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It's New Year's Eve again { how quickly they roll around !! } and, for the third year, our son, Daniel, has mixed all of the music that accompanies the London Fireworks that will bring in 2015.

He hasn't told me anything about it so, it will be a surprise for us too { although, I did suggest a few tunes that might be apt !}
I shall post the video tomorrow as I am a very proud mum.

HAPPY 2015 !!! 


image via reuters


please leave your calling card...

As you might recall from Christmas' past, this antique Victorian brass tray is a favorite of mine that I like to bring out this time of year.  It was originally silver-plated, but now only hints of silver remain.

  It is marked...  .
Mary and Nannie

Over the years I have spent hours wondering who was MA?, who were Mary and Nannie?, what was their Christmas like the year this beautiful tray was given as a gift?, where did they live?, and on and on...
Just as I wonder about these three people whose names are engraved on an antique tray that has a presence in my home, I also wonder about you, who also have a presence here. 
Some of you I know, as you leave me dear comments or send emails....but others of you remain a mystery. On my site meter I get repeat visits from places that are near and dear to us, and places that are far away and magical. Dan and I often talk about and wonder who all of you are!

One year I mentioned that I would notice a regular visitor from a tiny town in Oregon and that we would love to know who that person was, as Dan's father (who died when he was two) is buried in a cemetery in this small town.
 Several days after Christmas that year I received an email from the woman.  I cried as I read it to Dan.  She wrote that she lived within walking distance of the cemetery where Dan's father is buried, that her son learned to ride his bike there, and that she and her husband often take walks in the cemetery.  To know that someone across the country just happened to find my blog, and now visits our home, and to know that that person lives so close to Dan's father's resting place, and that this all happened because we share a love of houses is a sweet and dear connection that makes the world seem that much smaller. 
You just never know the connections that we all have to one another... . 

It was the custom in the period of this Victorian tray, that guests would leave their printed "calling cards" in trays at the homes they visited. 
It has become a Christmas tradition on the blog to put out the tray and invite you to leave your "calling card" and tell us who you are, where you live, and/or anything else about yourself that you wish to share.
 We would love to hear from each and every one of you- those who visit regularly, and those of you who usually come and go quietly!!

Please leave your calling card in the tray!

From our home to yours.... 
Merry Christmas!
Joan and Dan, 
Ella and Amelia

Even though it's blurry I love this pic of Ella and Amelia trying to figure out what the other one is wearing!

Jingle-Ella and Reindeer Amelia wish you a very Merry Christmas!!



Merry, Merry Christmas to all of my lovely blogging friends. Thank you for all of your brilliant comments throughout 2014 and, I look forward to your continued friendship in 2015 ….. 

Have a wonderful, magical time and, I hope that Father Christmas brings you everything that you asked for  !!!!!

See you in 2015.


1, 3, 7, 10 & 11: via what if winter is not a place outside, image 2: via 12th and white, image 4: via kero i am, image 5: via wayside treasures, image 6: via chicquero am,  image 8: via inspiration lane, image 9: via umla 



and then there were two!


Please say hello to our new girl, and Ella's new sister...
Full name, Amelia Mae :)

Amelia is a 6-year-old rescue from Texas!
As with most everything in the house, there is a story about how she came to be ours...

It all started several months ago when I found myself on petfinder.com.  I don't often look there as I find the site to be a bit frustrating to navigate, but on this night I typed in my location, the breed (mix), age, gender,etc. that I was interested in and several pages later I came across this photo of "Amelia."

 There was just something about her sweet face that stopped me in my tracks and had me coming back to her page for days to look at her.  On petfinder.com it said that she was located in Connecticut.  That sounded optimum as we've never adopted a dog without meeting them first and since we would be bringing a new dog into Ella's life it was very important to us that Ella meet and be happy with the situation and the dog.  Ella is now 10 years old, and is very social and loves other dogs, but I wanted it to be a good match for her too.  We've been looking off and on for four years, or so, at local shelters for a sister for Ella, but have never found "the one."

After finding Amelia on-line I waited a good week before showing her to Dan.  I knew he would say "lets go get her!," and I wanted to think about and be sure this was something we should do.  On one hand we have perfect Ella (anyone who knows her will tell you how perfect she is; it's not just me saying it ;) and why would we want to rock the boat with an unknown situation?  But on the other hand we have both wanted to have another dog, and two at one time (which we have never had before) and Ella has such a wonderful life that we felt a pull to give that life to another shelter/rescue dog needing a home.

