The genial flame

Jeff snapped this photo of me just before guests arrived at our York home, December 2010.

Jeff snapped this photo of me just before guests arrived at our York home, December 2010.

“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. ”Washington Irving

Those who have been following this blog for over two years now will know that our family has so much for which to feel grateful this Christmas.  But there also have been many changes and losses; people and things that we miss more keenly at this season.

One thing I have missed most in the past two years is the way we used to have dinner parties and company during the Christmas holidays.  While Jeff’s cancer diagnosis and ongoing treatment have meant this is not feasible for now, perhaps we will someday again have lots of people to our home for festive merry-making.

Until then, I invite you over for a virtual visit with us.  Grab a plate, fill a mug, pull up a chair and chat while you sip and snack.  Afterwards, gather around the tree with other fun-loving folks for some hilarious surprises and maybe some fun singing.  Stay as long as you want.  The beauty of a virtual visit is that it can happen anytime, and be as short or long as you want.

Merry Christmas to everyone who is reading these words.  Whatever brought you to our online home, we’re glad you are here!  We wish you a lovely finish to 2014, and a year bright with promise in 2015.

Grady greets you from our Alexandria home, December 23, 2014.

Grady greets you from our Alexandria home, December 23, 2014.


  1. Wishing you the Merriest Christmas ever – I hope you enjoy great hilarity! I also wish for you: quiet moments to bask in the warm, soft beauty of the season in the comforting companionship of those you hold dear.

    • Thank you Susan! We have certainly had much hilarity during the past week with our 17-month old grandson. Tonight is “basking time” for us, and there is plenty of beauty to enjoy. My cup runneth over. Thanks for being here!

  2. ‘Merry Christmas to you and your family Julia’ May Gods abundant blessings surround you always!

    • Thank you Wendell, and the same to you! I appreciate your visits here. Hope 2015 is very good to you.

  3. Merry Christmas!! Thank you for your heart felt hospitality. I feel your warmth and love. Enjoy your family! Please give our love to Jeff, Matt, and Drew’s family. Grady is precious!

    • Thank you Fran! Hope you and your family are having some fun times together this season. Aren’t grandchildren wonderful, especially at Christmas? Thirty-four years ago we scarcely imagined we’d be grandmothers exchanging Christmas greetings across the miles, and feeling as if the years have zoomed by. Give our love to all the family!

  4. cclemon78209

    You just made my Christmas merrier! I’m grateful for all you generously share in this blog. God bless you and your precious family this Christmas, and always.

    • Thank you so much, CC – I am so glad you enjoy the blog! Blessings to you and your loved ones too. Thanks for being here.

  5. Merry Christmas Julia! Indeed there is much to be thankful for.

    • Merry Christmas! Hope this finds you doing well. I appreciate your visits here, and wish you all the best for 2015!

  6. Merry Christmas Denton family. May all you days be filled with love and joy!! Great picture of Grady. Have a very merry day! You are loved. Cherie

    • Thanks so much, Cherie! I am very happy this has been a season of blessings for you and Ron. We will keep those prayers going up for a healthy and happy year for all of us in 2015!

  7. Sheila

    Merry Christmas, Julia. You have come into our hearts and our lives in such a special way. I truly thank God, that he put us together for a reason. 🙏 Last night, as we had our Christmas eve with family, Bill was telling about the many good Christmas movies that we’ve watched because “Julia reminded us of them”. No one even had to ask, “Whose Julia?” Because everyone knows! 👏 We’ve had many visits, we’ve shared happiness and sadness, we’ve encouraged and really cared. You are such a gift to so many! 🎁 Thank you for the gifts… We will certainly enjoy all those luscious treats and for sure I’ll be in “tea heaven”! Enjoy your Christmas with your loved ones! 🎄 Love, Sheila

    • Aw, thanks Sheila! That makes me feel so happy. Thanks too for the lovely gifts you sent us. Your friendship has been a priceless gift, and your unfailing good cheer and support are an important part of my life. May 2015 be full of rich blessings for you and your loved ones!

