Wednesday, December 29, 2010



The Snow Man sat on the edge of a cloud, swinging his feet in the darkness. Puffs of smoke drifted up from his pipe and hung in the blackness like little cartoon thoughts, and occasionally he knocked his black boots together, setting loose snowflakes that fell as warm silky rain showers over unsuspecting parts of Australia. Although winter was only a babe on the calendar, The Snow Man had been busy for weeks, spending a great deal of time wandering through Scotland and over certain parts of France. He had chuckled to himself to see the snarled airports and highways - good to know the importance of his handiwork was still recognized and respected among men. Of course the dogs and the children only saw him as something in which to play and frolic. "Well", he thought, "tis the season, after all".
He was feeling quite jolly, satisfied with himself, sitting there on his cloud, when he suddenly noticed a cottage below. Lit from within with a colourful glow, each window was ringed with a mosaic of frost, each pane casting a warm square of orange out into the grey of the Christmas afternoon. He looked closer. He could now see a lady busy bustling about inside. And there on the floor was a large white dog following her every move as she sat the round table with plates of good food, singing along with the carols that played in the background, stopping every now and then to ruffle the big dog’s fur.
The Snow Man thought. Why, how long has it been? Goodness, well over a hundred years? That long since he’d paid a visit to this lady’s part of the world on this, this one day of days? Could that possibly be correct? Well, one last mission before the day was done wouldn’t kill him. Purely as a Christmas gift for these two in their kitchen. He’d hang around just a bit, just to witness their reaction, just to see their faces when they first spied his gift. Now, that would be fun.
So the Snow Man stood up to his fullest full height, and he made his way down far below to that land where his presence, always so rare yet always so welcome, was sure to surprise those two creatures he’d seen.

The lady was in mid laugh when she noticed the snow, falling as innocently as wishes, down through the pine trees and all over the sleeping garden. All the guests rushed to the windows with delight all around. The big white dog dashed outside for a run before settling down at his place neath the table, where he listened to stories and laughter galore as the snowfall grew denser, ever whiter, in the cold air outside.
And it fell and it fell, all during the night.
It fell till each emerald leaf on the grand old magnolia tree wore a muff of pure white. Till every room in the cottage glowed with with the alabaster fairy light of snow. It fell on till those snug in the cottage fell asleep in their beds, huddled together, happy and safe. It was the perfect Christmas gift and the Snow Man knew it and he smiled.
He made his way home sometime around midnight with the warm glow of Christmas still alive in his heart.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And The Animals Speak At Midnight

And The Animals Speak At Midnight

The big dog lay underneath the piano, his head resting atop his furry white paws. From this vantage point he could keep an eye on the house and, more importantly, he could see if anyone neared the front door holding his lead in their hands. He wouldn’t mind a walk just now. It was appropriately cold for this day before Christmas and he’d even heard talk about snow.... perfect walking weather.

But mostly, he’d love a distraction to take him away from his thoughts, which had begun to veer off into worry. For in a few short hours, his moment would come. That once a year gift of magical speech would be his, indeed would be granted all animals, at least to those who were paying attention. And the big dog was worried. When one has such a gift at one’s disposal, one must take it seriously and choose one’s words with care.

So just what would he say? He wondered. And wondered. His furry black housemate never bothered with preparation for this momentous event. He seemed to remember that last year she had muttered something nonsensical about chipmunks and cheese and trotted off promptly to bed. To be sure, he considered that a severe waste of a rare opportunity and later he had told her so. But sometimes, privately, he had to admit he rather admired her nonchalance about the whole thing. Perhaps that was the point. Not to take it all so seriously. But somehow, he doubted it. Somehow, he thought the gift of speech on Christmas Eve was a wondrous occurrence that each and every animal should greatly respect with appropriate contemplation and planning. He was certain the Lions had been ready for days. And without a doubt the Elephants, with their proficient memories, would recite whole passages of something divine. He had to think of something wonderful, and he had to do it fast.