When I finally showed Dan the photo of Amelia, he did indeed say "lets go get her!" and he also said...  "I think Amelia was my grandmother's middle name."  Really??  After he went to bed  I looked it up and sure enough his grandmother's middle name was Amelia.  While, that might be a sweet coincidence, what I haven't told you is that his grandmother's first name was Ella!    (Ella, the dog, or Ellazene, which is her full name, was named after a great aunt of mine, but "Ella" also happened to be Dan's maternal grandmother's name.)  That we might have Ella and Amelia gave me chills.
I took this as a sign.

The next night I'm thinking I really needed another sign that this is the right thing to do.  Ever since we moved to New Hampshire and started looking for a sister for Ella I have always joked with Dan that I would probably have to go back to Texas to get our next dog.  Our first dog, Kelsey, was from Texas, Ella is from Texas and, I'm from Texas!!  So one night I'm looking at Amelia's profile on petfinder.com and I click on the link to the rescue organization where she comes from and I read her bio on their site.  And, I'll be damned.....
Amelia is from Texas !!
This one made me cry... laugh and cry.
Sign number two. 

I then start thinking I'm making too much of all these signs and maybe they are just coincidences. The next day we take a drive to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to see the fall foliage.  Along the drive up I'm wishing that the universe would give me another sign if this was meant to be.  We stop several times that day at parks in different parts of the state to let Ella out.  We encountered three dogs at the parks and they were all miniature collies (which are correctly known as Shetland Sheepdogs, or Shelties, but to me have always been miniature collies;)   We get into the car after the last park and I say to Dan "Don't you think it's strange that the only dogs we've seen and come in contact with all day have been collies?!"  I then put my head in my hands and start to cry.  Dan is concerned and asks me what's wrong-  I tell him that on Amelia's bio they were guessing that she might be part lab and part ...
We then start to laugh!
Sign number three.

That night I sat out on the terrace and looked up at the star-filled sky and ask for another sign.  I immediately saw two shooting stars, one right after the other.  While I've seen shooting stars before they don't generally fly out of the sky when I look up asking for a sign and I've never seen two in a row like that.  I decided that, too, was a sign from the universe;)
Sign number four.

Several more days go by with me asking, yet again, for another sign.  (I'm a bit pragmatic and can be skeptical and very literal at times; and I ask a lot of questions in life;)
At this point I have yet to even send off an inquiring email about Amelia- still just trying to figure out if we should go down this road.  So, I drive down our hill to a local garden shop to pick up a large mum for the front door.  I'm driving along and pass a shop that has a marquee sign board and I see this...

Apparently the universe was sick and tired of me asking for more signs and decided that if the woman wants a sign, well, we'll give her a damn sign!!!!
Sign number five..... literally a sign! :)

Thee next day I sent off an inquiry email about Amelia!  I mean, one can only dismiss the signs from the universe for so long without the universe bopping you on your head ;)  Turns out she wasn't in Connecticut after all, but was still at the rescue in Texas.  She has had a difficult life.  
When she was brought to the Brazoria County Shelter two years ago in south Texas she had a huge swollen growth under her chest.  She was skin and bones as you can see in the photo below (her eyes are so sad in this photo it breaks my heart.)  You could not only see her ribs, but her hip bones as well.  A very kind Animal Control Officer (A.C.O.) named Tammy was trying to coax Amelia (then unnamed) to eat by offering her own sandwiches to the dog.  The rescue organization that took her in was coming to the shelter to pick up another dog to take in and the A.C.O. asked if they would take a look at Amelia.  The rescue was worried that the growth was cancerous, but it turned out to be a large abscess that they were able to treat with medication. She was so sick when they first saw her that she probably would not have made it through one more day if the A.C.O. had not advocated for her and if the rescue organization had not agreed to take her.  Bless them all.

