Preparing for Christmas

The south end of our living room is a bump out with four windows, a narrow sunbathed section we use for homeschooling, lining 100-year-old desks in a row. To the right of this section is the front door and porch, on which one of the windows overlooks. Yesterday, on that porch, with a rusty, undersized hammer, I stood on top of a child’s step stool and pounded nails into the wood, then hung thick Christmas garland from the awning and posts of the porch, swagging it across the top. Today I hung a silver star from the center.

Christmas garland

Little by little, I decorate the house for Christmas.

Advent is four weeks long. Time enough. I meet people or hear about people whose husband’s insist they wait until just before Christmas, so as not to mix up the time of preparation for the time of festivity. I encounter people who decorate the day after Thanksgiving, who argue Christmas begins December 1, and who would like to make the case that Christmas trees should be year-round, evergreen if you will.

As I place an artificial tree on a shelf, I remember the year I arranged every Christmas decoration we owned the day after Thanksgiving because there was no telling how much we’d be home that year of hospital stays. Contemplating the debate of when to decorate, I shrug my shoulders and go back to my boxes, gently unpacking, tenderly remembering the stories behind the decor.

Today, in “Seeking God’s Face” by Josef Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), I read

“Perhaps we ought to celebrate Advent by allowing the signs of this special time to penetrate freely into our hearts without resisting them in any way. We should also perhaps let ourselves be made warm by them without asking difficult questions and then, full of trust, accept the immeasurable goodness of the Child who made the mountains and hills sing and transformed the trees of the wood into a song of praise.”

So let’s do it. The early longing for lights and flavors and nostalgia hearken to a longing deep inside us for something beautiful, something transcendent that surpasses the cares of today. Don’t do it so much that you’re tired of it by the time Christmas comes, that is, on December 25, but just enough.

Go slowly.

Savor the time of Christmas preparation.

Shop in person.

Locally. With a friend. And hot apple cider. Have your shopping list, a list of people you are shopping for and see what you find, serendipitously.

Listen to the music you like.

Seasonal does not have to mean the same thing for everyone. Some of my friends are listening to Handel’s Messiah. We’re listening to the Christmas albums by Big Bag Voodoo Daddy and singing old-school Advent and Christmas hymns.

Find some traditional recipes, either traditional from your family or your culture or different culture that you’re drawn to. We make Russian Tea Cakes, also called Mexican Wedding Cakes, gingerbread cookies, and Spritz.

Craft.

No kids in the home? No matter! Here are some simple projects.

Dehydrate some oranges in the oven or a dehydrator.

Poke ‘em with a needle and thread and hang them on the tree or garland. Discard after the season. My children would say you can eat these at the end of the season, too. I leave that to your judgment.

Collect pine cones.

Set out. Get fancy and spray paint with a little gold or silver for a flourish.

Paint a walnut gold.

Walnuts ready for a Christmas craft

Hot glue a loop of twine to the top. Hang from the tree or garland. You can save, eat or discard at the end of the season.

Christmas tree with painted walnut ornaments

This year we’re planning to add painted wood ornaments to the mix.

After talking with an artist at the Carnegie Arts Center Artisan Market last month, I have an idea for painting “ornaments” on circular disks of wood.

Use evergreens.

You can get free evergreens from Christmas tree lots and make your own wreaths or garland. Tie them together with green florist wire. Garnish with foraged greenery or wintry berries (also ask permission if it isn’t your house).

Advent wreath with collected greens

There isn’t a right way or a wrong way to it all unless you’re drained of joy because of the muchness of the Christmas season.

The dark emotions of sadness, grief, and loneliness, can also be present, even in moments of joy. The joy possible in this season is not a fluffy sort of happiness, but the lasting kind that has the power to withstand human suffering. Remember the Christmas truce. Remember the stories you have heard. Remember the original story that started it all.

And have yourself a merry little Christmas.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Spring Gift Guide – Gift Guide for Liturgical Living

The Loreto Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 1. If you’re in the Central Valley of California this is the perfect opportunity to support your local Catholic community and the artists, makers and entrepreneurs who are part of it.

Liturgical Living is the mode du jour these days, especially as activities in parishes are still limited to la vida virtual. Bring liturgical traditions into your home with:

A May Crowning – Add flair and flavor to your family’s May Crowning with May Crowning themed cookies by Cakes by Patricia

At the last Loreto Market, she made waves with her St. Nicholas and Advent Wreath cookies.