  8. Mary Ellen

    Merry Christmas Julia! God Bless you and your family! Thanks for inviting us. Your Christmas homes are beautiful. Little Grady is glowing! This is our first Christmas with no kids in the house. All grown up and moved out. Slept till 9:00!

    • Mary Ellen, I slept until after 10:00 a.m. this morning – an all-time Christmas morning record for me! Needless to say, Grady and his parents left on Christmas Eve so I was able to sleep as long as I wanted. That was a GREAT Christmas gift for me. 😀 Hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season and a healthy, happy year in 2015!

  9. Carolyn

    A precious picture of Grady. Even tho we all have something going with us , this is the time be thankful for all the days we have. My ham is cooking, and smell wonderful, David and family will be here soon. Wish Jennifer and family could join us.You all have a wonderful day. Hugs and love to you.

    • YUM, Carolyn, I can smell that ham from here. Save me some of the potatoes and dessert. I’ll join you in my imagination for a cup of tea and a nice long chat. YES we have so much for which to feel thankful this Christmas! Just think, next year it will be only TWO years until our 5-year-survival celebration! Love to you, Terry and all the family!

  10. Merry Christmas and wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year.

    • Hi Wendy, thanks for stopping by! It reminded me to pop on over to your site for a quick look to see what you’re up to. I’m relieved to see that I’m not the only one who’s been too busy to keep up with all the fun stuff going on in the blogosphere. I loved seeing Dani’s beautiful bunting on your wall! Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful season and a great year in 2015.

      • Yes, very little been going on here with the blog for a wee while 🙂 Dani’s bunting is gorgeous 🙂

        • I think quite a few of us have been too busy with the “real” (non-virtual) world to keep up much lately. Thanks for making the time to visit!

  11. raynard

    Julia thank you. I share this with my wife.For Christmas we brought my wife’s aunt her own bible with large print.Enjoy your day be blessed

    • Raynard, what a lovely gift for Ms. Ella! Hope you are all having a nice restful holiday. Thanks so much for being here.

  12. That’s the photo of Grady I liked best! Thanks for posting that one.
    A character I played was once asked, in a mock interview, “Granny what brings you to McDonalds?” You will see my ad lib reply (“a car”) in the following moment of clarity:
    You say “whatever brings you here”; for me it was a slip of the finger – I paused on the wrong touch spot on my screen. Glad I did, though 🙂

    • I’m glad you did, too! I haven’t had time to go through all my Christmas photos, but I liked that one too.

  13. Amy

    Merry Christmas. I hope you had a wonderful day. Love you all.

    • Thanks Amy. It was nice and PEACEFUL – I slept late and relaxed, which is always fun for me! Hope you all had a great time. I’ll call you soon.

  14. Dorothy

    What a lovely picture of Grady, such a beautiful smile!. We’ve been blessed to have our family here with Dexter, a year older than Grady. He had a wonderful time with his presents and then handing out ours. May you experience the Peace, Joy, Love and Hope of this wonderful Season. Our Christmas day was hot at 30 degrees, a lot different from yours I guess.
    Christmas Blessings to you and your loved ones,

    • Hi Dorothy, nice to hear from you. I was just thinking that next year Grady will be the ideal age for Christmas. He loved it this year, but I think next year he’ll be even more into it. I imagine Dexter and all his family had a grand time. WOW, you did have quite a warm Christmas! Even while we lived in Hawaii we never had temperatures like that during December. I didn’t realize it was quite that warm in NSW but I think it would be great fun. The nice thing here about having Christmas at the beginning of winter is that it distracts us from dreading the cold weather to come. But where you live, I guess there isn’t much cold to dread, even in your winter time! I like having seasons, but I much prefer a warmer climate to a cold one. Hope you had a wonderful holiday, and will have many blessings in 2015!

