Friday, December 30, 2011

The Resolving Time Again...

Smart: Be Specific

Measurable: Choose goals that have progress you can measure

Attainable: Is your goal reasonable, are you allowing enough time and resources?

Relavent: Make your goals something your truly want to do not just something you should do. The shoulds are not as motivating as the wants.

Time-Limited: Small steps work better for attaining and maintaining what you want.

By being SMART maybe I can attain all my goals this year. How about you? Why is it that good changes are so much harder than bad ones? Bummer! In a few days I will post some of my goals for the new year. Right now I am doing a study of all the aspects of daily living, like physical, emotional, social, educational, spiritual, etc and choosing various things to work on. Funny how a lot of the same ones keep resurfacing...wouldn't it be nice to put some of it on the completed shelf at the end of the year? I am feeling motivated this year...are you?

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Simple Woman's Daybook

Taking a Moment to Contemplate the Journey!

Just For Today...Monday, December 26, 2011

Our lives pass swiftly by!
I want to do something to remember
the everyday moments and my thoughts.
That is what this daybook is all about.
Focusing on the little things that become my life.
One week at a time.

Outside my window...I am viewing the beautiful ocean that surrounds this island. Where I am sitting is about the best place for a writer I have ever been with the exception of Yosemite perhaps. It is peaceful, quiet, private and glorious. What more could one desire for inspiration? It is a beautiful clear, windy day and I can see the white caps on the water from the desk. The water looks like a deep sapphire pool.

I am thankful for...all people in my life that have blessed me so deeply. Family, friends, leaders, teachers, parents, role models, children, grandbabies, siblings, siblings of different mothers or in other words the people that feel like siblings...neighbors, past work associates and clients, aunts, uncles, cousins, people with extreme faith, courage, talents and intelligence, people that have touched my life and those who have left us to return home to our Father. The ones that have made extreme sacrifices to make my own life better. I love them and am so grateful.

I am reading... Scriptures, the Pioneer Woman's Cookbook, Christmas stories and blogs and genealogy newsletters. Oh, and Rhode Island toursita info.

From the Kitchen...We are still eating leftovers from our Christmas Eve extravaganza. The whole family made a big dinner for some guests and we made a ton of the best Italian meatballs. We are still eating them. The boys enjoyed this, especially Spencer. He is becoming quite the little chef just like his Grampa, and his great, great, great grandfather before him.

I am missing....absolutely nothing except Robert. Our life is very full and we are so blessed.

I am of my favorite songs..Celine Dion singing "Have You Ever Been In Love?" Well, have you?

I am pants a dark teal shirt and a multi-colored scarf with mostly black and teal and a few other colors, black socks and shoes and jewelry, watch and ummm that is it.

I am quoting..."Never leave the house in sweats. A girl must be prepared to meet a dashing stranger or an old enemy!" I think this is funny!

Some things that made me happy this past week...getting ready for Christmas here in Rhode Island and being with Laura and the boys. Meeting their wonderful neighbors and friends and visiting the boy's school and attending their Christmas concert, having a caroling party and a dinner party with friends, attending their ward and several activities, hearing Laura sing and Ross play the piano and the watching the boys take a karate belt test and advance in their Marshall Arts skills with new belts, talking to Robert on Skype. Driving around the island as a family, shopping with Laura, lunch out with Jim and Laura on different days and once together. New England Fish and Chips and High Tea. Visiting the mansion in Bristol. A whole glorious day with Laura. Shopping with my girl. All things vacation and Christmas. Getting a peak at life in New England. Love it.

One of my guilty pleasures...drinking a glass of egg nog with Ross. Yummm. Even the lowfat is good.

Pet Peeves...schedules that are just too full. I am really enjoying the kick back days here on the island.

I am going...To write all day long today. What a luxury.

One of my favorite in the moment and savoring it. Also daydreaming of the past and future.

