These Wonderful Things

These Wonderful Things

Newspaper for gift-wrapping.
Charlie Brown stamps.
Extra rehearsals.
(Endless) to-do lists.
Christmas concerts.
Amazon packages.
Bulletin drafts.
Doxology Press orders.
Shipping deadlines.
Various versions of Jingle Bells in lessons every week.

These are the things our December days are made of (especially if you're a musician!). As much as we long for a slower pace at this time of the year, the truth is this is one of the busiest seasons of all.

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies


Ashley Danyew | Gingerbread If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I baked a batch of these gingerbread cookies a few weeks ago (well, part of a batch - the recipe below makes six dozen!).  I felt like baking something Christmasy and old-fashioned and these were just perfect (just ask SD).  So good, in fact, that we decided to make another part of a batch to give as gifts to friends and colleagues this week.

Ashley Danyew | Gingerbread

Plus, our heat hasn't been working that well for the last week, or so and we were happy to huddle around the oven for a few hours on Saturday!

Ashley Danyew | Gift-Giving One of our cookie gift baskets, ready to go!

There's something so special about giving to others at this time of the year.  Whether it's the gift of time or patience, or something more tangible, I am convinced that showing our love and appreciation for others at any time of the year makes the world a better place.  Enjoy the gingerbread cookies!

P.S. Don’t forget: I'm hosting a holiday giveaway!

Read the details and enter here.  Hurry!  The giveaway closes the day after Christmas.

Ashley Danyew | Gingerbread

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies from Southern Living

Ingredients: 1 cup butter 1 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup molasses 2 tablespoons white vinegar 1 large egg 5 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 1 tablespoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions: Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar and salt, beating well.  Add molasses, vinegar, and egg, beating at low speed just until blended.  Combine flour and next four ingredients; add to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended.  Cover and chill 8 hours.  Divide dough into fourths.  Roll each portion to a 1/8-inch thickness on a floured surface.  Cut with a 3-inch cookie cutter.  Place on lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake at 375° for 8 minutes.  Cool on pans 1 minute (this allows cookies to lift easily off of pan); then place on wire racks to cool.  Decorate as desired.  Yield: 6 dozen.

For a twist on this traditional favorite, see this recipe for Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies!

The Season of Giving + A Giveaway!


Ashley Danyew | Share Give Love A few weeks ago, I found out that my Grampy needed semi-emergency foot surgery.  All went well but he has a long road of recovery in rehab ahead of him (prayers appreciated!).  SD and I had already planned to visit my grandparents in NJ over the Thanksgiving holiday (and surprise them with a short holiday-themed saxophone/piano concert) but given the recent events, we ended up with the opportunity to spend part of the day visiting with them in the rehab facility... and we brought our music with us.

Love is something we do, something we show with our actions, not just our words.  Love does things.

The facility was thrilled to feature us as "special guests" and at 2:00 p.m., they wheeled residents from multiple floors into the Dining Room to hear us play.  We had a 30-minute program prepared - a mix of art song transcriptions, holiday classics, and more modern reflections on the season.  I thought some of the residents might know some of the things on our list so we encouraged them to sing along!  And they did.  Melt my heart.

Ashley Danyew | Holiday Program

For those of you who are interested, here is a list of what we played:

Danyew 2013 Holiday Program

Simple Gifts (arr. Copland) Dank sei Dir Herr (Ochs) Ave Maria (Schubert)

Silver Bells (Livingston/Evans) White Christmas (Berlin) The Little Drummer Boy (Davis)

Listen to Christmas (Hayes) The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting) (Tormé/Wells)

Ashley Danyew | Sharing Our Gifts

This is what it's all about, y'all.  Sharing what we have with others.  Giving of ourselves, our time, our talents, our resources to others.  Loving on others.  This is what matters.

Christmas is two weeks away (TWO WEEKS!) and in the spirit of love and giving, I want to challenge you to go and do something this season that shows someone you really love them.  Bake cookies for your neighbor.  Write a note to a loved one who lives far away.  Be a good listener to someone who needs a friend.  Dust off the hymnal in the piano bench and gather friends and family together for an evening of singing around the piano.  Hug your loved ones a little tighter.  Writing this post made me realize that it would be fun if we shared some of the meaningful ways that we are sharing our love and gifts with each other.  To help encourage this sharing, I'm hosting a... drumroll...

Holiday Giveaway! Win a set of eight hand-lettered note cards with matching white envelopes for thank yous, love notes, or thinking of yous (two of each design: "love," "joy," "thanks," and "hello" with blank inside).

Ashley Danyew | Holiday Giveaway

Enter any (or all!) of the following ways:

1. Leave a comment below with one of your favorite holiday memories or traditions or a way that someone has blessed you this holiday season. 2. Follow me on Instagram, post a photo of your sharing/giving/loving in action, and tag me. 3. Follow me on Twitter, share your story, and tag me.

Giveaway runs from today, December 11, 2013 through December 25, 2013.  Winner will be chosen at random and announced here on the blog.  Yay!

Christmas Time is Here

With Turkey Day behind us it seems the whole world has turned to Christmas and the upcoming holiday season with gusto. The radio stations are playing solely holiday tunes (though, I admit, I gave up on them after hearing "Dominic the Donkey" today); the church is decked out with trees, wreaths, candles, and bright red bows; and our tiny P.O. box is filled to the brim every day with cheery catalogs. It's a joyous season and yet it's also the busiest month of the year!

Between extra meetings, special bulletins, long choir rehearsals, finals, shopping, wrapping, and traveling, I feel like I'm holding on for dear life some days. It's hard not to get carried away in the hustle and bustle! In moments like these, I try to remind myself to take life one step at a time, to prioritize what's most important, and to keep smiling through it all. Part of that "grace not perfection" mantra is taking time to admire the red and green decorations in the Pharmacy window on my way to work instead of speed-walking down the sidewalk, spending time in the evening addressing Christmas cards (they're black and white and so us!) instead of fretting over the bulletin formatting, taking a Saturday morning to bake Butter Cookies (a family tradition) instead of sending emails, and planning a few days of escape with family instead of sitting at home planning for the Spring.

This season, though busy and full of opportunities to feel overwhelmed, I choose peace. I choose thankfulness. I choose joy.