So here he lay. Underneath the piano with his head on his paws. Thinking. He considered uttering a prayer for the Polar Bears, as he’d heard the lady do many times before. He thought about reciting a line from Dylan Thomas, or Carroll. He did love the Jabberwocky, after all. But no, that just didn’t fit. From hours spent alongside The Songwriter, he knew every Beatles song by heart. Perhaps he could quote from one of those. No, no, somehow Ob La Di, Ob La Da, although fun to hum on an ordinary day, just wouldn’t work for this one nights of nights. He sighed.

Just at that moment, the big dog heard the lady call out his name. His ears perked up and his tail began spinning. Grateful for the distraction from his circling thoughts, he sprang out from under the piano and trotted into the kitchen. The lady stood there, bundled up in all those wooly things that take the place of fur, with his lead held loosely in her hand. He glanced around the room, sniffing the holiday smells in the air. His brown eyes took in all the flowers on the tables, the Christmas cards in a stack by the door. His black nose twitched at the roast chicken now cooling on the counter, and he could smell winter in the scent of the fir trees that were dressed up and shining in many rooms of the house. Along with the tick tock of the clock by the fireside, he could hear the soft sounds of carols and bells. And suddenly, just before the lady opened the front door for his walk in the cold, it hit him. The big white dog knew just what he would say when that clock by the fireplace struck twelve.
Just two words, but true ones.
Two words he’d often heard uttered this time of the year, two words that summed up his deepest heart song.
He said them over and over in his head as he went down the front stairs.
He smiled.
He was ready. He knew just what to say....

“Comfort and Joy”
“Comfort and Joy”


Edward and I thank you for reading and we wish you all Comfort and Joy this Christmas.
May all your dreams come true.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Arrival of Winter

The Arrival of Winter

The moon hung red in the sky last night, as red as a dream of Christmas. A spell was cast on the light in the garden and a curious blackness sifted down slowly through the evergreen hemlocks and pines. While far, far above, one after another, tulle-skirted clouds raced past the red moon on their way to a dance in the skies. All was quiet, and the great owls stared from their homes high up in the trees, with yellow eyes glowing orange in the light of this holly red moon - this icy herald of Winter - on the eve of this, the most magical season of all.

It never enters the landscape without being noticed, it has none of the shyness of Autumn or Spring. The white power of Winter will drive us to shelter, we’ll retreat to warm hearthsides in our harbours of stone. And there we shall struggle with this cold circumscription, knowing we shan’t walk through clover till Spring. Our souls will wriggle, and flounce, and we shall sigh heavy sighs. We will stare out at the icicles that pierce the air round our windows, and ponder the intricate pictures now drawn by Jack Frost.
But soon, very soon, our spirits will settle and we’ll feel clean and unhurried, much like the soft snowflakes drifting down from the sky. Our imaginations will drift and meander through strange fallow fields where we’ll sense the small stirrings of brand new ideas. Our thoughts will follow icy winds to undiscovered lands, where they’ll wander down overgrown pathways and open locked doors. We will rest and indulge in long conversations. We will sleep and our dreams will enlighten our hearts.
And when the Spring comes around, and it always does, we’ll awaken like roses, with new textures and colours - refreshed and enlivened by our time in the cold. Such is the magical wonder of Winter. A magnificent season, a gift to us all.
Raise a glass to its beauty. Sing a song of its grace.
Happy Solstice to All!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Very Best Gifts

The Very Best Gifts

My mother was never crazy about a Barbie doll as a role model for little girls and she must have wielded an impressive amount of influence with Santa Claus because he never brought me one. Well actually, he finally did, but only after I had begun to see her as a bit suspect myself and the movie version of Camelot had caused me to transfer my affections to Vanessa Redgrave instead. (Queen Guinevere and her snowy castles beat Barbie and her Malibu Dream House, hands down.)
It’s funny to think about now, but as children we spent an inordinate amount of time mulling over what “we would get” for Christmas. It was taken really seriously. We’d lie in bed and visualize ourselves scooting along the neighbourhood streets atop a shiny red bicycle - I wanted a basket on mine, for books of course. We’d whisper to one another in school about the special locket we’d asked for, or the new Beatle record, or, hard to imagine now, that perfect pair of black patent boots.

