December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

Luke 2:4-7

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 

the reason for the season--CHRISTmas!  amazing photos & video:

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 

Merry Christmas Eve!

December 23, 2016

The Power of Twinkle Lights

Whether or not it was snowing, I do not know. I was simply lying in bed, unwinding from another Christmasy day. School was done for a while, and I had the next week to simply celebrate and relax.
And create.
You see, I had plugged in my Christmas lights that night; their soft glow filled my room with warmth. And I was thinking about taking a leap. For months I had read and been inspired by these beautiful blogs. They had headers and tags and games. They had gorgeous pictures and witty writing, and most of all, fun. And I wanted to blog too, so very much. I wanted to join that community of like-minded girls that I admired; I wanted to be their friends.

Tie squares of tulle fabric along a string of Christmas lights. This would be beautiful on a tree or mantle.:

Ideas? I didn't have many. And I definitely didn't want to start a blog and not continue with it. I thought to myself "I'll need to make it at least one year." I had no idea how that year would be filled, but I was going to try anyway.
And so I did.

Happy Birthday XO:
It's my blog birthday!

Readers, this is one year since my very first post at Lavender Spring. I made it a year, and have no intention of stopping anytime soon (so consider yourself warned! ;) Oddly enough, I am not deathly embarrassed by my early posts; I think I put so much thought into them so I wouldn't "mess up"!
I've gone from 1 follower (thanks Naomi!) to 23, and I am so grateful for all of you! Thank you for your 480 comments this year, and for reading (up to) my 76 posts (this one's 77!)
I don't want to toot my own horn for much longer, so I guess I'll just end here. That's one thing a year of blogging hasn't improved: my awkward exits! :P
Do you believe in the power of twinkle lights? (lol I know that's not really a question)

December 22, 2016

Wait, You Haven't Wrapped Those Yet?

Haven't wrapped all of your presents yet? That's ok, you've still got a few days...and look! Now you have some Pinspiration to aspire to! :) 

1. Use cute printable tags. The Chalkboard fad has not left yet, so make use of it while it lasts! ;)

 :

2. Use fancy, silk ribbon, jewelry, and old sheet music/book pages for wrapping high-class presents.

Love this idea for wrapping small gifts.:

You can tell there's something really, really good in those, can't you?

3. Flowers are lovely, even especially at Christmas, so why not stick a few poinsettias atop your presents? 
How to Make Paper Poinsettias. Free pattern and tutorial @LiaGriffith:

4. Cute wrapping paper can go a long way. This vintage-inspired cuteness is by Cath Kidston. 
Image result for christmas presents wrapping

5. Sure, you can use paper flowers on your presents, but you could go even further and use some real live nature! Or further still, and dip said nature in glitter or metallic paint. Or just forget it and tie on a jingle bell. It all works. :)

Image result for christmas presents wrapping martha stewart


Seriously though, have you finished buying and wrapping your presents?
Any handmade surprises for your family?
Do you fuss over wrapping, or just kind of get it done?


December 21, 2016

How to Celebrate Christmas the German-American Way

1. Buy a Paper Advent Calendar (Adventskalender) 
RICHARD SELLMER - Old Fashioned German Paper Advent Christmas CALENDAR - #734:
And use it every day! As much as I like chocolate, I don't long for a chocolate Advent calendar when I get to open a new surprise on a beautiful picture!

2. Eat Lebkuchen and Stollen

Lebkuchen; four different ways to make this lovely German sweet treat!:

Lebkuchen is like gingerbread, but better. Sometimes it's glazed like the hearts above, and sometimes it's covered in chocolate and filled with apricot jelly which might seem gross but it's oh so good.
(Oh, and stollen is like a Christmas sweet bread with raisins, frosting, and candied fruit. It's ok, but not oh so good.)

3. Listen to German Christmas Music

This is a staple to my family's Christmas. To me, it is some of the most beautiful, Christmasy music in the world. 





4. Use Advent Angels...

Image result for lichterengel adventskerzenhalter erzgebirge

I couldn't find any good pictures of advent angels, but this is what my family uses every night with Christmas cookies. We light one candle and pass the light around and everything in the kitchen is dark except the little glowings of our advent angels. We proceed to eat lebkuchen and listen to German Christmas music. 
5. And Advent Pyramids.

