old son on the keyboard – very cool! It was a great way to start the Advent season. And wouldn’t you know, the same people who sat in front of me and recorded the Sara Groves concert last month were front and center on Thursday night. (You can see the concert here.)

Then, on Saturday, I hosted a Christmas service in my home. Two years ago, a couple friends and I created a program based on the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College in Cambridge. (Thanks to Lanier for the idea!) We had fun picking out carols, prayers and poems for each of the nine Scripture readings. In each of the past two years, we’ve made some minor changes. This year, we added a clarinet to our acoustic guitar and violin. (Last year we had a friend accompany us on electric guitar to jazz up some favorite carols.) We also included Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Song of the Stars and Andrew Peterson’s The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats. After the service, we enjoyed some tea, treats and conversation.

Here are some photos from the evening:

Monica and Sam sat by the tree.

Monica and Sam sat by the tree.

My sister-in-law and niece, who slept through half of the service.

My sister-in-law and niece, who slept (and snored) through half of the service.

Darlene enjoys some goodies.

Darlene enjoys some goodies.

Who doesn't love candid shots while eating? ;-)

Who doesn’t love candid shots while eating? 😉 (Also, this is one of the only shots of Joel and Jon.)

Here’s the band! Darlene (violin), myself (guitar) and Heidi (clarinet).

We had a fun evening of reflecting on the reason we celebrate Christmas each year!

Last night, I happened upon a live, online concert. I’ve never participated in a concert like that before, and am pretty sure I was the only one there that didn’t know the musician or the rest of the audience – which made it even more fun! I lit some candles, brewed some tea and enjoyed some reflective music while Winter Storm Caesar decorated the town for Christmas. (Yes, it looks like we may have a white Christmas afterall!)

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Ginger and Spice

Ever since coming across this magical recipe a couple years ago, it’s been a favorite. I’ve made countless batches. These were the cookies I baked to take to my new neighbors after moving into Cheery Hill. (I only made it to two houses–I ate the rest…) They’re a perfect cookie for holiday gatherings, an ideal accompaniment to a steaming mug of spiced coffee, great for enjoying while waiting out a January blizzard and a nice gift (if you don’t eat them all first).

Ginger Spice Cookies 

Dry Ingredients:

2 c. flour

2 t. baking soda

1 t. ground cloves

1 t. ground ginger

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. kosher salt

Wet Ingredients:

3/4 c. butter, softened

1 c. sugar

1 egg

1/4 c. molasses

WHISK dry ingredients in a small bowl. BEAT butter and sugar, then ADD egg and molasses. BEAT dry ingredients into wet. CHILL until firm. ROLL into small balls and DIP in sugar. BAKE at 350º for 8 to 10 minutes. Let COOL on tray for a bit, then transfer to cooling rack.

ENJOY!

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To Name a House

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Oh… wait… wrong story. My house has been referred to as a hobbit home and some hobbitish names were under consideration when it came to the naming of my house. But it’s not quite a hole in the ground, and I’m not quite a hobbit.

A cozy 1937 cottage came into my possession in January 2011, and thus began the naming process. It’s nestled on top of what locals refer to as Cinder Hill, because in days past, people would dump the cinders from their fireplaces on the road for better traction in winter months. This is a great bit of history, but I didn’t want the word ‘cinder’ in the name of my cottage.

The house was still unnamed when spring arrived and tiny, white flowers adorned the two small trees in my boulevard. “They’re crab apples,” the City Forester told me, but my sister-in-law was correct when she told me that they were cherry trees. Good, because I didn’t want the word ‘crab’ in the name of my cottage, either. 😉

Cherry Hill evolved into Cheery Hill, which reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 16, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (KJV) Also, cheer, by definition, is something that gives joy or gladness; encouragement; comfort. I hope and pray that my little cottage will be a place of joy, gladness, encouragement and comfort for all who enter.

And I wish the same for this blog, whatever form it takes in the coming days…

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