A Bittersweet Gift: The Dickens’ Village


A photo of my mother-in-law and her late husband is perched right above the village she created


The village all lit up

Last year I inherited my mother-in-law’s rather extensive “Dickens’ Village”. She built it over several decades, and some pieces need repair (like the gorgeous church, which isn’t pictured here because the steeple is broken). But it’s a beautiful collection, and my girls, when they were little, always used to love to go to grandma’s to look at it all lit up during the holidays.

It’s a little bittersweet now, to have it in our home. Her home was sold about a year ago because she suffers from Alzheimer’s. She lived with us for a summer and spent time with each of my husband’s siblings, but as she got worse, we had no choice for her own safety and well being but to move her to a constant care facility about 30 minutes from us. As of now, her disease has progressed to the point that although she usually recognizes that she knows us, when we visit, she doesn’t always know why or how, or who we are.

The village is one of the tangible reminders of what once was in our little family and can never be again.

So we will keep the village safe and put it out with love each year, in memory of all the happy times we spent together. Someday, I will pass it down to my girls, and they can keep the memories – and the remembered love – of their Grandma McCall alive and well.

Broken Toe


I broke the big toe on my left foot yesterday.

It was really stupid…I was moving a deck umbrella into the garage, and neglected to check that the base was hooked tightly to the pole.

The base is a 25 lb. square of molded cement. It slipped off and landed smack dab in the middle of my big toe.

I’m afraid I didn’t follow what the poster above suggests. There was no keeping calm, and my language…well let’s just say that wasn’t calm either. I generally don’t cry in moments of great pain. But I release my emotions verbally, which I’m not too proud of, and I’m working on that, LOL.

I had a snow day yesterday, and I was supposed to be decorating my house for an upcoming neighborhood holiday party on Saturday where I am hosting 23 people for the main dish part of the festivities. Needless to say, not much got done, not to mention the seven loads of laundry still waiting, the 10 inch stack of papers to grade, the final issues that keep popping up with Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven and the need to drive my younger daughter to go buy dress pants and a certain kind of shirt for her school concert this week…the list goes on and on.

It’s amazing how much we take our toes for granted. I’m only glad it was my left toe and not my right one, or I wouldn’t be able to drive back and forth to work!

Snow Day



There’s a big Nor’easter sweeping up the coast. We’re forecast to get up to 14 inches of snow by tomorrow night.

3093efb9ef16c682c5aeceb5d269a4caAs a winter baby (February birthday), I’ve always loved snow. I have no problem being up north all year long.

As a teacher and a mom, I especially love snow days. Like today.

xmas-lights-ge-lights-swscan01680-copyI might actually get caught up with some of the extra work of the season (like trimming the tree that has been cut and put up in the living room for two days now without anything on it).

I might get to tackle the 8 loads of laundry or the 10 inch stack of papers.

My list is far longer than I can accomplish in one day (especially with everyone home and needing to eat…and I’m the chief cook and bottle washer), but it’s a gift nonetheless. Hope you’re all enjoying your day, wherever you are.

Do you have snow days (or a hot weather equivalent) in your neck of the woods?

Vintage Christmas

Vintage-Christmas-card-christmas-33061199-500-363It’s true that I enjoy vintage Halloween and Thanksgiving  pictures…but I adore vintage Christmas images. Here are a couple for you to enjoy  as a start (you know there will be more in coming days, LOL!)…

Vintage-Christmas-christmas-32887773-1200-881This one is a favorite for the atmosphere it evokes. It’s peaceful and warm, all at the same time. It reminds me of the Night Before Christmas book my father used to read to us…and it also kind of reminds me of this scene from Anne of Avonlea (another favorite film made from a book, this version featuring the irrepressible Megan Follows as Anne Shirley. You can see her performing now on the CW’s series REIGN, where she plays Queen Catherine de’ Medici, pictured here on the left, just behind Adelaide Kane, who plays Mary Queen of Scots, and Toby Regbo, who plays King Francis). 1212-final-580x385

I always loved this second entry into the “Anne” trilogy, because she became a teacher in this film and experienced the freedoms of life on her own for the first time. I had my own VHS copy of the trilogy, and when I was a first year teacher (newly-armed with my undergraduate degrees in English and Russian, and a mere 22 years old), living away from home and not in college for the first time in my life, I would watch this video again and again, snuggled into my little studio apartment above the diner in Hancock, NY, where I had my first teaching position. Cozy and wonderful – the perfect situation at a perfect time in my life.

