Divine pleasures

Our fireplace in Calfornia, January 2003

Mama and Daddy always had a roaring fire going during winter.

“Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o’clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.” 
Thomas De Quincey

Before Jeff’s surgery in November, when he was disappointed at the thought of spending Thanksgiving in the hospital, I reminded him that winter would be the best time of year to be at home recovering.  We have enjoyed being indoors together on cold days, especially when it’s rainy or snowy.  If you are having winter weather where you live, I hope you will join me in a cup of hot tea, cocoa or coffee, a good book, some lively conversation, or just a companionable silence.  Winter can be nature’s way of telling us to slow down and take a break!

One year ago today

Silence so deep



  1. good morning, Julia. winter time is my time to slow down. to enjoy the comfort of a warm home. hope you and Jeff are having a blessed day.

    • Hi Merry, I am always so grateful for a warm cozy home in winter! I’m not too crazy about air conditioning; I’d much rather live where I can just open the windows at night to cool things down. But I love coming home to a snug house when it’s cold outside, and especially love sitting by a fireplace! We are having a blessed day and hope you are too. Jeff got his stitches out this morning – hooray!

  2. when you are in the market, look for horchata tea.. it’s a blend of many flowers and herbs and is a lovely tea, especially with lemon. when the hibiscus isn’t blooming in the garden, i drink horchata tea. i sometimes brew mine with fresh ginger, about six tea bags for ten or so minutes, strain, then add lemon and stevia and water… i drink that throughout the day.

    it’s assembled and packaged out of loja ecuador..http://laylita.com/recipes/2011/11/17/horchata-lojana/

    • Thanks so much for the link, Z – I had never heard of this tea but it does sound wonderful and I think the ginger would be a perfect touch. I will certainly look for some at an international market or maybe even online. I just love the way we can connect with the best from all over the world, so easily and quickly via the internet and friends with insider info! How much water do you use with the 6 tea bags? I assume from what you wrote about drinking it through the day that you make it by the pot, which is a great time-saver for tea addicts such as I am!

      • yes amiga, i bring a saucepan of water to a boil and put about six bags in there then let it simmer.. i make it concentrated and then pour the batch into a pitcher of water where the lemon and sugar/stevia has been added… there’s a brown sugar/stevia blend that’s sold here that is so good and only takes a tiny bit to sweeten the entire pitcher.

        the lemon also acts as magic and turns the purple tea bright red! i like mine room/body temperature….it seems best for my body that way. it also helps keep the ph more alkaline.

        • Thanks for the info – I definitely want to try this. Isn’t it amazing that something acidic such as lemon juice will actually keep ph more alkaline? I learned that a few months ago when I was reading up on ph balance in the body, something my Mother thinks is very important. She has turned out to be right so many times that I tend to listen to what she has to say! Thanks again for the info on this tea. It sounds delicious.

          • I totally agree about the ph factor. i hope that it’s helped!
            after drinking a small coke, i crossed paths with a doctor friend, and he pulled out a few gadgets and started his random ‘obsessive’ tests.. ph- borderline alkaline.. (i credit the fresh hibiscus teas) — he took my pulse w/another gadget and measured the oxygen – he asked, ‘are you meditating a lot? (duh! always when i am painting!), blood pressure low, he said, ‘you’re going to live forever!

            but one never knows.. we squeeze what we can from each day.
            may the year be good to you!

            • Lisa, it’s true that we never know, but I think we live better (and usually longer) by learning and living with things that bring us health and joy. Sounds like you are doing a great job of that! Have a great year in 2014 and keep us posted on the travels of the Zeebra! Love Julia

  3. Rene

    Hot cocoa and reading…almost makes me want to be snowed in! Update on my sister: she is doing much better (pacing herself both in being up & about and with eating); my mom came home last week, we just spent the weekend at her home in AZ. Thank you for your prayers! I hope the next few “New Year’s” days are magical.

