Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Mishaps

The Christmas season rarely runs without at least one hitch. In retrospect, it's often the mishaps that make the strongest memories. 

The year Tim and I were engaged, he joined our family for Christmas Day. My mother had prepared dessert ahead and in the interest of efficiency, dished it up into her china dessert bowls (fruit nappies is the official term, I think), and placed the dishes onto a large tray. She thought that the dessert would remain chilled and out of reach of any hungry pets out on the top of the car in the carport.

Queen's Messenger by Royal Albert, long discontinued - my mother's china and always a favorite of mine
 The car was cold, maybe with a bit of ice. The tray was warm. She wasn't back in the house very long before we heard a mighty crash. With a great whoosh the tray had tobogganed off the car top onto the concrete floor. She lost a number of dishes and I can't remember what we had for dessert.

Later in the day Tim noticed curls of smoke rising from the Christmas tree in its usual corner next to the fireplace. Thinking fast he, or my father, grabbed the tree and hauled it out the door before it turned into a major conflagration. That's the first and last time such a thing happened. A "welcome to the family" perhaps? He still married me.

Any Christmas mishaps to share?   

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Christmas Kitchen

Cinnamon, almond, and vanilla scent the air of my Christmas kitchen. As the fragrance lodges in the olfactory bulb of my brain's limbic system, memory is awakened. I roll the Ginger Sparklers in a plate of sugar just like I did as a child helping my mother. Sugar cookies, crisp and barely golden. Butter tarts - the only way I will eat cooked currants. Melt-in-your mouth shortbread. My mother made (and still makes) a consistent core of recipes each year, but she also tried new recipes that would fall in and out of favour as the season came and went.

So pleasant were my memories of baking with my mother that when I had children, I could hardly wait until each one was old enough to stand on a chair beside me at the counter top. Great clouds of flour rose up as little hands poured, mixed, rolled and cut. To my own family's repertoire of baking I added Morkakor, a tender almond flavoured cookie topped with meringue, from my husband's Scandinavian roots.

The years roll on. Most of my baking is solitary as my children are grown and bake on their own, filling their own kitchens with cinnamon, almond, and vanilla. Other little hands pat the dough (and sneak a little to eat raw). Nana invites them to bake, although she hasn't done so yet this season. The tins pile up on the counter and are taken to the freezer to pull out and enjoy with a cup of tea or as a bit of dessert.

Yesterday I took a tray of baking to school to share with my colleagues. Cranberry Orange Shortbread, Chocolate Mint Sandwiches, Pecan Toffee Bars, Almond Cheesecake Squares, Ginger Sparklers, and Rugelach. And marshmallows.

A snow storm of icing sugar on Saturday resulted in pillowy, white, vanilla-flavoured square marshmallows. This is my new recipe for this year. Sweet and delicious. Just one is enough. I'm looking forward to popping one into a mug of hot chocolate. I used Martha Stewart's recipe, available by clicking on the link.

I'd love to hear about your Christmas baking traditions. Do share.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blogging Investigations and a Birthday Party

this photo has nothing to do with the text below, but I like it
 Last week I did a little research into why word verification (WV) was showing up on my blog (and many others) when the settings said it was not. 
Apparently Blogger has installed WV to prevent spam. There's no way around it if you have a pop up comment box.

However, I noticed that those with embedded comments did not have WV. So I switched the settings and voilà!, WV disappeared.

I also discovered that if you are a registered user, that is, you are commenting using your Google account, you don`t have to enter the WV code, just hit Publish, as per usual, and the comment should post.

A sweet little Miss is turning 4 and celebrated with a dance party. Music, costumes, a wonderful instructor, and little people dancing with abandon. It was marvelous, full of exuberant joy. 

Joining with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith of Lavender Cottage. 


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Scenes: A personal photo challenge

Lights everywhere! This truck let its festive side shine! Taken at night. No flash needed - there was enough light on the truck!

