The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. TAKE JOY! ~Fra Giovanni
WELCOME to the Take Joy Society. We are a group of ladies who first met because of our love of Tasha Tudor's art and lifestyle. We are broadening our focus to include other artists/writers/people of interest who embody Tasha's philosophy to Take Joy in all the good that life has to offer. Here you will find a record of our get-togethers and resources to help you see that the gloom of the world is but a shadow so that you, too, can Take Joy!
On the twelfth day of Christmas I give to my true loves:
The gift of Joy
Just for today celebrate the gift of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is the greatest gift you can give your loved ones. If you truly do this, you will want to celebrate not just for today, but everyday.
On the eleventh day of Christmas I give to my true loves:
The gift of Peaceful Surroundings
There's something about a crackling fire that brings peace to my inner world. Perhaps it touches on some ancient memory of being warmed by a fire when it was a matter of life and death. Just for today do what you have to do to make your surroundings peaceful.....even if it's just your inner world.
On the tenth day of Christmas I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Wonder
The gift of wonder is what keeps us young. Once you think you know it all what is left to live for? Just for today find someone who needs reminding of this and take them for a wander through nature. Help them to see things they've never seen before and to ask questions. Or go outside after dark and look to the sky and wonder what the shepherds saw that very special night long ago in Bethlehem.
On the ninth day of Christmas I gave my true loves:
The gift of Surprise
When my children were very little it was easy to surprise them on Christmas morning. They would get a few things they asked for, but also other things they didn't know about. As they got older it got harder for me to figure out what they might like, so I just stuck to their list. That's when I started adding a different element of surprise to their gifts: clues as to where to FIND their gifts. Sometimes I'd write the clues in rhyme. Other times they'd be given a clue to where to find the next clue and so on, until they eventually found their gifts. Even now I will sometimes hide one of their gifts or leave it for their stockings. You have three days to think of a way to surprise your family this Christmas. Come back here after Christmas and tell us what you did!
This is what I did in 2003. My boys were 24, 21, and 16. I read them the story, then gave them their clues (click on to enlarge). . . .
On the eighth day of Christmas I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Communication
Hopefully, you've already sent out your Christmas cards by now, if that is your tradition. I've always sent cards, but it's only been in recent years that I've tried to personalize them. Newsletters have gotten a bad rap in my opinion. Yes, they can become a form of "gloating" about our good fortunes. But we all know there is always more to the story that isn't being shared because who wants to share the not-so-good news at Christmas. So instead, I see them as a way to keep in touch with the folks who are not a regular part of my life. I LOVE receiving others' news about their families, so I thought maybe others would like to hear what we've been up to as well. Some years I even add a poem or a story just to personalize it a little bit more. Just for today, even though your cards may already be in the mail by now, take a moment to share what's going on in your life with the people you come in contact with. By sharing first, maybe they'll share with you when you ask, "So how's it going with you?"
On the seventh day of Christmas I gave my true loves:
The gift of Beauty
We've only had snow on a couple Christmases here in Maryland. So when we do, like we did on Christmas Eve 2012, it is even more beautiful than the snow we have later in the winter. While you can't make it snow, just for today make a point of bringing something of beauty to someone's attention. It may be the sunrise or sunset, a bird in a tree, a particularly delightful window display. And there are always Christmas lights to admire in your community. Why not make an evening of driving, or better yet, walking through a neighborhood or downtown with someone you love.
On the sixth day of Christmas I gave my true loves:
The gift of Good Cheer
I think animals are a great way to bring Good Cheer to others during the holidays. My photo montage of Gabriel's first Christmas when he was six months old brings a smile to my face every time. I was trying to capture him in my little Christmas scene for our Christmas card. The four side photos are only a few of the photos I took before getting the final one in the center. Just for today try to bring Good Cheer to someone's life that you know is feeling down. Christmas can often be a sad time for people who have suffered loss this time of year. It may be a phone call, a visit, or posting a fun photo of your pet on Facebook to bring a smile to someone's face.
P.S. Be sure to watch the video that comes with the song!
On the fifth day of Christmas I gave my true loves:
The gift of Tenderness
Sarah did not explain what she was thinking when she made her list of gifts so I am interpreting them from my own perspective. When I think of giving the gift of tenderness I think: understanding, compassion, forgiveness. To me tenderness means making allowances for others' mistakes, inadequacies....even intentional unkindness. It's meeting a harsh word with a kind word. Everyone is under pressure this time of year. Even if you are the one doing all the work, if you are stressed out about it, your loved ones are feeling it. They may "check out" or "lash out." Even if someone does not give you the gift of Tenderness, just for today try to give it to them. They obviously need a great deal of it. You can give them some of yours.
