Sunday, 16 December 2012

Two Babies, Three Visitors & a Pohutukawa Tree

It's summer in the garden..
 the petunias are incandescently lovely, the feijoa trees are flowering..
 There is so much colour & vibrance all around.
All this has rather bamboozled poor Mole as he was quite sure that he should be mellow & sleepy & tucked up inside at Christmas-time & he's having a difficult time adjusting to the notion of Christmas in summer. .Just yesterday, we discovered him fast asleep in a chair. He'd acquired himself a night cap (in fact a tiny sock that Fynn left behind one Christmas as a baby) & snuggled down to listen to the concert programme on the wireless & in no time at all he was snoring his wee head off. We decided not to disturb him..let him sleep, let him sleep.
"After all the best part of a holiday is not so much perhaps to be resting yourself, but as to see the other fellows busy working".
Ratty has been such a delightful house guest & being an agreeable sort of animal he has happily taken to doing a little laundry for the three, which has kept him quite busy indeed.
Toad has fallen in love with the red contraption & he is most convivial & popular with the other animals...they all cheered when he entered the room inviting all & sundry on a bumpy ride to beyond & back. He was overheard to be saying "Well, well, perhaps I am a bit of a talker. A popular fellow such as I am - my friends get round me - we chaff, we sparkle, we tell witty stories - and somehow my tongue gets wagging. I have the gift of conversation. I've been told I ought to have a salon, whatever that may be."

Toad was finding the sunshine just a tad overwhelming but we soon remedied that..
 with a small parasol.
He was really quite ecstatic when he came upon his great, great uncle Hubert in the undergrowth.
The toys are having a marvelous time.
So while they were all busy, I found a little time to make some delicious Christmas Stolen.
It's such a joy to make. You can find my recipe here.
 Made with quark & yeast required.
This year I soaked the fruit in orange juice for several hours first & added extra red cherries for colour & yumminess.
Actually, a Kiwi Christmas is largely defined by the colour red & not just fancy red tractors!
Red pohutukawa trees..
They especially love to grow near the sea.
This lovely old pohutukawa tree is outside the Cathedral in Napier.
Red feijoa & bottle brush flowers have the birds & bees a humming.
What a surprise to see horses clip clopping by on Saturday morning. We were careful not to let Toad see them or he might have been off out the gate after them.
It was this jolly road that Betty would cross every single day to see us. 
This morning he didn't make it so well.
(yes, gender issues)
Clipped by a car & badly injured he managed to get himself to our back door.
There was lots of knocking on doors & gathering together to try & help poor Betty/Rosie/Boots, but he was gone. We sent him off with his adopted owners wrapped in an old blanket & laid in a washing basket. Sam (turned out was a friend of our daughters) returned the basket later in the day & gave me a lovely poinsettia. I gave her white sweet peas & a big hug. 
And then all we have are memories.
And kindness matters such a lot.

Our guests have asked again about the two babies & the mangers in our little nativity.
They do seem to have a lot of angels watching over them all.
And here is the answer..a chicken soup story that touched my heart some years ago.
It is now my favourite Christmas story.
I think I will go on sharing it forever:

Two Babies in a Manger
In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments, and a large orphanage. About one hundred boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:

It was nearing the holiday season, 1994. Time for our orphans to hear for the first time, the traditional story of Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word. Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city. Following the instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady threw away as she left Russia, were used for the baby's blankets. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States. The orphans were busy assembling their mangers as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about six years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young child, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings very accurately, until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, "And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, 'If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?'"And Jesus told me, 'If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.' So I got in the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me that I could stay with him—for always." As little Misha finished his story his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him
And I asked him.."If I bring you a soft & gentle heart will that be a good enough gift?"....

I was so delighted to find this song on youtube.
I feel fairly certain you'll have not have heard this particular Christmas song before.
Hope you like it.

Thank you so much for calling in. Hope you're managing to hold all the good & simple joys close to you in this busy time. More advent thoughts just here.


  1. I love that story and I love YOU, sweet kind Catherine. The Willows are having such a wonderful time! They won't want to come home to cold Denver!
    Thank you so much for being YOU and being in my life. I feel so blessed.

    1. Oh my goodness Pom..that certainly made me cry. You are so sweet & kind yourself & I am so grateful for you too.
      I think that there is quite a cunning plan being hatched to delay departure from these bright & sunny climes until we can be quite certain that all danger of snow is well past before the boys agree to hopping back in that old box! x

  2. I love that story of the two babies in the manger. I'm glad old Betty got himself a loving home too. Happy endings, Betty x

    1. Yes it is the best of stories..a real keeper. I am so glad that you enjoyed it too.
      Betty was a friendly, sweet natured, "pretty" cat..indeed happy endings but still a little sad. x

  3. The lovely story about Misha reminds me of Rossetti's poem...

  4. Hello Catherine, Thankyou for sharing that lovely story about the babies in the manger - I had not heard it before & loved it & got a big lump in my throat reading it :-)
    I am sure you enjoyed setting up the little vignettes with your 3 "guests" - they look so wonderful & seem to be having a great time at your house :-)
    I Love the pohutukawa pictures & we are thinking of maybe planting one - they do look wonderful at this time of year.
    So sorry to read of little "Betty's" accident - what a sad ending for him/her.
    Your stolen looks most mouth-watering. Hope you find some time for yourself in this busy festive season. Much love, Julie Xox (p.s we had good rain today & I tried to send some your way)

  5. Please tell us this story every Christmas, Catherine. It is a part of my personal Christmas-time now- but it has to come from you xx So glad to see the boys soaking up the sun. I'm sure Mole will brighten up soon. Tell him about the snow warnings in Colorado! So sorry to surmise the cat's tale. Hope you'll be having much comfort and joy over th next week xxxxx

  6. Hi Catherine, lovely post. Our feijoa fruited for the first time, they have a lovely taste. If I don't catch up before Christmas, have a lovely day and I hope Santa brings you lots of goodies, Tam x

  7. It's still amazing for me - Christmas in summer, when here I have so cold days and snow...
    Merry Christmas Catherine!


So lovely of you to leave a comment. Thank you!! So sorry if you've tried to leave one & it hasn't worked. You are welcome to email me at instead, if you'd like to, much love Catherine♥

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