An enjoyable movie I have seen lately.....I got the series, Lark Rise to Candleford for Christmas from someone who always knows exactly want I You should always buy yourself a present, don't you agree? Anyway, Laura has not seen it so we started it yesterday afternoon. I have been wanting to buy it since the minute I first got hooked on it. Now she is thinking of doing the same.

I am curious I can listen to "Caruso" by Pavarotti a million times and never tire of it. Somehow this is true as I have put it to the test of time. It has become more beautiful over time actually.

If I could change one thing it would be...that earth life was more like heaven..peace, love, safety, wellness, extreme joy and in God's presence all the time.

A few plans for the rest of the week...Jim and I may go away to Cape Cod on an overnighter if the weather looks like it is going to hold in the non-snow pattern we have become accustomed to since our arrival. Laura and I are going to go on some more holiday home tours in Newport this week in the evenings, we'll do some fun things with the boys, there are probably a few movies in the plans, there is an ice skating party hosted by their school on the 30th and the night before we may all go to a string quartet concert in the Blythewold Mansion. Grampa has projects and adventures planned and Laura and I can probably occupy ourselves very nicely doing girl things. No plans for New Year's Eve yet. Probably just a quiet time with the family is my guess. The best part is I don't have to worry about anything but just being here and enjoying it. Who can complain? Not me. Life rarely seems this uncomplicated.

A few photos and thoughts...the other night we went for about an hour's drive to see the Catholic Shire of La Sallate in Massachusetts. It is something like their version of The Salt Lake Temple Square Christmas Lights, but much larger. It is several acres of lights and there is a large lake, concession stands, a merry-go-round and trolley car rides and the like. It was so fun to go out there and see so many people out with their families enjoying this lovely display that had to take weeks to put up and lots of helping hands.

They had an incredible number of creches that belong to the shrine that people have donated and that were fun to see. They were from all over the world and while some were very simple others were quite elaborate. Spencer enjoyed taking some photos of them. They also had a huge artists display of pictures of Christ.

There were thousand and thousands of lights
to illuminate the heart, night and the season!

Laura approved this photo to be published. So I am publishing it even though only she and Spencer photographed well here! Ha ha, she is her mother incarnate. Honestly, how does that happen? I thought no one disliked their own pictures less than me, but maybe she does. I tell her that she is beautiful in every photo but her response is often, "Mom, to a mother every beetle is a gazelle!" Love my silly, precious, very beautiful girl.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Blithewold Mansion and Gardens

Merry Christmas From Bristol

Blithewold Estate has a beautiful old Mansion, Garden and Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island. It was built in the mid-1890's by a family named, Van Winkle, and they had a fire a few years later. It was then rebuilt and stands today, as it was then. I learned of it last fall while browsing through the tiny city library when we visited Bristol and I knew that Laura and I just had to visit the mansion at Christmas one year. I didn't know it would be so soon.

It was delightful in every way and I got to go two times! One day with James and the very next day with Laura. We love doing Christmas home tours, especially the old homes of the 1800s. This is probably the best one I have ever seen. Design is totally in the details and this estate owner knew that from the beginning.

The architecture, the flow, the crown molding, ceilings and stairways and banisters are fabulous. Exquisite detailing on every level just make this home sublime. The thing that makes it a crown jewel is it was given in trust to the city, with the entire contents of the home included. This makes for an authentic, historic home viewing experience. Many of these types of homes are filled with period pieces that were never in the home originally. Sometimes the fit is awkward, but not here. Houses and their contents say so much about a family. Here is the real corker...admission $10.00. In CA it would be three or four times that.


Here we have the most perfect, gianormous Christmas Tree.
Should have had Jim stand in front of it for scale. Love it!

The back of the home

The lawn and view of the sea!

Laura's ready to walk in!

Foyer's two-stories-tall Christmas Tree
This year's theme...'bringing nature in.'

The grand Mantel in the Entryway about 6 feet 6 inches tall.

Details of the big tree. It was really a pretty one!