On the fourth day of Christmas I gave my true loves:
The gift of Simple Seasonal Pleasures
There was a time I resented the intrusion of the secular celebration of Christmas on the spiritual celebration--even though I'd grown up believing in Santa. It was a great deal of fun as a child to anticipate the presents waiting for me Christmas morning. My little brother would always be the first to awake, though, and come get me. Perhaps Big sister would made it OK to sneek into the living room before our parents woke up because then I'd get the blame? So I continued the tradition with my children and felt guilty doing so.
Now, I believe that all of life is spiritual if you just move the veil aside. I believe that God can be seen in all things, if we are looking from that perspective. There are lessons to be learned and truths to be gained by enjoying the simple pleasures in life. Just for today take the time to enJOY whatever the season has to offer with someone you love.
On the third day of Christmas I gave my true loves:
The gift of Creative Energy
Creative Energy can be anything that you've put some thought into. It's that little extra--like dining by candlelight with soft music playing in the background. It's making a handmade card for someone telling them you love them just for who they are. Just for today take some time to do something out of the ordinary.
On the second day of Christmas I gave my true loves:
The gift of Enthusiasm
Who better than a child to look to for enthusiasm. Do you think just for today you could get as excited about something as simple as a ride in a wagon around the living room--and then share your enthusiasm with someone?
On the first day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of my Undivided Attention
This one will not come naturally or easily during these last 12 days before Christmas if you still have shopping and baking and card writing and the million and one things on your list still yet to do. But just for today any person or animal you come in contact with, give your undivided attention to them.
Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance, "All those bright, pretty baubles blowing your budget are only symbols of the gifts you really long to give." She says she knows "a one-size-fits-all gift that would be absolutely thrilling for everyone on your list: the gift of yourself."
For the next 12 days leading up to Christmas I will be sharing each day one way Sarah says we can share ourselves. It will cost you time, creative energy, and emotion, Sarah says, but the rewards will be well worth it.
The Take Joy Society got together today for a Susan Branch Christmas Luncheon. I've been a fan of Susan's art for years. I was finally able to meet her at the Friends of Gladys Taber Reunion last year. She is a gracious and inspiring lady, always full of joy for life and people.
While I finished getting everything ready in the kitchen with the help of my terrific husband, everyone had a chance to look through Susan's books. . . .
There was so much more I could have put out: calendars, recipe holder books, scrapbook pages, journals of all kinds!
I used recipes from Susan's books and website. I served Cucumber, Egg Salad, and Chicken Salad sandwiches. I liked the added touch of minced parsley on the edges of the cucumber sandwiches. . . .
I decided to omit the endive in the Orange Watercress Salad as Susan suggested if the endive was too bitter, and it was fine without it. . . .
I used raspberries and blackberries in the Fresh Fruit Salad. The topping made it a real treat . . . .
And the Rice Pudding, hot right out of the oven, was a hit--real comfort food. . . .
My table was decorated in the style of Susan Branch. . . .
........With dangling prisms on candle bobeches, Rose Chintz dishes, Christmas crackers as name placecards (mine contained chocolate kisses). It was even remarked that the wrapping paper on my gift to my guests, "Christmas Joys," looked like Susan's style of painting. . . . .
Here we are ready to eat. Two of our members were not able to join us for lunch, unfortunately. . . .
After lunch we exchanged gifts--handmade ornaments. . . .
I herded everyone downstairs so we could look at Susan's Blog on the big Screen TV. I showed them these Christmas-themed posts by Susan as well as Yankee Magazine's photo shoot:
I had several crafts in mind for us: Moravian Stars and Snowflakes (click for tutorials), but I decided on this Christmas Star. They are really easy to make. Here is a tutorial:
Here are the ones we made. . . .
I thought they'd be nice to string on a ribbon to make a garland.
By now it was mid-afternoon--time for a tea break. I served Lemon Pepper Tea Biscuits, Ginger Crisps, and Snowballs along with Susan's Apricot Jam Tea. . . .
I made these in my heart-shaped cast iron pan. I love pepper, but I think I got carried away with TOO much pepper on mine and not enough sugar. . . .
Susan also makes these with chocolate chips. You can find that recipe on this post.
These turned out great. . . .
as did these. . . .
We discussed our upcoming plans: a class on writing a children's picture book led by Edie (who is a published author) with a visit to a nearby Museum that is featuring the art of the Little Golden Books; a Beatrix Potter/Peter Rabbit-themed afternoon; a plant shopping expedition to Landis Valley Villages's annual plant sale, and our postponed Grandma Moses Painting Party. We ended the afternoon finding out whose tea cup saucer had the Susan Branch sticker affixed to the bottom. It was Carol! Which meant she won Susan's first cookbook: HEART OF THE HOME. . . .
