Still in the Garden

 

Beautiful tomatoes were grown in a friend's garden last. summer

Beautiful tomatoes were grown in a friend’s garden last. summer

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Hugh Roberts, who challenged us all to show what sits atop our Christmas tree, has chosen the Alzheimer’s Research UK research charity to receive his very generous  gift of L250 sterling.  Hugh pledged to give a pound to charity for each entry his challenge received from participants around the world.

I learned of Hugh’s challenge early on in December through fellow blogger Sue Vincent and chose to participate.   Hugh published his round up post earlier this week, with links to all participants, and the story behind his tree-top angel, Angela.

Hugh chose to support the Alzheimer’s Research charity because that is the disease which took both his grandmother and his mother from him. It runs in his family; as degenerative brain disease runs in many of ours.

We have our own legacy of Parkinson’s disease and stroke casting a shadow in our own family. It is absolutely heartbreaking to witness the elders of our family, who we love, and respect, wrestle with these devastating changes to their lives.

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Flowers, vegetables and herbs grow together in my friends' deck garden.

Flowers, vegetables and herbs grow together in my friends’ deck garden.

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Which is why I stumbled across the wonderful book, 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss, by Jean Carper, earlier this summer. Although the suggestions in this book are wide ranging, and include physical exercise, community involvement, sports and games; the suggestions always return to nutrition.jean-carper-book-large  By the way, gardening is also a wonderful way to keep one’s brain healthy and active !

Food is a very personal subject for us all. Food is comfort. Food is tradition. Food connects us to our family’s roots. Food is recreation and food is survival.

It is often only when facing a serious health challenge, whether diabetes, blood pressure, or cancer that we come around to realizing that food is also our best medicine.

Remember that the first humans were given a garden to meet all of their needs. Indigenous people the world over, who are generally very healthy and long-lived, still understand how to “live off of the land.”

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My friend fashioned this lovely dragon fly ornament for her garden.  Creating works of art also protects and strengthens our brains.

My friend fashioned this lovely dragon fly ornament for her garden. Creating works of art also protects and strengthens our brains.

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Physicians and medical researchers establish a clear link between what we eat and how long we live. Our quality of life is a direct result of our nutrition. And I learned this summer, from Jean Carper’s wonderful book, that eating the right foods also protects our brain from Alzheimer’s, dementia and other degenerative brain diseases.

Researchers and practicing physicians have proven over and again that plant based foods are the ones which heal us. Animal based foods feed the diseases which kill us and destroy our brains.

This is jarring for most Americans and Europeans, who eat meat, eggs, fish and dairy multiple times every day. Our traditional meals and favorite foods are all centered on animal products.

And yet, learning to eat and enjoy plant based meals is always the prescription for good health. We must eat from “the garden.”   We not only need to eat plant based foods, but also choose those which don’t come laden with the agricultural chemicals which will poison us.  Locally grown food, grown organically, nourishes us and heals us.

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My friend coaxes fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs from her steep slope.

My friend coaxes fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs from her steeply sloping garden.

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After reading Jean’s book this summer, I compiled a simple half sheet list of “Foods Which Protect Our Brains” for my parents, and shared it with my siblings. There is abundant research to back up the healing powers of each food on the list

Since then, another close family member began treatment for a very aggressive cancer. One of her survival strategies has been to follow a vegan, and mostly raw, diet. And it is helping her to remain active and energized as she continues with the other treatments her doctors prescribe.

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Herbs hold the power to heal us.  Our own garden in July-

Herbs hold the power to heal us. Our own garden in July-

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Dr. Joel Fuhrman, whose book, Eat To Live, I read several years ago, realizes that he is a “doctor of last resort.” Most of his patients would never consider following his diet advice unless it was their last hope of survival.Eat to Live

What is that radical advice? To under-consume calories. He recommends a mostly raw diet of only selected vegetables, little or no oil or butter, whole grains, and no sugar. A typical meal includes a huge bowl of salad chopped vegetables dressed with a home-made fat free dressing.

Dr. Fuhrman has since generated cookbooks and a number of additional titles including: The End of Diabetes, Super Immunity, Disease Proof Your Child, and The End of Dieting. His advice is based in his own practice with terminally ill patients,  as well as up to date research in disease prevention.  Dr Fuhrman’s first book, Eat To Live, clearly describes how animal foods create and feed those diseases which destroy our bodies and brains.

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Dill in our garden last July

Dill in our garden last July

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I “returned to the garden” in 1986, giving up all flesh foods, for a variety of reasons. I won’t bore you with those reasons, but they were far ranging. And I’ve never once been tempted to add meat back into my diet. I haven’t been as successful with eliminating dairy, although I continue to reduce the amounts we consume. 2015 may be the year for that final shift, however.