These days the gifts I long for are the ones that don’t necessarily come gaily wrapped. They don’t seem to fit under the tree, and are never featured in the glossy pages of the best catalogs. But make no mistake - if you manage to give or receive one of these gifts, they will continue to fascinate and charm till the end of days.
They do not wear out, they cannot break.
True, they may gently fade with the passing of the decades, but their once rich colours only take on a sweeter hue, a softer shade, as morning mist only enhances the beauty of the summer garden.
The gifts I most long for are memories, and they are freely given to all who keep their hearts alert for wonder, their eyes awake to joy.
They return whenever bidden, brilliant as the day I first received them - to comfort me when I’m sad, to make me laugh, or to spirit me away from boredom.
They take my hand in the middle of the night and lead me off into dreams.
They possess the power to drop me onto a ice green glacier in Alaska, or on a rolling ferry to the Isle of Skye.
They allow me feel an icy wind bite my face as I drive a dog sled of yapping huskies through the snow at the top of the world.
They send a salty breeze blowing past me as I sit with my eyes closed by a wild crashing sea.
I know I am a wealthy woman, for I have so many of them.
Far, far more than I deserve.
But I am so grateful for every single one.

Whilst I know, and he does not, that I have some delightful surprises wrapped up and waiting under the tree for The Songwriter on Christmas morning, I also know full well that none can match the gift he received this past week. Right before lunch, he ventured down the drive to the mailbox. I sat with Edward at the kitchen table, waiting to read all the sweet holiday cards that fill our box each December day. I love the mail at Christmas. I waited. And waited. Finally, I heard the front door open slowly and he walked in wearing an awestruck expression that had nothing to do with anything he could possibly have found in the mailbox. “I just saw a flock of cranes fly over”, he said. “It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before in my life. There must have been a thousand of them, and they were huge! All making the strangest sound. I wanted to run and get you, but I couldn’t seem to move. It was just amazing”.
So amazing a sight, in fact, it was actually written about in the newspaper the next day. Over fifteen hundred Sandhill Cranes, each as tall as an adult, were spotted flying over the city on their way to the Okefenokee Swamp where they spend the winter months. Calls had come in from all over town, but only a few souls were fortunate enough to witness the incredible sight.
I was thrilled that The Songwriter had been one of the lucky, for I knew this memory would stay with him forever.
It was a gift from on high. The very best kind.

Sweet memories.
These are the gifts that I wish for my readers in this Christmas season.
And make no mistake... they are out there for all!

Sandhill Crane

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Brand-New Christmas Song

A Brand-New Christmas Song

Music seems to always be playing through the halls here at The House of Edward. Both Edward and Apple have grown up with music all around them, following The Songwriter to his studio often and listening to our classical radio station whenever we are out - a fact that, I am convinced, plays no small part in the cultivation of their calm and genial demeanours.

I often think that everyone’s life has a soundtrack - music that we instinctively reach for whenever we’re happy, or blue - music that seems in a strange way to define us, at least in part. I see the face of a good, old friend whenever I hear the strains of a Sergio Mendes tune on the radio. And every single Beatles song reminds me of The Songwriter. Certain songs can immediately spirit us away to a favourite spot, unique in our memory. Others can call to mind a person we’ve perhaps not seen in years.

I wholeheartedly believe in the magical power of music to set the perfect mood for any occasion. If you think about it, I would bet that the songs you choose to listen by the seaside are not the same ones you opt for in a snow-covered ski lodge. For myself, every summer dinner party always benefits from the sounds of Astrid Gilberto drifting past a breezy window. I always clean out closets each season to Billie Holiday. There’s something about her mournful tone that fits the task nicely without becoming tiresome. I can’t tell you how many outfits I’ve tried on - standing in front of the mirror, assessing whether this skirt or that jacket stays or goes - whilst Billie sings Moonlight in Vermont in the background. She makes the task much more than bearable.
This year I cooked the Thanksgiving meal to the accompaniment of Bach’s Brandenberg Concertos No. 3 and No. 5, along with a sprinkling of John Prine, and I cannot imagine waltzing through the Christmas season without a bit of Perry Como or Johnny Mathis to make my steps a bit lighter.
These past few days I’ve been enjoying a beautiful new recording of Gabriel Faure’s Requiem op. 48, sent to me by a dear blogging friend who resides in the French countryside. It, along with Edward and a hot cup of Horlicks, has been the perfect companion on these bone-chilling nights.