    • Thanks for the update Rene, I was just thinking of your sister the other day and made a mental note (which I promptly lost) to ask you how she was doing. I’m happy to learn that she is doing better. I’ll keep praying for her to have a healthy 2014.

  4. Michael

    That picture reminds me of local T.V. station Yule Log presentation for Xmas day. The log burn on the screen all day.Any good books to recommend from 2013? I heard via Nancy Pearl that Toni Morrision-“Home is Good.” Have not read much of her. Nancy has a yearly recommendation list.

    • I love that idea of a Yule log on TV. A good use for the medium, in my opinion. If some station would do that all winter, I might start tuning in again! I like Toni Morrison although her most famous book, Beloved, is far from my favorite. It was a bit hard for me to follow. I enjoyed Song of Solomon most, and also liked The Bluest Eye and Love, and Sula. I have A Mercy but haven’t read it yet; I also want to read Home. I’m sadly behind on the newest books (terrible for a librarian, I know) but I can recommend some older titles that I think you should read BEFORE seeing the movie, if you haven’t already done so; Life of Pi and The Book Thief are two of the best books I have read in recent years. I also recommend all of Jhumpa Lahiri’s books, and for light reading, my favorite is Alexander McCall Smith, especially the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series. If somebody asked me what ambiance I most wanted to capture on this blog, it would be Mma. Ramotswe’s lovely and graceful Botswana ways.

      • Rene

        Have you ever tried red bush tea?

        • Yes, Rene, I drink it often, after the (fictional but delightful) Mma. Ramotswe put me onto its marvelous properties. The first time I drank it, I could hardly believe it wasn’t “real” tea. I have since learned to have a much more informed taste for teas of various kinds, and have noted there are many different tastes of bush tea, even when it’s not flavored. But I really like it, especially at night when I need to avoid caffeine.

  5. Michael

    Good to see you on UR site and progress made. I pray you will have many more “years together.”
    I do enjoy riddles so here is my answer. ” to shake the mast from the tree.” To make something positive from the raw materials life hands you.” Is that close? As you can see I am a little OCD. The name of the book is “Home”-.

    • Mike, I’m still waiting for an answer from Larry on that since it puzzles me as well. My only clue would be from the context (not explicitly stated, but known to those of us who remember the setting) – Larry said that Daddy Oscar would ask him that on Sunday afternoons, after Larry came in from preaching at a little country church in Hickman County, Tennessee. In that context, I wonder if it doesn’t have to do with delivering a thunderous or powerful oratory – in which case I’m sure Daddy Oscar was asking tongue in cheek, since Larry is a very laid back and softly-spoken guy – at least as far as I know! 🙂

  6. Jan Goodard

    Your family is in my prayers daily. Thank you for the update on the UR blog. I also had surgery (Knee replacement) on 11/20 and am spending the winter recuperating. There is some thing to be said for being to watch the outdoor weather from inside.

    • Hi Jan, I hope you will have a quick recovery. Winter is definitely more appealing seen from indoors, except for relatively brief walks on sunny days! We so appreciate your prayers for us. I believe the results have been powerful and continual.

  7. Jenelle

    I might have to put that quote on my wall. It paints a winter’s day so perfectly doesn’t it? And with your picture of the fire, I can see myself sipping on a warm yummy drink while playing board games with my family near one. I’ve often told myself that really cold days are the perfect excuse to “slow down” and enjoy the time relax.

    • Jenelle, I wish you were here to play some board games with me! My siblings and I used to love playing them, especially with our Granny H. (my Daddy’s mother) but my husband and sons have never cared for them much, although Drew did like to play Scrabble at our holiday gatherings with friends. My brother Eric was a Monopoly shark. I like pretty much all of them but always did best at Trivial Pursuit. Yes, cold weather does have its advantages!