I then filled out an adoption form and made contact with their wonderful National Adoption Coordinator, Melody, who is a volunteer for the rescue group.  I asked many, many.... many questions about Amelia to which Melody would find the answers and email/text/call me with a reply.
The rescue organization Smiling Dog Farms that took Amelia in started small- two partners, Ricky and Jay, rescuing a dog here and there. They were (as Dan and I are also) drawn to the dogs that were the least likely to be adopted. Various rescue groups then started sending them their "unadoptable" dogs because they knew that Smiling Dog Farms was an absolute no-kill shelter and that the dogs would be able to live out their lives in safety and peace.  As they evolved into a sanctuary to house dogs that had no other place to go they also came in contact with other dogs that turned out to be adoptable, like Amelia, and would take those dogs in also.  They have approximately 300 animals at the farm, and Amelia was one of the lucky 14 or so pets that got to live at their house.  I was told that she spent most of her day in a crate and had turn-out time during the day with other dogs at the house. When Dan and I heard this our hearts cracked and we knew she was to be ours.  She was 6 years old (older dogs are more difficult to adopt out)  and was a black dog (as I've mentioned on the blog previously, black dogs statistically are the last dogs to get adopted from shelters.  This phenomenon even has a name- black dog syndrome.)  She had been at Smiling Dog Farms for two years and I felt at this point in her life, if we didn't adopt her, she would never find a home.  That, and we had fallen in love with her from her photographs, videos and everything we were learning about her.

Throughout the process it became clear that Amelia (who had been named by one of the Smiling Dog Farms founders when the name just came to him- yes, I asked :) was a sweet and gentle girl and had a lot of similarities to Ella. I added the "Mae" to Amelia in honor of my late Aunt Mae who would tell me stories about the dogs in her life and was very dear to me.  Ella is a spunky 10 year old (I can't tell you how often I hear "I would never have guessed she was 10!") but I knew we didn't want a puppy.  I was looking for an older dog (over a year, at least and preferably even older); we have always adopted the older dog- both Ella and our first dog were a year old when we adopted them.  I've been extremely inspired by Claudia of My Little Bungalow blog who I have watched adopt a 10-year-old dog, so I was open to adopting one much older! (Thank you Claudia!)

I was a bit concerned that we wouldn't be meeting Amelia first, but I was trusting all the signs I had received and the process in general.  Melody and the rescue organization were 100% forthcoming with every single little thing about Amelia- her temperament, her health, her overall condition.  
   The rescue organization sent a local volunteer from Massachusetts (it takes a huge village to save just one dog) to our house for an in-house visit.  We passed;)!!

A week and a half later Amelia arrived on the pet transport P.E.T.S. which makes weekly trips through the south to the north to unite shelter/rescue dogs with their forever people.  We were one of five families making pickups that day at their stop in southern Vermont. We were the second to last in line and the first dog came off the 18-wheeler and it was met with "awww" from the people waiting.  Then the second and third dogs came off, both puppies, and more "awww's" ensued.  Then sweet Amelia walked down the plank and the tone of the "awww" went down an octave from a cute, happy "awww" to a feeling-sorry-for "awww."  Poor sweet Amelia, (her tail tucked under, her head down) looked scared and pitiful.  She had demodectic mange on her butt (which I was told about early on.)  It is the non-contagious form of mange on dogs that will clear itself up once a dog's immune system is healthy.  We felt strongly that a little TLC, good food, exercise and lots of kisses would clear it up in no time.   I walked up to her, held her head in my hands and said,
"Amelia, I'm your mama."

That was 3 weeks, and 4 days ago.
To watch her transformation has been overwhelming.  She is a love bug!  She has landed in a whole new world at the age of 6 where she has to learn so many new things:  new environment, a new language, a new set of rules .  Day three after she arrived it snowed.  She loved it!  This photo is her very first taste of a New Hampshire winter!

And she loves walking through the snowy woods- so many new smells.

Amelia and Ella are really starting to bond.  Every day brings another baby-step of bonding.  It has been a joy to watch.  Several people have commented that they look like twins, or like they could be from the same litter!  They are almost the same size except Amelia is about an inch taller and 2-1/2 inches longer!  She adores Ella!
She came to us not knowing her name, not knowing any commands and having never (to our knowledge and due to how baby-butt soft her feet were) been on a walk. She didn't know how to play with dog toys.  She had never seen a stair before and was very fearful of them.  For the first three days we carried her up and down the stairs to the master bedroom (much to our back's and our chiropractor's chagrin ;)
She is now, in only three weeks short time, responding to her name, knows "sit" and is one the verge of getting "stay", "come", and "stop!" She has learned to walk well on a leash (matching red plaid collars were a gift from a friend- thank you Sara!),...