I prefer to focus on learning new ways to prepare delicious meals rich in colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and herbs.

Our creators (Elohim, from the Hebrew) gave us every single thing we need for healthy living, and we honor them, and ourselves, by living vibrant, healthy lives.

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Fig tree in our garden, August 2014

Fig tree in our garden, August 2014

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Please allow me to share the list of brain healthy foods I compiled for my parents this past summer, based on reading Jean Carper’s book, 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss.

Adding these simple and delicious foods to our diets in greater quantity may protect our brains, and our lives, for many more years to come.

Foods to Eat Frequently

To Heal and Protect Our Brains:

Coffee, Tea, Cocoa (Caffeine)

  Fresh Vegetables (5+ daily)

Spinach, Chard, Kale, Tomato

Nuts:  Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Walnuts, Cashews

Fresh Fruit (5+daily)

2 Apples each day (or apple juice)

Berries: Blueberries, Blackberries   Strawberries, Cranberries 

Cherries

Juice: Pomegranate, Apple

Cranberry, Purple Grape

Olives, Olive Oil 

Whole grains

Cinnamon

    Eggs, Fish, Fish oils

Dark Chocolate

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Our pear crop, August 2014

Our pear crop, August 2014

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Weekly Photo Challenge: NEW

Weekly Photo Challenge:  NEW

 

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This is one of my first photos of the new year, taken soon after sunrise on New Year’s Day.

I am happy to see the many plump buds on the tips of these Dogwood branches.

Each bud will open into a delicate white flower in early April.  There will be a billowy white profusion of flowers here in a few short weeks.

But on this January morning we see only the fine lacework of the Dogwood’s branches, and a profusion of buds.

And through them, the sky is fresh and new, deeply blue, and giving us good omens for the new year ahead.

 

In response to the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  New

 

January 1, 2015 sunrise 006

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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“We spend January 1st walking through our lives,

room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done,

cracks to be patched.

Maybe this year, to balance the list,

we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives

…not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
 

Ellen Goodman

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Wordless Wednesday

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“How did it get so late so soon?

It’s night before it’s afternoon.

December is here before it’s June.

My goodness how the time has flewn.

How did it get so late so soon?”

 

Dr. Seuss

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2o14

 

 

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New Year’s Eve

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On New Year’s Eve I’m reminded that the new is always born out of all that has gone before.

The ghosts of our past both comfort and haunt us, traveling with us into the newness of each day, each new year.

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Our roots run deep into the soil of our life experiences, and our parents’ and grandparents’ experiences.  Our roots live in the  knowings and acts and loves of all of those who came before, and all those who journey with us now.

We draw the energy and motivation to move forwards from the richness of our past .

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As we reflect on our lives up to this moment, there are moments of sorrow as well as joy.  Disappointments mixed in with our accomplishments.

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There are those loved ones we’ve lost along the way, friends estranged, colleagues left behind.

And of course there are those friends and loved ones with us still, who have been our companions for much of our lives.

Each of these relationships, each of these experiences  has enriched us in countless ways.

They are all our mentors. 

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So let us bless it all.  Let us recollect all of those people who have been our companions along the way.  Because our history also shows us our path forwards.

Whether our memories are bitter or joyful, or mixed; let us bless them, forgive them, appreciate them, and acknowledge what we have learned from each one.

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Let us recollect the many experiences of our lives. Let us accept them, the painful as well as the positive ones, as part of our story.  Each one has played its part in bringing us to this moment, at the cusp of a new year.

Our lives are infinitely enriched with the people and experiences of each passing year.

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Let us move forwards in peace, accepting what has been, and forming a  clear vision of the life we intend to live moving forwards.

It is our inner vision, our power of imagination to create the life we desire, which moves us forward.

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On this New Year’s Eve, skip the resolutions and instead envision the life you intend to live from this moment on.  Determine what you want to hear, and see, smell and feel in your daily life.

Our dreams and intentions are the seeds which create what we desire. 

Planted in the rich soil of our life, nurtured with awareness and intent, our vision will grow into reality.

May you walk in beauty and happiness through all the days to come.

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Woodland Gnome 2014

One Word Photo Challenge: Ultramarine

One Word Photo Challenge:  Ultramarine

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Glass teardrop ornament by The Glass Eye Studio of Seattle, Washington. 