Based on the diaries Susan has kept since she was in her twenties, The Fairy Tale Girl is an illustrated memoir filled with original watercolors and personal photographs. Susan's new book is an age-old story of love and loss, mystery and magic that begins in a geranium-colored house in California and ends up, like any good fairy tale, on the right side of the rabbit hole, in a small cottage in the woods on the New England Island of Martha's Vineyard.
The sequel to this book, MARTHA'S VINEYARD ISLE OF DREAMS, will be out in the Spring and can be pre-ordered HERE.
In Mary Mason Campbell's "The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac," illustratated by Tasha Tudor, she writes, "The original meaning of the word 'Wassail' remains rather obscure, but it may have meant 'Be Thou Well,' or a kind of 'Here's-to-you' toast of good will not necessarily confined to Christmas festivities. The early custom was for a servant or the host to bring in a bowl filled with appropriate liquor made from cider, ale, wine or rum and spices, usually heated and with roasted apples bobbing on top. As he did so, he would call 'Wassail! wassail! wassail!' ...The ceremony has carried over in our custom of sharing the Christmas season with friends and neighbors with a bowl of spiced punch or eggnog or syllabub..."
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Christmas is a WONDERFUL time of the year not only because we celebrate Jesus' birth, but because it can bring out the child-like qualities in us all---even the year-long scrooges!
Tasha Tudor is well known for how she celebrated Christmas. In "A Time to Keep" she tells us, "Christmas was the best of all times to keep." She'd begin the celebration by putting up the Christmas pyramid and Advent calendar on St. Nicholas Day. She'd light the Advent wreath and serve St. Nicholas cake. . . .
One of my favorite of her traditions was the creche in the woods which I did one year when my children were still at home. . . .
Then Christmas eve the family would go into the woods to cut down a tree. We started the tradition of cutting down our tree from a tree farm the first year we were married. Tasha's tree would not be decorated until Christmas night and the children would be kept out of the room until it was all done. In "Take Joy" (her 1966 Christmas book) she writes, "By the time the evening chores are finished, everyone is in the proper state of excitement. At last the tree is completely decorated and lighted and the presents are piled beneath and around it. Now Seth winds up the antique music box and sets it at Hark! the Herald Angles Sing. This is the signal the children have been waiting for. The doors burst open--and there stands the tree in all its shimmering glory. The rest of the evening is spent in that happy enjoyment only Christmas brings". . . .
Tasha celebrated Christmas through other books, too, such as "Snow Before Christmas". . . .
A few years ago the Historic Odessa Foundation in Odessa, Delaware had a very inspiring exhibit called A Joyful Tasha Tudor Christmas. I did a post about it last year which can be found HERE.
If Christmas is your special holiday, too, then "Forever Christmas" is a must-have book. In it you get to see up-close and personal photographs by Jay Paul as Tasha prepares for her celebration. . . .such as these gingerbread ornaments she made every year with the children. . . .
Note: All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Book links take you to Amazon where you can take a look inside.
I hope you have been inspired to slow down and really celebrate the season--not just go through the motions. If it means down-sizing what you usually do, then so be it. It is better to enjoy just a few activities than to wear yourself out with worry or work.
Do you do celebrate Christmas with any of the same traditions as Tasha?
Sarah Ban Breathnach uses the story of The Velveteen Rabbit, written by Margery Williams in 1927, to talk about authenticity. She writes, "For a long time, the bunny remained just another plaything in the nursery. But he didn't mind because he was able to carry on long, philosophical discussions with the old Skin Horse who was very old, wise, and experienced in the strange ways of nursery magic." One day the rabbit asked the Skin Horse , "What is REAL? Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?" The horse replied . . . .
Sarah says, "In order for us to become Real, we must become lovers of real life in all its complexity and uncertainty....The Velveteen Rabbit isn't alone in wishing to become Real without any uncomfortable or unpleasant things happening." She suggests growing gradually into our authenticity to alleviate some of the discomfort that comes with change. She says, "As you learn to acknowledge, accept, and appreciate what it is that makes you different from [everyone else], the process begins. As you learn to trust the wisdom of your heart and make creative choices based on what you know is right for you, process becomes progress. As you learn to endow even the smallest moment of each day with Love, progress becomes reality perfected."