And just this week, The Songwriter released a brand-new Christmas song that, I have to say, is really lovely. It’s destined to become a part of our holiday soundtrack here and it might perhaps become part of yours as well.
You can download it HERE,and it’s also on iTunes.

Happy Listening.
Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Embrace The Temptation

Embrace The Temptation

The adorable photograph above so perfectly captures the dilemma of holiday eating, doesn’t it? Those two little girls actually grew up to be professional bakers and are now the proprietors of Pert Girl Baking Co. in New York City where they create mouth-watering rugelach available for order online, thereby affirming the possibility of making peace with temptation on a daily basis.

The Christmas season is fraught with culinary temptations unseen throughout the rest of the year and, for all but the ectomorphs amongst us, it must be negotiated carefully in order to avoid an unsettling January resemblance to Winnie the Pooh. But it’s difficult. I can pass up a chocolate Easter bunny without the slightest twinge. I don’t hanker for Halloween candy. Even the Thanksgiving feast, although famously scrumptious, is, for me, not such an extravaganza of caloric intake. But, Christmas. Gee. That’s a tough one. I do try to keep everything on an even keel during every other month, just in case I’m undone by fudge in December. Or coconut cake. Or Santa shaped sugar cookies. Or shortbread. Lord, the Shortbread!

You see, I do love to bake, and Christmas is, for the baker, the penultimate holiday. The fireworks of July, the dances of May, the parades of St. Patrick - all rolled into a sugar dusting, chocolate tempering, sifting, stirring, whisking, nutcracker of a time. It is well-known here that when the festive season rolls around, I am to be found in the kitchen, with flour on my forehead and a grin on my face. And it seems my list of those who clamour each season for my fudge or my gingersnaps grows ever longer with each passing year. The more the merrier, I say, for it’s true, I do love to bake.

The first of several holiday parties was held here at The House of Edward last week and I was ready with Cappuccino Cheesecake, Chocolate Fudge, Mulled Wine, and a brand- new cake, just for this season. Tell they you never to try out a new recipe for a party. But, who ever listens to “them”? For instance, I have a castle cake pan that I adore. It’s been a fairy castle, a haunted castle and was even once, for a summer baby shower, a sand castle complete with chocolate shells scattered along the turbinado sugar that masqueraded quite perfectly as beach sand. But for a Christmas party, what could be better than a gingerbread castle? You have to be a little careful with the recipes you choose for this pan as cakes that are too light tend to stick, and of course, a stuck cake....?? Quelle Disaster! A denser cake works best and I was lucky enough to discover this recipe which proved not only delicious but which made the entire house positively redolent of gingerbread. Happily it worked perfectly, turning out of the pan with a satisfying “plop” and every turret intact.
Sprinkled with powdered sugar “snow”, decorated with spice gum drops and served with a warm lemon butter sauce, it was the perfect Christmas cake. I’m sharing the recipe for the cake and the lemon sauce, and you can find a castle cake pan all your own HERE.

Embrace the temptation!
And Have Fun Baking!

Gingerbread Pound Cake

1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup sour cream
Powdered sugar

Lemon Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 fresh lemon juice

1. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer, beating well on medium speed.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each.
3. Combine flour, soda, and spices. Set aside.
4. Combine molasses and sour cream. Lightly whisk together.
5. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with molasses mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
6. Mix until just blended after each addition.
7. Pour batter into a greased and floured pan. (Note: if you are using the castle pan, I find it sometimes difficult to get every nook and cranny greased well enough to prevent sticking. There is a product called Baker's Joy that works wonderfully for this. I highly recommend it)
8. Bake at 325 F for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the cake's center comes out clean.
9. Cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes, then remove and let cool on a wire rack.
10. Sprinkle with the powdered sugar "snow".
11. Serve alongside a small pitcher of Lemon Sauce.

For the Lemon Sauce:
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a small saucepan and stir with a whisk until smooth.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly till smooth and thickened.
Add remaining ingredients, cook till heated.
Serve warm alongside cake.

Finished cake, taken just before it was sprinkled with snow!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Let's Go Christmas Shopping!