... and up and down the stairs like a pro.
She has learned to chew bones, ...

... and  "puppy pops"- a.k.a. ice cubes which Ella eats after dinner!
The first time she saw Ella eating them Amelia thought Ella was crazy.  I then broke some up and offered them to her and after several days of this she started munching on them too!

 She is learning to not be afraid of the vacuum, or the loud pops that come from the pitch on the logs in the barn room fireplace, and has learned to love the bear "rugs," as we call them (faux bear throws;) in the barn room!
Amelia is under the faux bear rug on the left and Ella is on the right!

sweet Amelia!

 In only two weeks time, the mange on her back has completely gone away as has the mange on her tail!  The mange on her back legs and the one ear is well on it's way to growing back also.  We started her on Omega 3 fish oil two days after her arrival and I think that has made a huge difference- that, and the daily walks, good organic food, and lots of love and attention!  She has been amazing and we all love her so much.   Ella always wags her tail around her and they are just starting to "jaw" in the house when playing with each other!  .

 We can't imagine her not being a part of our family and have loved watching the little bud that she is unfold into a beautiful flower!

I will do another post on some of the challenges we have easily overcome in hopes of encouraging ALL of you to consider adopting instead of shopping and to especially consider an older dog (a year or older!)  I also want to introduce you to the rescue organization that took Amelia in and saved her life.   But for now I will leave you with this photo of our sweet new girl Amelia!
Just look at that face, and the white tips on her paws and the tip of her tail!!
That's a lot of love!

Please, please, please ... adopt, don't shop.

"When you adopt a shelter pet, you save 2 lives.
The one you adopt, and the one that takes its place."

Saving the life of one animal may not change the world, but the world will surely change for that one animal!

Even if you're looking for a purebred, you can find purebreds at local shelters and there are many rescue organizations across the country which specialize in specific breeds.
Please adopt!
I promise... you will not be sorry.




Our By Invitation subject this month is Christmas presents and what you would buy if money was no object ….. 

Christmas is coming and it's time to throw money around like there's no tomorrow, trying desperately hard to please our loved ones …..

…..  I'm a bit reluctant to buy into the mass hysteria of spend, spend, spend …. it gets downright obscene at this time of year, Black Friday being an example.

SO …..

I've been kind enough to source some lovely but unusual presents that are not too expensive and will please your loved ones far more than anything in a Tiffany box, Birkin handbag or a pair of shoes with red soles ….. NO ….. don't thank me …. it's been a pleasure and, feel free to email me for suppliers !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First off the tee is the Uroclub ….. men are so hard to buy for and, if your other half, brother, uncle, nephew or best friend plays golf, they will be over the moon to open the Uroclub on Christmas morning and, next time on the golf course, they will be the envy of all of their friends when they get caught short at the tenth hole !!

Next, smoking mittens. No longer will smokers have to huddle together for warmth as they quickly smoke in sub Arctic temperatures. Smoking mittens have a hole you can smoke through !!

When someone tells you that they really don't want anything for Christmas, well, you really can get them nothing ….. unfortunately, you have to pay something for nothing ….. £3.99 !!!!

Introducing the wine bottle glass because, lets face it, drinking straight from the bottle is so unsophisticated !!

The Rejuvenique Anti - Ageing Mask claims to keep your face youthful and rejuvenated ….. it could also double as a hockey mask or Halloween costume.

Just one for those with more money than sense, recreate the effect of lounging about in a large, grassy meadow a la ' Honey I Shrunk The Kids " ….. unfortunately it comes with a $13,400.00 price tag !!!!!

If you like to give homemade presents and are good at knitting, how about these ? Perfect for this time of year but, if you don't fancy wearing them this way, you could always wear them on your head at the next office Christmas party.

Forget about Cocoa Butter and Honey Jojoba. Anyone who's anyone is washing in cherry scented bags of blood shower gel. The perfect way to freshen up after a tough day battling against werewolves and armies of undead Zombies !!

Happy Christmas shopping !!

For some nicer Christmas present ideas, Marsha has all of the links to participating blogs. 

image 1: via inspiration lane, image2: via pinterest, image 3: via recabrones, images 4, 5 & 7: via cocoloids, image 6: via getting personal, image 8: via over 50's forum, image 9: via clarissa's blog, image 10: via daily mail, image 11: via the world of kitsch, image 12: via neatocoolville

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