When we are children if we feel neglected we too often try to please those around us so we will gain their love and attention. Sometimes we give up and just go for their attention which can be gotten either in the form of getting into trouble or becoming perfectionists. You may not even realize that you are not your "real" self because it's the only self you've ever known. That is the hard part of becoming real--digging deep, tearing away the layers, and finally reaching the most sensitive part of yourself. If you have someone in your life who will love you no matter what, the process will go more quickly. Their unconditional love will enable you to begin to change. It helps to let the people in your life know that you've begun this journey and ask for their understanding and support. In the end, though, it's your own commitment to do what your heart leads you to do.
For me, this has been my spiritual journey--discovering who I was created to be, and how that would play out in what I do. My process began when I realized that I could not become a lover of real life unless I knew there was Someone who was able to look out for me. As my faith grew I realized that the God who created me is good and wants only what is best for me. I knew He would love me no matter what--that I could go to Him when others did not understand. And that even the hard things work together for my good.
Skin Horse said, "You can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." Once I became confident in God's love I no longer needed others' approval. Now I am beautiful in God's sight, and that's all that matters.
In November Mary Mason Campell writes in her book, The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac, illustrated by Tasha Tudor, that the herb, Rosemary, means "Remembrance." Besides being used to flavor foods--I love it in potatoes and bread--it can be used as tea, and has medicinal properties, as well. Mrs. Campbell suggests adding a bit to your Thanksgiving Turkey gravy. Rosemary is not winter hardy even here in Maryland so I must bring in my plant each Autumn. There is an old adage that "The Mistress rules the house where Rosemary flourishes." Another reason to have it in the house! ☺︎ Here is her recipe for Turkey soup. No doubt her dried herbs included Rosemary. . . .
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The highlight in November for Tasha Tudor was Thanksgiving because she would always roast her turkey before the fire in her tin oven. But November was also the month she made her year's supply of candles and her Christmas gifts. . . .
(Click to enlarge)
"A Time to Keep"
"Around the Year"
I grew up loving Thanksgiving. It was always a big family celebration in our household, whether we went to one of my grandparents' or people came to our house. I've continued my mother's tradition of making "Heavenly Hash" (also called Ambrosia) every year. Sometimes I become very nostalgic for my Mamaw's Chess Pie, and even though no one else in my family likes it, I will make it in addition to our traditional Pumpkin and Apple pies.
Do you have a traditional dish for Thanksgiving besides the Turkey and stuffing?
Take Joy Society's "theme" this year is to "Advance Confidently in the Direction of Our Dreams." This was Tasha Tudor's "theme" for her life. She said she achieved more than she'd ever dreamed she could. This year the Tasha Tudor Museum commemorated the 100th Anniversary of her birth with an exhibit called. . . .
I visited the exhibit last month while Ken was attending baking classes at King Arthur Flour. It turned out that the wife of another participant was a Tasha Tudor kindred spirit so Ken took her number and I ended up having a wonderful companion for the day. Interestingly, Elizabeth lives on Cape Cod and works at Titcomb's Book Store where Susan Branch holds her book signings. It also turned out that she'd been at the Gladys Tabor Reunion last year for Susan's book signing that I also attended. She had never been to the Tasha Tudor Museum, so I had the added joy of introducing her to it.
Rain had been predicted but the sun greeted us instead as we headed for Brattleboro. We arrived at the Jeremiah Beal House, where the museum is housed, just after 10:00. The gift shop was our first encounter. . . .
On the wall was a map with pins indicating the active Museum Society Chapters as well as the ones on the waiting list. The former Maryland Chapter's pin had not yet been removed. . . .
I was able to purchase The Birdwhistle Journal, the publication that the Springs of Joy museum membership level receive. I also stocked up on Tasha's Welsh blend Tea, bought several packs of cards, and a gift (Tasha's soap) for my neighbor who was looking after my cat at home. . . .
Volunteer, Christel, is calculating Elizabeth's purchases. . . .
There is also a dress-up area for children along with coloring pages. . . .
Then we went into the exhibit area where Christel gave us a guided tour. . . .
The exhibit chronicled Tasha's life starting with her early childhood. Much of this information can be found in her daughter Bethany's book, Drawn From New England. . . .
(Click on all photos to enlarge)
But there were new-to-me photos of her home n Marblehead, MA and her grandmother's apartment on Beacon Hill in Boston. The exhibit's museum guide, Clover Press, noted that she lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland for a short time near the end of WWI while both her parents served the government during the war.
Following her parents' divorce in 1924 Tasha's mother moved to New York City while Tasha stayed with friends in Connecticut during the school year. Then in 1930 her mother bought a house in Redding, CT. It was during this period that her desire to have a farm of her own grew. While still a teenager she fulfilled her dream to write and illustrate a book--a little book called Hitty's Almanac that was never published. . . .