This glass is made using ash from the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

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With appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

for her One World Photo Challenge:  Ultramarine

Feeding My Addiction…

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While much of the country has ice and snow this last week of December, we are a balmy 48 with light showers.

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We had a breath of spring this weekend with sunshine and warmer temperatures.

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We are so fortunate to have a climate mild enough to sustain greenery and flowers through the winter months.

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I am still enamored of moss, and dug up a bit more from the garden to lay in pots near the house.

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I don’t believe it will last long into spring, in those areas with direct sun, but it is nice in the winter when so much of the garden stands bare.

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This is the season when I appreciate our ivy the most, along with our Violas and Camellias, which still have a few blooms despite the cold, wind, and rain.

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December 28, 2014 winter 007

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There is just enough still growing in our pots to feed my gardening addiction.

Everything is looking rather ratty, to be honest.

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There are still brown fallen leaves blown into pots and around them.

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There are leaves to trim back, and the bare sticks of hydrangea and fig protruding from the pots, just waiting out winter.

But it almost doesn’t matter.

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So long as I can go out from time to time to deadhead spent Viola blossoms, admire the moss, look for signs of bulbs poking up, and take a photo here and there; I am happy.

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Winter returned today with heavy skies, cold wind and rain.  I’ve heard it could snow tomorrow…

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But the coffee is on, and it’s warm inside this afternoon.   A good friend stopped by to visit. 

And there are pots to tend inside, too.

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Woodland Gnome 2014

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Something New

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I’ve gotten a head start on a “new” year.

Here is the first loaf of sourdough bread, baked from a newly made starter, in a brand new Dutch oven given to me for Christmas.

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The entire house is perfumed by this wonderful bread.

I’ve been reading two new books about baking bread  this week.

9781607742746_p0_v2_s114x1669781452100289_p0_v1_s260x420Both of these speak of time as an essential ingredient to baking good bread.  They introduce some new techniques and ways of making dough I have only just begun to learn.

I love beginning a new year with learning something new!

The bread I’ve baked today began a week ago when I mixed some rye flour (a gift from a friend who chose to shift to a gluten free diet) with some bottled spring water, and set it aside to come alive.

Rye flour harbors some specific yeasts and bacteria which when activated, will grow into a “sourdough” culture or “levain.”

After two days, I began feeding my new culture with bread flour and more bottled spring water.

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December 28, 2014 bread 006

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On the third day I divided my culture in half, giving half to another baking friend, and continued to feed the culture with flour and water.

By Friday the culture was ready to leaven a batch of bread dough.  When I divided the culture to feed it, half went into the bowl to serve as the basis for bread.

I also finally purchased Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast,  and set about reading beyond the “sample” to dig into his techniques and recipes.

I didn’t follow his recipes for this bread, but I followed many of his principles.  I made a well hydrated, loose, dough; “folded” it several times during the rise, and allowed it plenty of time to rise slowly.

Translated:  The dough was much softer and wetter than I normally make it.  I let it rise for about four hours on the counter, and then put the dough into the refrigerator, in a covered bowl, for an additional 36 hours before forming the loaf early this morning.

Once formed, with plenty of extra flour used in making the loaf, I let it rise an additional four hours before beginning to bake the bread.

This bread is leavened only with the “sourdough” levain.  There is no additional yeast. 

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And the ingredients list includes only flour, water, honey, olive oil, and salt in addition to flour and the levain starter. I brushed the loaf with melted butter and sprinkled sesame seeds and sea salt on the top crust before baking.

 

Bread board by Michael Laico.

Bread board by Michael Laico.

It is the soul of simplicity:  bread made as our grandmothers made it in the centuries before we could purchase yeast at the grocery store!

What was old is new again….

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Woodland Gnome 2014

WPC: Warmth

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Boxing Day dawned warm and bright, sunlight flooding through the windows. 

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We have a respite before wintery wet weather returns on Sunday.

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May your home be warm and bright, bathed in love and happiness this Christmas weekend.

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Begonia

Begonia

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The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:  Warmth

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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December 26, 2014 Warmth 017

One Word Photo Challenge: 0live

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With appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

and her One Word Photo Challenge:  Olive

Photo by Woodland Gnome 2014

What Sits At the Top of Your Christmas Tree?

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Mark Roberts "Golden Age" fairy sits at the top of our Christmas tree.

Mark Roberts “Golden Age” fairy sits at the top of our Christmas tree.

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What sits on top of your Christmas tree? 

Hugh Roberts, of East Sussex UK,  is politely curious.

In fact, everyone who responds to his query will help add another pound sterling to the charitable contribution he plans to make in January.  His goal is L250. That is a lot of Christmas beauty!