  15. tpeastin

    Dear Julia,

    Merry ‘day after’ Christmas! I was thoroughly enjoying reading today’s Upper Room devotional when I came to the end and saw that YOU were the author!!! How cool is that! Thank you…and thanks for the Christmas e-card and for keeping this blog going in the midst of everything.


    P.S. Nice pics!

    • Hi Pat, I had fully intended to get you a “real” (postal) Christmas card there in time, but the cards seem to be the last thing I get done. I’m glad you were at Upper Room today. I do need to get back in the routine of dropping by there at least a couple of times per week. I appreciate your visits to the blog, and the encouragement you have given me all this time. Thanks for being here!

  16. Yesterday God took my mother-in-law to heaven. We thought she had about six more months so it was unexpected. An eight-year battle with cancer. She’d suddenly deteriorated on Tuesday. A woman of great faith, she was heard to say early yesterday morning she was ready to meet Jesus. And so He granted another of her many requests one last time. A Merry Christmas in heaven.
    Thank you for inviting us into your lovely home. Beautiful photos and quote!

    • I am so sorry to hear of your loss, but it’s a comfort to know that your mother-in-law was ready to be with the Lord. Eight years with cancer is a long, hard fight. I can imagine she must have been very tired. I was thinking this morning about how some people will be doing fine and then suddenly take a turn for the worst. I have so many loved ones with precarious health that it could happen to any of them, and really to any of US, even when we seem to be healthy. Life is fragile and precious. I hope that you will be comforted with happy memories. I will pray for you and your family at this time of sorrow mixed with joy. Thanks for being here; your presence is an encouragement to me. Hope 2015 is full of blessings for you!

      • Thank you, Julia. Your words ring truth.

        • You’re welcome. ❤ ❤ ❤

  17. Rene

    Merry Christmas Julia & Family! I’m a little behind in my reading, but I’ll catch up. In the meantime, here is something for your listening & viewing pleasure:

    (Yes, my husband actually found & watched a Monkees Christmas special yesterday).

    • WHOA, this is great!! I was a total Monkees fan when I was young. I didn’t remember this episode, though. What’s really strange is I was just singing “Riu Riu Chiu” a few days ago. I was telling our kids how we sang that in high school chorus, with all the words in Spanish, and one of the students who had recently moved from Cuba had to teach us how to pronounce the words. That was over 40 years ago, but I still remember the words. I love that song and don’t hear it very often any more. Thanks for the link!

  18. Carlyle

    Julia, Thanks for letting us visit VIA your blog. We are happy you have so many friends. We know you were thrilled with the young Denton’s visit and to enjoy christmas with your first grandchild. Enjoy your much deserved rest,

    • You’re welcome, Daddy. Wish we could have been there with you but it was great seeing you in November. Love to you, Mama and Al (Aaron and Seth too if they are there.)

      • P. S. I forgot to add, when you come for your virtual visit you will notice that we have floating candles at Christmas, just as you and Mama used to have. 😀 They are one of my favorite memories!

  19. Julia,
    Love the pics! Much warmth, comfort and joy radiates from them. And the special wonder in the little guy’s eyes.
    Enjoy the season and many good things in the New Year.

    • Thank you Alan! I appreciate your visits here and your encouragement. May 2015 be a wonderful year for you.

  20. HarryS

    I’d be willing to bet that wherever you are is a large dose of “Southern Comfort” including massive amounts of hospitality.
    I believe I can go to the bank on that.

    • Thanks Harry! We are very enthusiastic about the non-liquid forms of Southern Comfort, including a nice fire in the fireplace, plenty of food, tea and coffee (OK, some liquids), music, conversation, laughter, games, sometimes singing, and lots of memories. Even when some of the above are missing, I hope you can always bank on the massive hospitality. 😀 It may be more “Beverly Hillbillies” than “Beverly Hills” but you’re all invited to “a heapin’ helpin'” as the BH theme song used to say.