This is a tiny phone room off the foyer.
The amazing thing is the wall mural.
It looks like wallpaper when you first see it.

I loved seeing this in this elegant home~
We have something similar in our cottage!

The kitchens of today are a little more functional for cooking but nobody has this beautiful
for their dishes, stemware and linens.
Love the butler's pantry attributes.

I'd give up my dishwasher and disposal
Jenn-Air grill for this...any day of the week!

These Silver Candlesticks found on the
mantle in the formal dining room
are amazingly beautiful.

The silver was so highly polished and shiny it was hard to take a photo because the room was dark. We loved the tall, battery operated candles with the slender flames too. They looked very elegant compared to the ones you see so often. Here in New England the single candle in the middle of every window sill is popular, and very classy looking as your drive by at Christmas time when it is dark. It is a really pretty place, New England that is.

The Dining Room
It is a very formal room with dark wood carved paneling on the walls and a dark slate paint on the plaster. Both Laura and I agreed we would not have selected it but it was remarkably effective in creating a very elegant setting for the tea. The trees in this room were decorated with blue ornaments and a lot of silver and clear glass with white lights. Elegant.

The Tea
They had some wonderful chamomile herbal tea, scones, and sweet and savory bite size offerings on the tea menu. Most gentlemen would have wanted a bit more, but the ladies savored it and delighted in the nurturing of this exquisite setting and good conversation. I had such a sublime time with Laura we were out all day...breakfast, lunch and dinner, covered part of two states, lots of shopping and gabbing and mommy/daughter time. Nothing like it...pure heaven..I didn't get any sisters but the Lord blessed me with two wonderful, wonderful girls, a super daughter by marriage and five grandgirls to help fill in that void. Lucky me!

My Christmas Present..a day with my littlest girl, Laura!

The living room was divine. The mantel was amazing.
The trees on the side of the mantel were half trees.
A great idea and very effective on yet another
over-sized fireplace and mantel.

We spent some time checking out the garlands and how they made them. We love to do the garlands. They make all the difference in your Christmas decor. They are painstaking, labor intensive and take a long time, but they are sooo worth it.A Garland maker's best friend, wired, wide ribbons. Vintage Christmases without them are nearly impossible.

Jim discovered this little trick they used to double the lighting effect on your mantel. Line it with a shinny piece of transparent plastic and it acts like a mirror and illuminates everything twice as much. Love it!

I want Jim to make us some of these glass doors
for our bookcases when his shop is done.
He said OK!!

Just a little quirky, no?

Some of the bedrooms in the mansion.

A Child's Room

The bath
We enjoyed seeing this bathroom with the double sinks and the claw foot soaking tub. Sadly the big bathroom scale. It has always been an issue it seems. One had to be able to get into those stays and tight dresses with the laces. The price of a little beauty is so high, isn't it?

We had a wonderful time doing this this week. I hope you have also had some fun pre-Christmas activities. Next week we are touring a bunch of historical homes in Newport. Not mansions just older, smaller houses from the 19th century decked out for the Christmas Season. Wish you could come too.

Merry Christmas to you and now I am off for a nap under a big furry blanket. Still freezing but happy! Santa has been very generous and I am pretty tired after only four hours of sleep. We went to a Midnight Mass last night at a local Catholic Church after a big fancy dinner party here earlier in the evening. And then presents and church this morning. Full day yesterday, plus running today = nap time now. Zzzzzzz..... Hugs, B

"It Doesn't Get Better Than This!"

Merry Christmas! To Quote James exactly...."It doesn't get any better than this!"

God's blessing on you and your family for the Best Christmas ever! And may your New Year bring you the blessings and treasures you seek in all your pursuits.

With love,

Bonnie and Jim ♥ ♥

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Flash Back to Christmas In Italy 2009

Presepe Vivente~The Living Nativity

The hills and valleys of Italy are filled with The Nativity. It is such a beautiful sight and it has made me realize that here in America, with all our our 'political correctness,' we are doing our citizens a terrible disservice. Not to be able to display the symbols of Christ at Christmas will never fly in Italy. For this alone, I love their country.