German Christmas pyramid:

These are for Sunday dinners, since they're much more special than advent angels. The heat from the candles turns the blades on top, which is connected to the lower layers, which makes the little nativity scenes turn as well. Pretty cool, huh?


6. Do Christmas Eve Right

Pinterest :@kandi28:

This means hiding the decorated tree behind closed doors until Christmas Eve, when we open presents after church. I know some people have their trees up a month before Christmas, but I love how special seeing the tree for the first time on Christmas Eve is. And I'm not going to complain about getting my presents sooner rather than later! :)

And that's how to celebrate Christmas like a German, or at least a German American!

Do you have any cultural traditions at Christmas? Any German ones?
Do you use a paper advent calendar?
Have you had lebkuchen? Isn't it yummy?

December 20, 2016

A Little House Christmas

You know what I think?
I think everybody just needs to settle down a little. (If you are settled down, good. Stay there, at least through Christmas.)
Everybody's rushing around, I still have to go to school this week (of all the terrible things!), and people are bragging, yes bragging about how much money they're spending on Christmas presents. Perhaps they do it in a passive aggressive manner, but they do it all the same.
And although there are moments of happy bustling and calm candlelight and family happiness, the world as a whole has not slowed down on protests, attacks, unrest, abortion, bickering, and general, everyday greed and vanity.
And I think what we need right now (besides, of course, the true meaning of Christmas, Emmanuel), is a little bit of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Image result for little house on the prairie snow

I mean, the girl got 6 pieces of candy in their stockings one year, and what was her reaction? Wonder and gratitude. Her little sister Carrie got some buttons on a string, and her reaction? Exactly the same as Laura's and Mary's. Toddlers can find joy in so many things, even some pretty buttons, so it makes one wonder why we spend $50 a pop on deluxe plastic play-sets.
Here's a quote from Little House on the Prairie: "They had never thought of such a thing as having a penny. Think of having a whole penny for your very own. Think of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny."
Yes indeed: think of it.
Image result for garth williams christmas

We need not feel guilty for our blessings; that's not at all what I'm saying. I dislike all this talk of checking one's privilege. They're missing the point; obviously we ought to recognize how blessed we are, (and reading Little House is a great way to do that), but our reaction to that should be just like Laura's: wonder and gratitude, not guilt or shame for having more than others.

This was quite a ramble, I know. But let me leave you with another excerpt from On the Banks of Plum Creek:
     "Pa had tuned his fiddle and now he set it against his shoulder. Overhead the wind went wailing lonely in the cold dark. But in the dugout everything was snug and cozy. Bits of fire-light came through the seams of the stove and twinkled on Ma's steel knitting needles and tried to catch Pa's elbow. In the shadows the bow was dancing, on the floor Pa's toe was tapping, and the merry music hid the lonely crying of the wind."

Wishing you a happy, merry, simple Christmas,
Abby

December 19, 2016

A Very MerryTag: Link-Up

Dear, dear readers,
I don't mean to abuse you so, posting late at night for something that ought to be "opened" technically in the morning. But I'm sure many of you are experiencing the same thing as I am: last minute Christmas rush and stress; except mine is mostly balancing school work and daily writing/creating here. *inserts stressed face*
Anyway, here is the official link up to my Very-Merry Tag: thank you all so much for participating; I loved seeing all of your unique takes on the questions, but was also comforted by the similarities we all share. I think I must say this a lot, but I love our little corner of the universe here on Blogger. And I truly hope there is a way to see and recognize all of you in heaven someday. :)
By the way, if you're reading this in December 2016 and would still like to do the tag, you are more than welcome! I will add you as soon as your post pops up on my reading dashboard and/or you tell me. And if you did the tag and aren't listed, for heaven sakes, tell me!! It was an oversight, not a snub on my part I assure you!