  21. raynard

    Julia did u fix your email problem with version yet? If not you could convert over to free google mail aka gmail.very easy to send pictures with especially with The Philadelphia. Flower showc2015 coming soon.Hint Hint lol be blessed

    • Raynard, I do have my Outlook back up and running, but I am gradually learning the gmail, mostly for ads and coupons and so forth. I don’t know if I would know how to send pics but I bet I could get them, especially if they had flowers in them! Hee-hee. 😀 Hope you and your family have a wonderful New Year!

      • raynard

        Julia email from google so simple a caveman could do it lol.when you compose your letter click bottom buttons to attach file or add button to attach picture you have stored on your computer.i have google automatically.back up.all my pictures from my phone and ipod.easy to post on facebook.still working on Pinerest.

        • Thanks for the info, Raynard. My Daddy has gmail and the few times I have tried to help him with it, it has been totally confusing to me. I guess years of using Outlook have just made my brain lazy, but sooner or later I need to learn to use online mail. Do you have to pay for your cloud storage with Google? I would run into real problems with that if I took too many photos with my smart phone! But luckily so far I am not content with the quality of photos my phone will take – I still prefer my little camera. I LOVE Pinterest, but talk about addictive – I could waste way too much time there so I have to limit how much I allow myself to be on it and Twitter and Facebook and whatever. It’s like we all have enough interesting stuff to keep us browsing for ten lifetimes. I guess it’s fortunate that we have to do other stuff in the “real” world or we might end up as cyber-zombies.

  22. Michael

    No I did not get any clams on Christmas Eve. But it is always fun to do clamming in the dark. They had a King tide yesterday and supposedly the clams don’t show if the tides are unusually large.- 2.3 feet over.
    Yesterday the weatherman said,” the sun is not cooperating, it is supposed to be overcast all day.” We had a nice sun break of about two hours, an unexpected gift.
    That is an awesome tree.

    • A sunny day in January would be worth having the clams no-show IMO, but maybe I’m only saying that because I don’t eat clams. A King tide? Silly me, I didn’t realize tides came in different sizes. I don’t know why I didn’t know that; it makes sense. Thanks for the compliment about the tree; it’s a lot of effort to put up and take down, but the fun makes it worthwhile. Although I must admit I enjoyed doing just the Alexandria tree this year, especially after Christmas when I don’t need to worry about taking down any decorations at York. My ornament collection is like a scrapbook and it’s fun to spend time with the memories while decorating it, but there are so many time demands during the holidays that it seems to become less and less possible each year to get it done.

  23. MaryAnn

    Julia, Grady has wonderful facial expressions! This photo SHOWS the absolute joy that is so marvelous to see in a child! I am glad God told us “to be like a child”, because I like the innocence & the purity of being very young. Thank you so much for the Christmas greetings here & the virtual card. It thrills my heart that Drew, Megan, & Grady were at your home! Love to Matt! I have finished my tea, so I will close for now. I love you!!!

    • MaryAnn

      P.S. What beautiful lady waiting for friends in her lovely, inviting room!

      • Thank you Mary Ann! I hope my home is as warm, cheerful, generous and happy as yours always was for such huge numbers of people.

    • Mary Ann, thanks for your compliments about Grady. I must admit, that photo captured one of his more innocent moments — he’s mostly sunny, but he doesn’t hesitate to register his disapproval if he is unhappy. Like most kids, he seems to save his fussy moments for his parents. That’s one reason being a grandparent is so much fun! 😀 hee-hee. Matt always grins when I give him your greetings – he sends them right back!