People need visual reminders and not a soul in Italy can miss the Christ in Christmas. No matter what their religious beliefs, the degree of activity in their church or the lives they are living~at Christmas time they are reminded over and over again what their compass should be. We need this here in America. I like the term 'political correctness' because that is exactly what it is. Political! It isn't ethical, or spiritual correctness and it has nothing to do with what is right or true or good for us, most of the time. In denying the public displaying of the Nativity, we as Americans are shooting ourselves in the foot, Big Time!

That being said and climbing down off my soapbox, I want to share the experience we had on the day after Christmas. In Italy they savor Christmas. They start early and end late with their celebrations.

Whoops, back on the box for a minute. Often times I have noticed the day after Christmas, all evidence of the money we have spent during the holidays is removed visually from the malls and market places. Poof, it is gone, that way we will continue to spend, spend, spend! And someone is working Christmas night to make it happened by opening time the next morning. It is all about the retail over here. Not so in Italy. The world should take a lesson.

So we planned to go to a tiny mountain town called Maranola, near Gaeta to see the Living Nativity the day after Christmas. While Christmas had already vanished in the US by the 26th, this was their opening day. We arrived early so we could stroll around Gaeta a bit.

The harbor walkway of Gaeta

One of the ships Robert has been to sea on while living here.
When we stayed here, a window in our hotel room
pened to a full view straight on of the back of the ship.
(Bow, stern, port? I never did know these!)

The kids arranged a tour for us through the military services to go to see the Presepe and we all bundled up, drove to Gaeta, jumped on a bus and off we went. We didn't have much of an idea of what to expect~except rain. Rain, rain, continual rain. We had pretty much acclimated to that, but had no idea what it would mean to have it raining on this particular night. Can I just say flat out, I didn't like it one bit?

This is a view from the head of the line,
it goes down a few flight of stairs to the bottom of the hill.

When we arrived at the ancient little town we saw a big line of umbrellas trailing up to the entrance to the little village. They only allowed so many people up into the village at one time. Crowding under the mass of umbrellas we waited and wondered what was ahead. Huddling under umbrellas that are overlapping and touching each other is a curious thing. I think you actually get wetter from the run off of the umbrellas around you. Arrrgh! Can we say... Grumpy Gramma?

Then the music started playing and that soothed me somewhat, even though I was already getting drenched. A man was playing some bagpipes for all to enjoy. It was nice. Moving as a crowd we made our way through the tiny streets. In spite of the physical challenges, it was wonderful to see the little vignettes they had put together to represent the life of the people of Bethlehem at the time of Christ's birth, as we climbed our way half way to heaven. Everyone in the village participates and it really an amazing sight. The ruggedness of the setting makes it seem so authentic. The steps up were very uneven, worn and extremely slippery and the streets that weren't actually stairs were very narrow and steep.

I had to laugh at the clothes hanging out to dry!
We were drenched to the bone! Seriously my hair
looked like I had just stepped out of the shower.
(No photos, thank you very much!)

We came across a little chapel
near the top of the mountain.

Jim in his glory when he met some
bonified, Italian boys scouts!

We climbed some more and came across
another ancient place of worship.
Check out the carving behind
Jim on the walls and the 3-D
fresco wall/sculpture below.

Wet kidlets!

What we came for at the very top of the mountain...

Presepe Vivente~the Living Nativity
with the youngest baby of the village
as the baby Jesus
and his parents as Mary and Joseph.
They had even hauled these big lumbering oxen up there!
Amazing and a great memory.

Once down we had our dinner while
waiting for our tour bus to pick us up.
If you haven't tried a picnic on a mountain,
at night, soaked to the gills,
in December, in should!
It is a relief to say, "Been there, done that,"
and then to move on!

Looking back from a nice, warm, dry perspective,
it was a great experience.