In 1937 she became engaged to Thomas McCready, Jr.. . . .
After Tasha married in 1938, Pumpkin Moonshine, was published--a book she'd written and illustrated about Thomas' niece's visit to their Connecticut farm. She and Thomas set up housekeeping in her mother's house. Their first two children, Bethany and Seth, were born while living there. In 1941 she wrote this article about New England for Horn magazine. The Redding, CT house was recently on the market. This is what it looks like today. . . .
By 1945 Tasha had published several books and with the publication of the highly successful Mother Goose, a Caledecott Honor book, she was able to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning her own farm. . . .
They had a small shop in their house where they sold Tasha's books and cards. This was their brochure and map for the Ginger and Pickles Store. . . .
Tom and Efner were born after their move to New Hampshire. Thomas wrote several books that Tasha illustrated about life on their farm (Biggety Bantam, Pekin White, Mr. Stubbs, Adventures of a Beagle). Tasha depicted their farm on the endpapers of Biggety Bantam. . . .
The house was built in 1790 and very run down by the time the McCreadys bought it. It did not have electricity or running water the first few years they were there. . . .
Yankee Magazine wrote an article about Tasha Tudor's "Story Book Farm" in their October 1957 issue. The day before my visit to the Museum I drove the back roads down through New Hampshire from Norwich, VT, where we were staying. My first stop was Harrisville, which I wrote about HERE--the village Tasha used for inspiration in creating Corgiville. When it was time to head back north, I detoured to Contoocook, the town nearest to where Tasha had lived. The center of town had a cluster of buildings, one of which was this one, built circa 1850. . . .
I crossed the street and found a gift shop called 3 On Main. . . .
I needed to get Ken a birthday card. As I was paying for it something made me want to tell the proprietor that I was exploring Tasha Tudor territory. I said I'd found the house on a previous trip, but wanted to see Contoocook and Webster--the closest towns to her house. This is when I walked into a "Story Book" moment. The owner of the shop perked up at the mention of Tasha Tudor and began to tell me how she lived next door to Tasha! She told me she'd go over there as a young child and Tasha would give her cookies. She made her a doll and gave her a first edition of her current book. As we talked about the house it quickly became apparent that the house I thought was hers--the one I took photographs of and have posted on my web journal--was the WRONG house! Tasha's house was the next house on the left--not the one of the right. The lady told me that a State Senator lived there now. So I went in search of it. It could not be seen from the road very well. . . .
So I brazenly pulled into the drive. I wasn't coming this far without getting a photo. . . .
Once home I took a screenshot of the Bing Map Bird's Eye View. . . .
If you go to Bing Maps and type in 225 Tyler Road, Webster, New Hampshire, and using Bird's Eye View to zoom further out you'll be able to see the Blackwater River where Tasha floated the birthday cake in Becky's Birthday. The barn with the red roof is fairly new. Seth told me a few years ago when I went on one of their house and garden tours that it had burnt down and been rebuilt.
While Tasha had her dream fulfilled of owning a farm, she had really hoped to have it in Vermont, so in the early 1970's her son, Seth, built her a house on property next to his in Marlboro, VT. . . .
She lived the rest of her life there. The house and gardens were depicted in many of her books and Christmas cards such as this one. . . .
Here is a Bird's Eye View of Tasha's Vermont home. . . .
The family conducts several tours of the house and gardens every year. If you sign up for their newsletter you will be notified when the tickets go on sale. They sell out within the first 10 minutes, so act quickly!
The exhibit contained memorabilia from Tasha's long life. . . .
After the tour Elizabeth watched one of the videos about Tasha's life. . . .
Tasha was among many famous authors to have their book signings here. . . .
We were greeted by the book shop cat. . . .
I've been here before so was excited to show it to Elizabeth since she worked at Titcombs. I found several unique and interesting books. . . .
Back in the corner were Tasha's books. . . .
You can see Tasha in this photo through the book shop window arriving for her book signing. Wouldn't it have been wonderful if this picture was taken the day we were there! . . . .
We had a most wonderful morning visiting with Christel at the Museum and with Mary at the book shop in the afternoon. At both places Elizabeth and I felt we were special guests since we were the only guests. We both needed to get back because our husbands would be getting out of their classes and the Charity Restaurant Food Tasting event would be starting soon. We opted for more back roads before realizing the lateness of the hour and the almost-empty gas tank. We made it back just in time and with 8 miles left in the tank! It was, indeed, a day full of joy!