  24. Sheila

    Julia, so glad that I could come back tonight and (at my leisure) enjoy reading the comments and really feel so many various emotions! We are at Willow Tree, finally, and it feels good to be camping again. As I was reading your Upper Room Devotional, I remembered that it was almost two years ago that I saw your first comment there. 🙏 Love and prayers cross the miles…. Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, I’m glad you got to Willow Tree during the holidays! I’m so glad you’ve been here for the past two years; it has been a blessing and a joy. Thanks for everything — love and best wishes for a new year full of blessings for you and your loved ones! Tell Walter that Juia wishes him a SANE and QUIET (aka firecracker-free) New Year’s Eve! 😀

  25. Sheila

    Walter to Juia: “Oh, Juia…. nice thought, but probably more like INSANE!” What’s a bird to do? 🐥 I think Walter has enjoyed the holidays and the added activities around “428”, but I must tell you that his favorite thing these days is watching “Gunsmoke” when Bill comes home and turns on the television. I don’t do TV during the day so he gets so excited to have some action! Haha…👏 Thinking of you tonight, almost to January One! 🎉🎉

    • Sheila, what a trip down memory lane – I have only vague memories of “Gunsmoke” but I get a kick out of knowing that people are still watching it! I should say “people and birds.” 😀 Tell Walter I highly recommend “Mr. Ed” and “The Beverly Hillbillies” too! Almost time to break out another year of “CLUB VERANDAH” – I will be sad to give up the lovely outdoor fireplace and rustic lodge, but can’t wait to see what’s next!

  26. I hope you’ll enjoy being hostess with the mostess in the coming years J. They’ll sure enjoy that glorious tree. My tree was slightly abbreviated this year but we still enjoyed it and all the sparkle of the glass and lights. I spotted a cute vintage kitty ornament on the tree in Grady’s photo. What a great photo with your sweet grandchild’s face lit up by the glow of the tree. That’s one for an album for sure. Cute PJ’s too!

    We just entertained my brother’s and sister-in-law last night. We’re a casual bunch though, so it was easy breezy. I made Lasagna, had some nice wine and of course crusty bread. It was rustic over refinement 😀 I still have one more day off, then back to a normal routine. Well, at least for two days, HA. Happy New Year ! xo K

    • K, that sounds like a lovely gathering. I always take things as easy as possible when I have people over; no fancy cooking from me, just comfort foods and usually lots of choices. Wow, you will be back to work soon – good thing you have such a fun job! I still think of it as your “new” job, but you’ve been at it for awhile now, haven’t you? Hope you and Mr. B — not to mention P&B and A — have a wonderful New Year!

      • I still think of myself as the newbie because they haven’t really hired anyone since me. But I started the best job ever on May 1st 😀 WOW, yah 8 months, no wonder my Boom-room is running out of space, LOL. Thank you for the New Year Cheer! xo

        • The Boom-Room could never contain all your ideas and creativity! At least your talents are now getting wider exposure, and you are working at a job you love. That’s a rare gift, one the world needs to experience more often. I wish for everyone the ability to love what they do. It’s all the easier if we can choose what we spend our time on, but even when we can’t, we can learn to like it better. Happy New Year and keep those sunny creations coming!

  27. I’m late to the party, but enjoyed it, virtually, nonetheless. We go in and out of entertaining over the years. I prefer holding summer parties where we can all sit outside and have a casual meal. It’s a great way to connect with friends. Your tree is stunning and so are you. My heart and arms are virtually wrapped around you as we hum a Christmas carol together, sip on some hot spiced cider and marvel at our crazy, complicated and sometimes less than forgiving world.

    • Alys, your visit was right on time! Always so calming to get together after the rush is past. That hot cider is fabulous (ours comes from Trader Joe’s) and its sweetness gives me a warm feeling of optimism about the coming year. The summer parties are wonderful, but I like to have company at Christmas because I don’t decorate my house much at any other time of year. Like you, we go in and out with it, and are now in an imposed “out” period, from which we may emerge in years to come. Meanwhile, the virtual version is a great comfort! Thanks for being part of it.

      • ‘…warm feeling of optimism.’ That’s lovely, Julia. Wishing you a turn around year of good health and happiness. Can’t wait to finally give you a hug in real time. xox

        • Thanks, Alys! The spring will be here before we know it. As I keep reminding myself!