There are many more reasons why Christmas-time – the whole month of December, really – holds such a special place in my heart, as it does for so many others. But those will be subjects of other posts. Here is another lovely image for now, and I’ll save some of the other stories and pictures (and another sneak peek from Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven) for later!Vintage-Christmas-christmas-32837432-1024-768

The Snowman: The Only Constant is Change

imageAs I mentioned in my last post, it’s begun to snow in Upstate New York. It’s very pretty in many ways, if a little early and a little cold, and some of the scenes I encounter in my travels recall a few bittersweet memories for me.

But first, let me say that I know the snow isn’t technically early for this area (I’ve lived within 150 miles of my hometown for most of my life), but I prefer if it holds off until after December 1, when I can more suitably get into the holiday spirit (of course I wouldn’t mind if it drifted away by February and spring would arrive, but that doesn’t usually happen until April or May)

Anyway, as I was driving into work after this first, several-inch snow,  it called to mind images from one of my favorite holiday books/movies, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.v2-CD7662962Peacock%20Theatre%20Sa

This story – which I associate primarily with the film version, because of my at-the-time very young daughters’ insistence that we purchase it on VHS and play it several times each holiday season – makes me feel bittersweet (as I think it was intended to do for readers/viewers anyway).

For me, now, however, the bittersweet feelings the film and music (a lovely score with “Walking in the Air” by Peter Auty) engender in me are compounded by the fact that my daughters are no longer little girls. That time has passed and exists only in my memories now. Awareness of this creates a little catch in my throat sometimes…a sense of nostalgia and longing that burns for a second or can even make me tear up a bit.

imageThat’s what happened as I saw these scenes of snow-covered farm land and fields. It made me long for the days when my daughters were little and reveled in the simple, innocent pleasures of snuggling up on the couch with me, holding warm cups of cocoa as we watched The Snowman together.image

It is the way of the world, I suppose: The only constant in life is change.

Here’s the full video of the film version of The Snowman for those of you who haven’t seen it before (or just want to watch it again). It’s definitely Christmas-oriented, so if you’re like me, and try to hold off until December to indulge in such festive material, then feel free to bookmark and come back to watch later! Or just do a search on YouTube and you can find it there. 😉



What Do You Think?

It’s beginning to snow here in upstate New York, and so although we’re still a bit early for the Holiday build-up, I’m posting about a little controversy, and I’d love to hear your opinions.

Another author friend posted the following Christmas ad from Sainsbury’s (a UK-based supermarket). I was immediately drawn to the historical context of the ad, but some viewers of it found it offensive or disrespectful, according to some written commentary I’ve seen.

Have a watch, if you’re so inclined, and then please share your thoughts in the comments. Do you think it’s heartwarming or disrespectful?  I have my own opinions, but of course I’d like to hear yours before chiming in with mine! 🙂

Autumn Decorating


My mantel, decorated for autumn…the candles – and angel candleholders – work for Christmas, too, so I get a lot of mileage out of them 🙂

I used to only go all out decorating inside the house for Christmas.

But more recently, I’ve brought my love of Autumn indoors and a few years ago, purchased some leaf garlands, wreaths, and candle tapers in appropriate hues. Sometimes I get them out before Halloween, and other times, like this year, they don’t make it onto mantels and walls until the beginning of November.

I can’t help wondering how many others like to decorate for autumn in their homes. There must be some, otherwise, the stores wouldn’t carry the items I’ve found. But I only know one other person, personally, who does this kind of thing. I hope I’m not too weird (but I’m afraid it’s pretty likely that I am…and for more reasons than just my decorating proclivities!). 🙂

pumpkinsI’ve gone to the store to buy ceramic, composite, and otherwise formed and decorated “harvest” pumpkins (the darker orange one of these, from Big Lots, is on my dining room table on an autumn table-runner as a centerpiece at the moment)…


harvestAbout five years ago, I even picked up some “Pilgrim” figurines at the grocery store that are similar to these. These are a little more ornate, but they’re made of similar composite (not plastic but not ceramic either) material that makes them not too easily breakable (important when you have cats that chase each other and sometimes knock things over).

So now my house is all decked out for Thanksgiving, which I guess is a good thing, since I’m cooking again this year, and there will be at least six – and maybe ten – at the table. It’s my favorite holiday, though, so I can’t wait.

How about you – other than the traditional Christmas/Hanukkah times, do you like to bring any of the seasons indoors?