This spring, Cakes by Patricia will be selling homemade cookies – Peanut Butter & Snickerdoodle as well as May Crowning Iced Sugar Cookies (Flowers and Crowns) in Honor of our Mother Mary. After working 35 years in the educational system, Patricia retired and began baking for family and friends. All profits are donated to nonprofit organizations.

Organize family prayer with beautiful holy cards featuring fine art by Ora et Flora.

Along with the Memorare, Prayer to St. Raphael and Divine Mercy, Ora et Flora is offering a wide variety of prayers to St. Joseph to help us focus in on the Year of St. Joseph, declared by Pope Francis for this year.

Create a child-friendly shrine with saint peg dolls by Whymsical Lotus

After five years of being in business, Lotus Vele has enough saint peg dolls to fill the heavenly hosts! Find your patron saint of the patron of your gift recipient. To learn more visit whymsicallotus.Etsy.com

Let beauty inspire and deepen prayer with beautiful rosaries by Simple Beadings

Yuehesi Cuellar, owner of Simple Beadings, said, “I strive to offer affordable rosaries and jewelry to drive people closer to Christ!” At her booth you’ll find rosaries (corded, beaded, chained), religious & non- religious earrings, religious & non religious necklaces and bracelets. Learn more at @simplebeadings (Instagram) and simplebeadings.square.site .

Build your home alter or prayer corner with vintage religious goods including statues and framed prints by Domestic Joy

The joy Dezirae LaGro finds in Catholicism, homemaking and antique shopping spills over into the beauty of her booth as she brings to you Curated Catholic Treasures. Check out her instagram page of the same name.

Center your prayer around a particular devotion with spectacular icons written by Sue Forrest Artwork

Sue Forrest seeks to bring beauty to all, through the medium of paint and spread the Gospel with icons. Her breathtaking work will be on display and available for purchase. To see her past projects, visit her Facebook page, Sue Forrest Artwork.

Build your rosary supply so you have rosaries a home, in the car and on the go with rosaries by Catholic Kids

You’ll have to hurry to purchase a rosary from these ambitious entrepreneurs! The young ladies who run Catholic Kids sold out of their popular rosaries at last year’s Loreto Market. This year, their proceeds will go towards supporting Traditional Latin Mass Seminaries.

Light a candle during prayer to illuminate prayer time with candles by Healthy Mind Healthy Soul

Adriana Ramirez is will be selling a a candle perfect for May called “Mystical Rose.” “Mystical Rose in inspired by Our Lady of Guadalupe and offers notes or rose, frankincense, and Myrrh.

Integrating her passion for her profession as a future mental health counselor, and passion for her faith, Adriana , owner of Healthy Mind Healthy Soul, hit upon the idea to utilize the inspiration from her faith and the power of aroma through candles and nature’s natural scents. Thus she made candles inspired by the saints. Check out her work at on Instagram @healthymindhealthysoul_

Find all this and more on May 1 at The Loreto Market!

Spring Gift Guide – Gift Guide for Mother’s Day

Join us for The Loreto Market, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 1!

With the market taking place one week before Mother’s Day, it’s the perfect opportunity to shop local and celebrate a mother in your life.

At the Loreto Market, you will find:


Original artwork by SQHQ Art

Few reproductions could compare with an original piece of artwork. One of the best ways to add to your art collection (or your mother’s) is by shopping local. At the Loreto Market you have the opportunity to discuss her work with the artist herself. Come meet Susan Fisher and snatch up one of these beautiful paintings!

Chemical-free cleaning products by Norwex

Featuring their Safe Haven 5 Package – The EnviroCloth, Window Cloth, Dusting Mitt, Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent and Cleaning Paste.


Ice sugar cookies for your gathering by Cakes by Patricia



Sheep milk soap and yarn by M&J Farms plus Marcie Davis’ newly published picture book perfect for the mother who loves to read aloud!

Marcie of M&J Farms shared about this particular illustration, which may be recognizable to locals. “It’s the original farm that was settled on and has been in the family for over 100 years. The barn was there when my great grandparents, John & Anna Baptista, arrived from the Azores. John worked for Charles Geer of Geer Ranch, giving our current busy road it’s familiar name. The AB stands for Albert Baptista who, with his brother Alfred, ran a cow dairy on site, which was eventually taken over by Raymond Baptista. I tried to add a little bit of Hughson nostalgia and family pride to my book.”



The opportunity to care for herself by signing up for a course through The Woman School.