Hot chocolate:
You should all drink hot chocolate, by the way. It's good for you. :)

Miss Evie
Rae
Hamlette
Molly Rebekah
Naomi
Miss March
Elanor

December 18, 2016

Advent Sunday 3: Once Again My Heart Rejoices

Happy *last* Sunday in Advent! This week I have for you another hymn that makes my heart happy:
This carol is so pretty in German, that I've chosen this one by a Berlin choir. For those of you who don't know German, the lyrics to 3 verses are below in English. :)

1.
Once again my heart rejoices
As I hear, far and near
Sweetest angel voices.
"Christ is born!" Their choirs are singing
Till the air, everywhere
Now with joy is ringing.

Vintage Angels - Angels - Vintages Cards - Christmas Wallpapers, Free ClipArt for Xmas, Icon's, Web Element, Victorian Christmas Photos and Vintage Santa Claus pictures:

2.
Hear! The conqueror has spoken
"Now the foe, sin and woe
Death and hell are broken!"
God is man, man to deliver
And the Son, now is one
With our blood forever.


6.
Come, then, banish all your sadness!
One and all, great and small.
Come with songs of gladness;
We shall live with him forever
There on high, in that joy
Which will vanish never.




December 17, 2016

In The Week When Christmas Comes

a poem by Eleanor Farjeon

This is the week when Christmas comes.

Let every pudding burst with plums, 
And every tree bear dolls and drums, 
In the week when Christmas comes.

 :

Let every hall have boughs of green,
With berries glowing in between, 
In the week when Christmas comes.

.:

Let every doorstep have a song
Sounding the dark street along,
In the week when Christmas comes.

Bring some sprays of winterberries indoors.:

Let every steeple ring a bell
With is joyful tale to tell,
In the week when Christmas comes.

St. Michael's Church at Christmas Time, Hernhill, Kent, England:

Let every night put forth a star
To show us where the heavens are,
In the week when Christmas comes.

prettie-sweet: Thimble press on etsy:

Let every stable have a lamb
Sleeping warm beside its dam.
In the week when Christmas comes.

Image result for baby jesus and lamb

This is the week when Christmas comes.

December 15, 2016

How to Celebrate According to Jane Austen

Christmas may not have been huge in Jane Austen's day. But boy, did her characters know how to celebrate!

Step 1: Gather Your Friends


This is done by sending invitations via servant. Once the letter is received, it will take much husband-convincing to attend. Or in Mrs. Bennet's case, an entire bundle of nerves.

2. Let the servants take care of the venue, food, and arranging.

Notice there is no picture for this one. Jane Austen didn't really focus on the nitty-gritty.

3. Have a nice, sit-down dinner


Dinner is an excellent breeder for conversation; argument, and if you're lucky*, the beginnings of some serious ship-court. 
*Note: if ship-courting is done by Mr. Collins, you are not lucky. I repeat, you are not lucky. 

4. Have a nice, sit-down picnic


Admittedly more casual than a dinner indoors, a picnic still breeds plenty of conversation, though often of the sillier, more foolish sort. But never fear, both picnics and dinners provide plenty of tension, plot movement, and most importantly: drama. 

5. Have a mini concert with your friends

Image result for emma 2009 piano
Make sure you have something prepared, something that will outshine the Bingley sisters and/or impress your sweetheart (bonus points if he gave you the music). Nothing moves a relationship along better (other than point #6) than having the man you love turn the pages to your music, or even better, singing a duet. Amazing how many eyes are locked on the two of you while you manage to make big strides in your ship-court. 

6. Dance

Related image
and dance
Image result for pride and prejudice 1995 dance
and dance.
Image result for northanger abbey dance

Women who dance get married. It's as simple as that. 

7. At your wedding, have confetti, ribbons, and money to throw around

Image result for sense and sensibility wedding

Because you made it, my dear. On to a new and happy life, full of more celebrations to come.
Note: please, if you must have cake at your wedding, do not eat it. It isn't good for the digestion!

Carol Conundrums: Answers!

HALT! If you're reading this and still want to try out the Carol Conundrums from last week, don't scroll down! You're welcome to play at any time! :)

The stakes for this have been high, I know. The suspense has been building for an entire week. I'm sure you can bear it no longer, so I am here to reveal...the answers to Carol Conundrums!