Blogging friend Sue posted her tree topper earlier today and alerted me to Hugh’s challenge.  What lovely Christmas postings you’ll find from Sue!

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Mark Robert's Sugar Plum Fairy

Mark Robert’s Plum Pudding  Fairy

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When we moved to this home (and garden) a few years ago, a Christmas tree left behind by the previous owner was waiting for us in a huge box in the garage.  It was a pre-lit tree, with white lights, and we decided to make it our “den” tree that first year.

There was very little Christmas joy as I tried, in vain, to get all of the lights working.  I finally gave up and just put a string of colored lights on top and used this as our “overflow” tree for ornaments not displayed in the living room.  This tree held lots of childhood memories and fun ornaments given over the years by students and extended family.

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Mark Robert's "Mistletoe and Holly" fairy

Mark Robert’s “Mistletoe and Holly” fairy

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That January, we decided to just leave this tree assembled, covered in plastic dust covers, in the basement.  The ornaments were packed, but we just left the lights in place.  We’ve used the tree another time or two, but last year was so hectic that it never saw the lights of Christmas.

Earlier this month my partner began the discussion about discarding this old tree.  I think he planned to use its component parts in the deer barriers down in our ravine.  But I kept putting him off… and finally, took the trouble to go and lift the dust covers.  Not bad….

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I had been half-heartedly  shopping for a “new” artificial tree for the den.  I love the lights in the area where we sit and cook, and really wanted to bring some of those old ornaments out again.  But nothing I had seen online or in stores seemed worth the asking prices.  (Yes, I know, after Christmas sales…)

And so in a moment of sheer stubborness I wrestled this old tree up from the basement and plunked it down beside my chair.

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A new "Santa" ornament handmade from a cypress knob by a local artist.

A new “Santa” ornament handmade from a cypress knob by a local artist.

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There wasn’t much enthusiasm in the house, I must admit.  But when I plugged in the string of lights, it did look festive.

We began “fluffing” the tree.  The tree stood there the rest of the day with just the lights burning.  I was off to my parents’ home for the day, and needed to get on the road.  I planned to decorate it the following day.

Well, my partner continued to fluff it and bend it back into acceptable shape.  Its cheery glow greeted me when I returned home that evening.

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I was at peace with the decision to save the tree.  That is, until the following morning when I plugged it in on the way to the coffee pot.

The lights lasted maybe two minutes, and then nothing.  I tried and retried the plug, the fuses, the cord… Nothing would bring those old lights back to life.  They were more than 10 years old, but I still hated to give up too easily.

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December 22, 2014 closeups 004

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My partner is no fan of non-functioning Christmas lights.  He helped out by disentangling them from the tree.

I plugged them into another outlet and went through the string bulb by bulb.  And again, and again.  No amount of jiggling or replacement bulbs brought them back to life.

By this time he was on his way to Walgreens to find us some new lights.

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December 22, 2014 Christmas tree 022.

But there was still the problem of the factory lights, burned out and hard wired onto the tree.  Most of the bulbs were blackened from their little explosions years ago.  They were clumsily attached, and just marred the tree in every way you might name.

And so faithful partner went to work with wire snips, pliers, and brute force.  He liberated the tree.

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Handmade "Santa" purchased from the same local artist last year.

Handmade “Santa” purchased from the same local artist last year.

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Hours later, we were finally ready to place the new strings of white lights.  What light!  What brightness! 

This was no longer a cast-off.  It was transformed into a thing of beauty.  And I decorated it accordingly.

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Our Mark Roberts Christmas fairies, usually enchanting the mantlepiece, took places of honor on the tree instead.  We decided to dedicate this tree to the magic of Christmas.

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It holds many of our Santa Claus ornaments, including  one crafted from a cypress knob by a local artist, which we purchased from her earlier in the month.

We created this tree to celebrate the love, generosity, kindness, and miracle-making magic the Christmas season always brings.

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A gift on my first Christmas.

A gift on my first Christmas.

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It is decorated with gifts I have  received from my very first Christmas until this one.  It celebrates the power of belief, the power of persistence, and the power of love. 

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Another gift from one of my childhood Christmas celebrations.

Another gift from one of my childhood Christmas celebrations.

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So will you join me in answering Hugh’s challenge?  If you blog, just make a post about your own Christmas tree, and link back to Hugh.  You’ll find instructions on his page.  If you don’t have your own blog, he explains how you can join in, too.

It doesn’t cost a penny to participate… only a loving heart full of joy and goodwill!

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Merry Christmas!

Woodland Gnome 2014

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