  8. Jack

    Slowing down isn’t my strong suit, though I’ve come to recognize that doing chores is, in a way, a sort of therapeutic activity of resting. I’ve got another week before my work/travel/high pressure life begins again in earnest and I’ve thrown in the towel on rest in the conventional sense. I’ve found reassurance in your writings, in the fact that others are taking their rest where they can find it in the midst of extremely trying circumstances.. Maybe I’ll rest at 65? Or 70? Hope springs eternal.

    • Jack, I think you are right that certain types of chores can be restful. That’s about the only type of “rest” Jeff was able to stand, until he got sick. I love doing the dishes – REALLY! – and weeding and other “mindless” chores that allow me to listen to books on tape, or sing along with music I love. Matt had some interesting brain scans done years ago that showed his mind is actually more relaxed and anxiety-free when he is busy with something versus just lying quietly in a dark room. This matched perfectly with what we have always observed about him. I think the key to making anything restful is to give oneself permission not to rush through it – not to see everything as a race against the clock. Rest is really a state of mind more than the lack of activity, I think. Easy for me to say since I’m a lounging goof-off by nature who can’t imagine being bored staying at home! 🙂 I’m glad some of you out there are hard-working types – it makes it easier for those of us who like to sip tea and chat!

  9. Wishing you a Happy New Year, J. xox

    • Thank you Alys! I wish you a Happy New Year too! Love J

  10. Michael

    I think you can also get the Yule Log DVD, which is kind of hilarious. Have not read your book selections-“Life of Pi.” So will check these out.

    • We got Matt a Rabbit TV program to use on his computer, and one of the things it has is a Yule Log with a very realistic-looking computer kitten lying in front of the fire! It was great. I didn’t realize they had such things out there. I keep wondering why someone doesn’t invent a virtual picture window with changing scenes. It would be great to have in basement rooms without windows. Let me know what you think of “Life of Pi.” I found it a very convincing argument for the existence of God, albeit quite an unconventional one.

  11. Larry

    In reply to the question about “jarring the mast”, I believe Daddy Oscar wanted to know if I had raised my voice, maybe pounded on the podium to drive home a thought provoking statement to the crowd that had gathered. It is said if you jarred hard enough the moss and nuts in the trees would fall. I think it was his encouraging me to “preach on”. The little country church is where I still preach and have enjoyed proclaiming the word there.

    • Larry, it sounds like I was on the right track there. Although I can’t imagine you pounding and yelling! 🙂 But sometimes the quiet words pack more punch anyway.

  12. i love tea, I love winter, I love a good book – I will be joining you in taking tea every day…

    “Tea should be taken in solitude.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

    • Thank you, I will look forward to it! Love the quote 🙂

  13. Sheila

    Julia, after enjoying your photo, words, and comments, I think I’m somewhere between “mindless chores and sorta hard-working” but I do stay busy. We’re busy at our workplace as we finish up 2013. People get SUDDENLY concerned about deductibles. Unlike Christmas, we can’t do OVERNIGHT! Stay warm….drink tea! 🙂

    • Hee-hee, “suddenly concerned about deductibles” – I can identify! But then I remember the old baseball slogan, “There’s always next year…” I have tea brewing as I write this! 🙂

  14. We are experts at spending long periods of winter indoors. Winter is a time I catch up on projects that haven’t any appeal during the fleeting fair days of summer. The likes of which make my list of tasks very long. A fireplace is a must in my home too. It’s not only aesthetically appealing and offers a mantel to decorate each and every holiday, but a necessity here in the north. I’m enjoying it at this very moment, with my Christmas tree still lighting the room and -27 C outside, LOL. Loved the New Year Card so much, that site is amazing. xK

    • I think there’s an art to waiting for anything, and especially to waiting for spring. I think you have mastered it! Maybe that’s why your creative abilities are so finely tuned. Enjoy that tree! I plan to leave mine up for at least another week. Usually I have it done before Thanksgiving, but this year I never even finished decorating it, and didn’t get to it until 2 days before Christmas!

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