  28. Michael

    This could be a repost. Great pict of Grady. Norah now has a walk in clothes closet now and has begun to do some creative dress up. Jen asked us when,”It is Ok for them to start choosing the outfits.” Not much experience in this regard. Norah was Abbie Cadabby character from Sesame Street at Haloween. By the way,have you heard of children’s book “Noisy Nora” about a girl- or mouse- who is a middle child who has to speak up in order to get her point across and needs met. Not a bad message?

    • As a middle child, I have been speaking up as long as I can remember! 😀 I have heard the term “Nosy Nora” but wasn’t familiar with the book, or if so, I had forgotten about it. I believe at least one of our readers (hi Sheila!) has admitted to having heard that term as well. Re: when to be allowed to choose one’s outfit: let us just say that it mostly depends upon how fussy the adults in the picture are. Having lived with four males for so many years (I always counted the dog) I never had to worry about anybody critiquing my clothes. With Matt I sometimes have to insist that he wear a heavier jacket (or sometimes, to wear a jacket at all, when the weather is in the 50’s) and remind him that when it’s winter, one has to wear one’s favorite T-shirts under warmer apparel.

  29. Michael

    Sadly the little tree is down- but the wreath is still hanging in there- on the front porch. Just the two stockings on the mantle this year- kind of sad.

    • Michael, our wreath is usually the last thing I take down. I un-decorated the tree yesterday, and took it down today. Two stockings on the mantle sounds nice and cozy. But you can always hang up stockings for everyone in the family, even if they aren’t present. Think of them as representative, sort of like a photograph in a frame. And you won’t need to fill them! I can remember some Christmas Eves when we thought we were all done with setting out Santa’s display, and ready to fall into bed exhausted, only to remember we had forgotten to fill the stockings. Boy, would that be irritating. Even though we would have all the stuff bought, I was almost always too tired to really enjoy it. I can say honestly I don’t miss doing that, though as a kid, I thought the stockings were maybe the best part of Christmas morning. Must be something about those fruits and nuts…

  30. Megan

    I just love that picture of Grady — especially knowing the whole setting (A Christmas Carol on in the background), how he’s popping around the tree to see his MeMe & PaPa and what a smile that puts on his face!

    • Yes, that Christmas tree game was so much fun. I wish you and Drew could have seen how long it amused him that afternoon while you were gone. I have many, many more photos and videos of Grady — all of them ADORABLE, of course, even when he’s being grumpy — but I finally discovered why I never get around to posting them. When I go in to upload them (which takes awhile) I always get lost in watching them over and over. 😀 The grandparents out there who read this will probably understand! Thanks for being here.

  31. Michael

    Julia what was the name of the supplement you take for joint issues- cumarin? I was telling Verie about it as she has been taking a bunch of Tylenol -perhaps too much.
    Down at the beach they had a deluge last weekend, 7 inches of rain in 24 hours. Two feet of water in the street. I saw some of the aftermath. Part of the El Nino scenario they say, with warm tropical Pacific air meeting up with Canadian cooler winds.

    • Michael, Jeff and I both take extra-strength Curamin which we normally order from Amazon, where the price is as low as anywhere we’ve seen. It’s an expensive supplement but for me it has been phenomenally effective. Of course, it could never be proven that this is what all but eliminated my arthritis pain. I only know that a couple of months after I started taking it, I realized that the pain and stiffness was nearly gone. Initially I got it for Jeff, to help with chemo-related neuropathy (which was AWFUL) and it must have helped him, because he’s generally a skeptic and would not keep taking it (and paying for it) if it didn’t. I do still take a very low dose (200 mg, which is over-the-counter strength) of Motrin, but I only take that 4 days per week, due to past problems with GI bleeding when the doctor had me on higher doses for the arthritis. Everyone is different, and what helps one person may not help another, but I think it’s worth a try. I think the primary ingredient in the Curamin brand is turmeric, about which you can read more here and in many other places, and that spice is widely available in various brands for lower cost.

      WOW, 7 inches of rain in 24 hours!! More than I imagined even in Seattle!

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