.:

1. Oh Come, All Ye Faithful
2. Gentle Mary Laid Her Child
3. Deck the Halls
4. Silent Night, Holy Night
5. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
6. Hark the Herald Angels Sing
7. Joy to the World
8. Angels We Have Heard on High
9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
10. Away in a Manger
11. Winter Wonderland
12. Angels We Have Heard on High (again!)

Now on to the scores:
Hamlette: 120 (woohoo!)
Miss March: 100
Molly Rebekah: 100
Naomi Sarah: 85 (1/2 point for #2!)
MovieCritic: 80


Great job, everyone! Thanks so much for playing! :)

10 Fun Things to Send Your Friends in Letters

 :

I think we can all agree that while internet, email, and Pinterest messaging is all very nice and convenient, the handwritten, hand-mailed letter is more touching, and often more fun to receive and read. But with postage as expensive as it is (especially overseas!), I often feel the need to cram as much as possible into each letter, without having to pay more for the extra weight! :P But more importantly than that, I feel that a little extra something added in the envelope are a quaint and beautiful surprise for the recepient. Some of these ideas will work better for some friends than for others, but I hope you find one that works for you!

Image result for confetti in envelopes
1. Confetti

As long as your friend doesn't mind picking up a mini, glittering mess, confetti is a great way to pleasantly surprise your corespondent! You can use store-bought, shiny confetti, or make it out of an old book or piece of music.

Image result for watercolor bookmark
2. A Bookmark
There are so many ways to make a beautiful bookmark. You don't even have to use paper; you could try ribbon, or even fabric!

Image result for sheet music old

3. A Piece of Music
If your friend plays an instrument, why not give her a piece of music that you'd think she'd like? You could pull it from an old music book (if you have any lying around!), or print one of the bajillion free scores on the internet.

Image result for pressed flower
4. Dried Flowers
Sending pressed flowers is like sending a bit of summer or a snippet of your garden. I find this especially touching over long distances. Pressed flowers are pretty simple; just pick some flowers, keeping in mind what they'll look like flat. Then sandwich them in newspaper and in between some heavy books for a few days, and voila! Summer preserved! Also, remember that every flower has a meaning. 

Blog with charming handwritten recipes, old clippings, vintage recipe booklets & promo pieces. They may be a bit tattered, yellowed with age and sometimes stained, but these recipes were saved, used & cherished for years.:
5. A Recipe
If you and your friend like to bake, cook, or eat, a recipe is a great way to share a bit more about yourself, whether it's a family favorite, or something that uses some of your favorite ingredients.
FREE printable: He counts the stars and calls them all by name. Psalm 147:4:

6. An Embellished Poem, Verse, or Quote
The possibilities here are endless! I am by no means a good artist (not even a doodle one!), but with a little practice, anyone can produce a cute version of some meaningful words.

                               Image result for lock of hair keepsake
7. A Lock of Hair
So remember when I said some of these things aren't for everyone? I totally get it if you think this is gross or weird or creepy. But I think it's sweet, and very Austen-esque. If it makes you feel any better, people do/did send locks of hair as a symbol of friendship, not just of romance or death. It's definitely a meaningful gesture if you and a friend live far away.

Something like this would be really cute to have in the girls' bedroom for them to hang pics on:
8. A Photograph
Sometimes I feel awkward when sending photographs, because either it's of totally random stuff, or it's of me and other people having fun...without the friend you're sending it to. :/ But with certain pictures, and certain friends, a photograph can be a great way to stay in touch.

Image result for jane austen coloring book

9. A Coloring Page
Coloring pages are great because you can color one part (or one side) of the page, and your friend can color another part, and coloring pages and books are cheap for the most part and it's just so much FUN!

Image result for english tea shop tea bags
This is my favorite tea brand; aren't the packages the cutest??
10. A Tea Bag
Sometimes my friends and I will schedule a tea time via text, and we take pictures of us enjoying our tea and send it to each other. It's kind of like having tea together in person, and just so much fun to do. Sending a tea bag to a friend is like an invitation to tea, and just such a nice gesture if you ask me! :)

So there you have it! 10 things to spice up your snail mail. 
Did you have a favorite item on this list?
Did you think any of these were a bit odd?
Do you have any other ideas of what to send your friends that will fit in an envelope?