Let's Go Christmas Shopping!

Truth be told, I really don’t particularly care for shopping malls. I much prefer wandering along a village street, preferably on a cold day when the clouds hang grey and low overhead, teasing with snow, and each shop is decorated for the holiday in style all its own.
I want to pull my hood up over my head as I stroll in the icy air.
I want to hear a bell jingle on a cafe door when I stop in for a cup of hot chocolate.
Well, why don’t we all pretend this quirky little blog is a meandering village street lined with quirky little shops all ready for Christmas. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite new items for this holiday season.
Just click on the photograph and you’ll be taken straight to the shop.
So make yourself a cup of hot cocoa, and let’s go shopping!


1. Pajamas
The ubiquitous Christmas present, I know. But still.
Pajamas are wonderful - I recently read that Johnny Depp is a fan.
So really, can one get much hipper than that?
These by J. Crew are great, and do get them monogrammed on the pocket!


2. Toy Horse
Love, love, love this!!
What child wouldn’t?


3. Dog Paintings
Aren’t these fabulous??
I see them hanging on the walls of a kitchen in the country.
Stone floors, herbs on the windowsill, homemade jellies on the counter being wrapped up for presents.
I am crazy about these. And not just because the Black Dog looks exactly like Apple!


4. Vintage Lockets
And so many different designs.
It’s hard to choose a favourite.


5. Handmade Gift Decorations
I purchased some of these last season and they were quite the hit.
Tied on packages, cookie bags, or trees.... a treat!


6. Wolferman's English Muffins
Trust me.
If you don’t have time to shop and ship, no one will mind if you send them a basket of these.
I speak from experience.
Seeing this package on your front porch is a treat beyond measure!
You’ll want to eat breakfast all day!


7. Teapot
Of course, I love teapots.
And this one is incredible!


8. Handmade Cards
I have been making my own Christmas cards for years now and, yes, it’s time consuming. But I love it.
There’s something warm about received a handmade card, no matter who makes it.
Just take a look at this delightful example.
I mean, really, who wouldn’t love to receive this?


9. Food Face Plates
I’d love to do a dinner party with these!
What fun we would have.
At the very least, they are guaranteed to make a finicky kid eat his vegetables.


10. The Best Dog Blanket
Whilst Edward chooses to sleep atop my feet on these cold nights, Apple prefers to sleep in the windowseat.
And, as that windowseat cushion is made of Pierre Frey’s glorious Bolchoi Jacquard, I usually cover it with a tartan blanket just for her.
But maybe I should get this one instead.
The best dog blanket I’ve seen!


11. Whimsy Boots
With tight black trousers, long black frock coat, white ruffled blouse.
And pearls.
Lot's of pearls.


12. Alice in Wonderland Rabbit
Oh, my soul.
Isn’t this the best?
Entirely handmade, this little fellow is simply enchanting.


13. Alphabet Bracelet
For all those of us who love words with a passion.
The perfect bracelet.


14. A Family of Birds
Aren’t these sweet?
Perhaps in a crooked little house by the sea, where the winter winds are howling outside and these happy brave souls are lined up on the windowsill to keep the bad fairies away till the Spring.
Just charming.


15. Christmas Gift Box
Ok, perhaps I’m veering into the dicey waters of self-promotion here.
I don’t swim too well in those, but I really do love these boxes I’ve made for this season.
Most are earmarked for friends, but some are in my etsy shoppe.
This one is a particular favourite, if I do say so myself.


16. The Best Gift Ever
When the rescue shelter found Edward, he was sitting in the jail at a county animal control facility, two short days away from being put down. I cannot even bear to think about it. This wonderful shelter grabbed him up, cleaned him up, loved on him, fed him, and allowed him to come live with us just one week before Christmas. Edward was the best gift ever and we will be forever grateful and in their debt.
As one might expect, the downturn in the economy has negative effects on this sort of work. This year, to help offset their considerable operating costs, Edward's shelter has created a calendar featuring some of the dogs and cats adopted throughout this past year. It’s only ten dollars and Edward would love it if you would pick one up for him and all the other shelter dogs so deserving of good homes, especially at Christmastime.

Happy Shopping!!