Monthly Archives: December 2013

(story)time: The Story of Holly & Ivy

We have a pretty nice collection of Christmas and holiday books out in the house right now. I have a confession to make – I actually pack them up with the Christmas decorations so that we don’t find ourselves selecting them off the shelves in April or July or say, the week before Thanksgiving, for obvious reasons. We’ve been really slow to unpack any of those decorations this year, instead we prefer to look at our dining room decorated with unopened Rubbermaid containers. I don’t even see them anymore, I swear.
The girls did open their own bin of decorations the other night, and they pulled out all the books, and now they rest in a teetering pile on the couch in F’s room. The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden and Barbara Cooney was her pick for the last two nights. (Adrienne Adams was the original illustrator, but we have the newer version of the book.) It’s a lengthy story – maybe a forty-five minute read total – so it’s a little long for a bedtime book. But we allow book negotiations around here, so sometimes three short books are traded for one long one, or even half a long one. We put a “book pauser” in the middle of this one – right at the dramatic part where Peter is searching for the lost key and Ivy is so cold she’s s-s-tt-utterr-ing, and then we finished it up last night.
It’s a sweet story, and a simple one. A plucky little orphan girl, alone at Christmas time, looking for a warm house with a Christmas tree but no children, and a cast of toys that can talk when the shop closes down for the day. There just so happens to be such a house – one that’s quiet and a little sad and wishing for a reason to put some presents under the tree. There are funny words like “daft” – a word that Mr. Jones uses a bit too frequently (in my opinion) with Mrs. Jones – but we excuse it for a good story about wishes. The illustrations glow, and there’s lots of snow, and I always like a good holiday book full of snow.

This book would be perfect for little ones 4-8. The main characters are a girl and a doll, but I wouldn’t reserve it only for girl readers. It requires some sitting and some listening – and maybe even a two-night read – but it’s certainly worth it, and it deserves a place on any holiday library shelf (or Christmas bin).

Find these titles at your favorite local independent bookstore. Happy reading!

when the dog barks, when the bee stings

Did you watch “The Sound of Music” last Thursday night? I did, with the girls. They were surprised I knew all the words to every song. E asked me “what if you remember all of your favorite things, and you still are sad?” Good question. I’m not sure yet.
Tonight I ran some errands and now I’m doing some work on the computer – wrapping up loose ends for the upcoming holidays. When I said that things would be different, I meant it. The house doesn’t smell like gingerbread, although it does smell a little like dinner, which was warm and delicious and filling. It’s quiet – no ice cream makers whirring or holiday tunes playing. We have trees – the two small ones in the girls’ rooms, and the real one in the living room – but they are quiet as well – undecorated, except for little white lights. I kind of like them that way. They feel calm and tranquil, unhurried and unpressured. I have made a little progress on my holiday cards, but not a lot. I’m still not sure if I will finish them, but I tell myself each evening that it’s okay, and I think I’m listening. I’m listening for a lot of things. 
My go-to gift wrapping is a line to a song that once sung, continues to ring through my head on a continuous loop. I’ll share it with you now so that you can join in on the fun.
…brown paper packages, tied up with string. These are a few of my fav-o-rite things.
I wrapped up an early gift this way, and it looked simple and sweet, but also a little boring. My goodness, I’m hard to please these days. I shun any extra holiday shine, and then lament the fact that everything around me feels dull and gray. I’m a complete and utter mess. 
I saw a nifty gift tag idea on Design*Sponge, and it seemed like maybe I might put forth a bit more effort than just the same tired twine. Our packages travel, and end up getting packed tightly into small spaces. Flat and simple is good. This idea seemed like a sweet one, and flat enough – no amount of squishing was going to affect the final look. 

The problem was, I couldn’t find any evergreen looking pipe cleaners. I tried the usual suspects like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby, but if there are worse places to visit (especially at this time of the year), I can’t imagine. And then, wonder of wonders – I ran into The Container Store to return something that M had purchased, and right in front of my eyes were these wired garland ties. I think they are supposed to be evergreen looking twist ties to affix all your holiday stuff, but they were perfect for this project. I picked up the ribbon there, as well as some candy cane striped tissue paper and a few simple oversized bags for some odd shaped gifts. Container Store for the win – always. Clean, organized, helpful and spot on. So if your brown paper packages are looking a little stale this year, here’s an easy way to spiff them up. They certainly brightened up my afternoon outlook a tad, as well as a corner of my living room.


almost 2,000 and a giveaway (of sorts)

I noticed the other day that I’m reaching my 2,000th post – although at the rate I’m writing lately, that may still take awhile. I had a little giveaway for 1000 and 1500, but hadn’t really planned anything for 2000.
This morning I saw in my inbox an email from Blue Apron. We’ve ordered this week’s box for several reasons. First, we’re all home, all week long. Second, the recipes look good – and no nuts. (A lot of times the vegetarian recipes are really nut heavy, and so we try our best to avoid those at home because of E’s tree nut allergy.) And third, our cupboard is bare. Really bare. We did some meal planning for the week until Tuesday, and then Wednesday our box arrives to round out the rest of the week. Our order must have triggered another round of free friend gifts, because I have three free boxes to give away to friends.
Last time I got this offer, I passed it along to three local friends that I knew liked to cook (and eat). This time I thought I’d offer them up to three blog readers. 
First, you’ll have to check out their delivery map to see if they offer the service in your area. Here’s a link to the map.
If they do, drop me an email at thirdstoryies at gmail dot com. Leave me your first and last name and your email address and I’ll enter them in and Blue Apron will send you all the information you need to order your box. The complimentary box has three meals for two people and is worth $60. You can select the week you want, your delivery day and location, and the type of meals you want – vegetarian or meat. I’ll also send you a personal email to let you know, and I’ll include the same tips / advice that I gave my friends before ordering.
Since it’s Saturday night, I’ll give you til 8pm Monday 12/9 to email me, and then I’ll assign numbers to the emails and draw three. That’s how high tech we get around here. This isn’t one of those blogs with ads or sponsors or swag (this has nothing to do with this blog) – I’ve just got three free meal boxes burning a hole in my pocket, and maybe taking menu planning off your list sometime this month might be a good thing. I know it is for me.
I want to tell each and every one of you how much your emails and notes have meant to me lately. I want to tell you how much your donations have meant to us. I want to tell you how your books and your poems and your bracelets and your cards and your dinners and your phone calls and your texts and your prayers and your comments and your tears and your hugs and your shoulders have meant. I want to tell you how much I appreciate this place where I can write and I can cry and I can reread what I write and cry some more. I’d like to invite you over for dinner and sit and talk for awhile, but most of you live very far away, and my house is really kind of a mess anyway. But I can do this – send you dinner in a box – and offer my sincere thanks for your friendship.