December 14, 2016

My Christmas Kitchen

Or how my books and tea blog turned into a food blog for a day

Anybody hungry? At my house, every week of Advent has a purpose:
  • Week 1: Decorate
  • Week 2: Christmas Cards
  • Week 3: BAKE!
  • Week 4: Wrap Presents
Anyway, as you can see, it's baking week at the ol' homestead; almost every day, a new kind of cookie comes out of the oven. And today you'll get some of my favorite recipes, the ones we make every year!

Raspberry Meringue Cookies:

Pink Puffs (Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Meringues
I was actually too excited to share this with you that I didn't follow the "best for last" rule. Because these are the best. Ever.
3 egg whites, room temperature                  3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt                                                   1 tsp vinegar
3+1/2 Tbsp raspberry gelatin powder         1 cup mini chocolate chips
Beat egg whites with salt until foamy. Add raspberry gelatin and sugar gradually, beat until stiff and sugar is dissolved. Mix in vinegar; fold in chocolate chips. Drop from teaspoon (we don't make ours this tiny!) onto ungreased cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Bake at 250 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn oven off, leave in oven for 20 more minutes. Devour.

Chocolate Chip Snowballs:

Snowballs (Shortbread Chocolate Chip Cookies)
Huh, chocolate chips seem to be a theme here...I wonder why? ;)
1+1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened              3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar                                         2 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
1 Tbsp vanilla extract                                             powdered sugar (for dusting)
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour, stir in chocolate chips. Shape level tablespoons into 1(ish) inch balls. (I think we make ours a little bigger at my house). Place on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly browned. Remove from oven. Sift powdered sugar over hot cookies on baking sheets. Cool for 10 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool completely. Sprinkle more powdered sugar, if you want. :P Store in airtight container eat everything right away.


Soft Molasses Cookies:

Molasses-Raisin Cookies
In my opinion, neither molasses or raisins are very good on their own, but together (+spices and sugar!), they make an excellent cookie!
3/4 cup shortening              1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sugar                         1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 cup molasses                 1/2 tsp ginger
1 egg                                   1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp. baking soda               1 cup raisins
2 cups flour                         sugar (for sprinkling on top)
Beat shortening and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg, beat well. Combine flour, soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt. Add to molasses mixture; mix well.
Stir in raisins. Cover: refrigerate until chilled. Shape into 1 inch balls, roll each in sugar. place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake in upper third of 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool 1 minute and transfer to wire racks. Savor in candlelight. 

Well, that ought to keep your kitchens warm for a while, right? Sorry for not putting metric measurements in, European readers! 
And just as a reminder, tomorrow I will post the answers to my Carol Conundrums game, so now's the time to play! :)

December 13, 2016

Happy St. Lucia Day!

from Kirsten's Surprise, by Janet Shaw

"Saint Lucia. Don't you know Saint Lucia?" Kirsten asked, puzzled. 
Anna shook her head. Is she someone you met in Sweden?"
Now Kirsten was really startled. "No, Anna. We celebrated Saint Lucia's Day in Sweden. It was the very best part of Christmas."
"Tell us about Saint Lucia's Day," Anna said. 

Image result for kirsten's surprise

"In Sweden, Saint Lucia's Day begins the Christmas season," Kirsten explained. "It's the darkest day of the whole year. It's so dark that there's only daylight for a few hours. But no one minds the dark, because Saint Lucia's Day is so much fun."

Image result for kirsten's surprise

"In each family, one girl gets to be the Lucia queen. She dresses up in a long white dress and a red sash, and she wears a crown of green leaves and lighted candles. She gets up very, very early in the morning, while it's still pitch black and everyone is asleep. She lights the candles in her crown, and she goes from room to room in the dark house, carrying  a tray.(...)Then she wakes all the rest of the family and invites them to share Lucia buns and coffee. That breakfast is the first party of the holiday season."

And that, my friends, is how I found out about St. Lucia's day. For a few years I used to put on a white nightgown and red ribbon and dress my Kirsten doll the same way, and then put some coffeecake on a plate and give it to my parents. :) 
Have a very happy St. Lucia Day!