Salve for parched skin and rosaries for her and her children made by Catholic Kids.

You’ll have to hurry to purchase a rosary from these ambitious entrepreneurs! The young ladies who run Catholic Kids sold out of their popular rosaries at last year’s Loreto Market. This year, their proceeds will go towards supporting Traditional Latin Mass Seminaries.

A moment of tranquility made possible by a set of custom wind chimes made by Casey Music Service.

Kyle Casey began experimenting with creating my own wind chimes about 10 years ago. Over time I learned much about their construction and developed my own unique techniques and designs. He now sells them mostly online to those who wish to have a very specific set of notes that no other known wind chime company can do for them. He said, “I strive to provide the highest quality custom made wind chimes made with the best materials available that not only sound great but look great as well. I also strive to provide the most effective music lessons specifically tailored to each individual student.”

An Icon by Sue Forrest Artwork

Sue Forrest seeks to bring beauty to all, through the medium of paint and spread the Gospel with icons. Her breathtaking work will be on display and available for purchase. To see her past projects, visit her Facebook page, Sue Forrest Artwork.

The beauty of age and tradition with curated antiques Domestic Joy

The joy Dezirae LaGro finds in Catholicism, homemaking and antique shopping spills over into the beauty of her booth as she brings to you Curated Catholic Treasures. Check out her instagram page of the same name.

Jewelry by Simple Beadings

Yuehesi Cuellar, owner of Simple Beadings, said, “I strive to offer affordable rosaries and jewelry to drive people closer to Christ!” At her booth you’ll find rosaries (corded, beaded, chained), religious & non- religious earrings, religious & non religious necklaces and bracelets. Learn more at @simplebeadings (Instagram) and simplebeadings.square.site .

Candles by Healthy Mind Healthy Soul

Integrating her passion for her profession as a future mental health counselor, and passion for her faith, Adriana Ramirez, owner of Healthy Mind Healthy Soul, hit upon the idea to utilize the inspiration from her faith and the power of aroma through candles and nature’s natural scents. Thus she made candles inspired by the saints. Check out her work at on Instagram @healthymindhealthysoul_

There’s more to come!

See you at the Loreto Market!

May 1

10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Spring Gift Guide – Gift Guide for Sacraments

The Loreto Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 1. With so many holidays and events on the calendar in the coming weeks, I thought a gift guide might be handy.

Do you have a Confirmation mass to attend in the afternoon? First Holy Communions coming up? Whether Baptisms, First Holy Communions, Confirmations or the beginning of the wedding season, at the Loreto Market we’re featuring:

Saint peg dolls by Whymsical Lotus

After five years of being in business, Lotus Vele has enough saint peg dolls to fill the heavenly hosts! Find your patron saint of the patron of your gift recipient. To learn more visit whymsicallotus.Etsy.com

Home decor with spiritual themes by Simple Beadings

Yuehesi Cuellar, owner of Simple Beadings, said, “I strive to offer affordable rosaries and jewelry to drive people closer to Christ!” At her booth you’ll find rosaries (corded, beaded, chained), religious & non- religious earrings, religious & non religious necklaces and bracelets. Learn more at @simplebeadings (Instagram) and simplebeadings.square.site .

Curated Vintage Artwork by Domestic Joy

The joy Dezirae LaGro finds in Catholicism, homemaking and antique shopping spills over into the beauty of her booth as she brings to you Curated Catholic Treasures. Check out her instagram page of the same name.

Original and Reproduction Icons by Sue Forrest Artwork

Sue Forrest seeks to bring beauty to all, through the medium of paint and spread the Gospel with icons. Her breathtaking work will be on display and available for purchase. To see her past projects, visit her Facebook page, Sue Forrest Artwork.

Handmade Rosaries by Catholic Kids

You’ll have to hurry to purchase a rosary from these ambitious entrepreneurs! The young ladies who run Catholic Kids sold out of their popular rosaries at last year’s Loreto Market. This year, their proceeds will go towards supporting Traditional Latin Mass Seminaries.

Candles by Healthy Mind Healthy Soul

Integrating her passion for her profession as a future mental health counselor, and passion for her faith, Adriana Ramirez, owner of Healthy Mind Healthy Soul, hit upon the idea to utilize the inspiration from her faith and the power of aroma through candles and nature’s natural scents. Thus she made candles inspired by the saints. Check out her work at on Instagram @healthymindhealthysoul_

There’s more to come!

See you at the Loreto Market!