Little Miss A as a sheep in the church Nativity play. She was a little dazzled by all the people and didn't crack a smile the entire time. Oh, so darling. She looked in wonder at the star, sang Go, Tell it on the Mountain with hand motions, and wondered what Nana was doing on the floor with her camera.

I took this with my Sony using the telephoto lens and I'm happy with the result given the low light and wiggly sheep. I'm also pleased with the touch of bokeh on the angel's wing behind her.

Bells and baubles, with more lights.

This is the final Personal Photography Challenge. Donna, our leader and teacher who is always willing to share her knowledge and encourage us along the way, has had to close her blog due to family needs. Donna, if you're reading this, you are in our hearts and prayers. Thank you.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Garden Visit

A friend invited me on a walk through the Horticultural Garden not far from our home. We've been inundated with rain lately but the skies let up a bit on this afternoon. There's still lots of green - our grass always stays green in the winter and tends to go brown and dry in the summer. 

In the Japanese Garden, water plays a major role. The raindrops falling on the water are visible; luckily, the shower didn't last long.

Raindrops on bare branches remind me of crystal drops - nature's decorations.

Another view of the Japanese Garden - trickling water, curving bridge, greens and browns in harmony.

The Beauty Berry bush is bare of leaves and the bright purple berries are stunning on their own. 

A little surprise - snowdrops blooming already. I wonder what will happen when the weather gets cold again? Shivery blossom warning ahead!

On the Christmas front, parcels and cards are mailed, most gifts purchased and ready for wrapping, a few projects still on the sewing machine, and most of the baking done. A little bit every day and things are moving along well. How are Christmas preparations coming along for you?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Little Things

There's a Pineapple Express howling out there this morning. It's a warm wind from the tropics blowing rain in from the Pacific - temps of 12 degrees Celsius (gets up to look at the thermometer for the Fahrenheit reading - 63). Those snowmen would soon be puddles if they lived around here.

Each year we receive fewer and fewer Christmas cards. Some newsletters arrive although email is more common. I've taken to displaying cards from years past here and there. I do have a stack of cards to prepare and a few to mail (most will be hand delivered).

This postcard is from France, purchased in Paris by our youngest. The date is indecipherable, and in beautiful script the writer acknowledges receipt of a letter from a friend and begs pardon for not sending one earlier. 

Although it's early to wish you Bonne Année (Happy New Year), I will leave with Bonne Journée - have a great day. I'm off to teach French again. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Memories on the Tree

On Sunday afternoon we drove to the tree lot. We like natural trees, aka Charlie Brown trees, that are not too dense so that the ornaments hang well and the effect is airy. This year, as well as last, we found our tree at a Gravel Mart. This enterprise does other work throughout the year, but cuts trees for Christmas during December. I asked the fellow when the tree would have been cut. "Two or three days ago," he said. "And I'll be cutting more this week."

This evening we decorated the tree. These ornaments hold memories - the brass bells were purchased in a store in Riobamba in the Andes Highlands many years ago. Others were cross-stitched, crocheted, or crafted by friends and family. Tim and I chose the Noel heart in Leavenworth, WA one year. When the children were at home, we gave them one an ornament each year. They took their ornament box with them when they left home. I'm glad I thought to get some for us as well, or our tree would be completely denuded.

It's hard to believe that we're just two decorating the tree once again. Those years of child-rearing, teenage negotiations, and young adults living at home flew by faster than Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. Wonderful years with wonderful memories. These are wonderful years, too, and e create new traditions for the two of us.

My grown-up girl's Advent calendar is one of my new traditions. Eight ornaments have been hung. One by one the days pass, full of activity and opportunity. 

A reader asked what ornaments I hang on the calendar - here are a few of them - a vintage earring, a chandelier crystal, a country angel. Felted hearts and simple baubles. More memories in the making.

Do you keep the same traditions year after year? Have you added any recently

edited to add: Maggie pointed out that word verification is turned on here, however, upon checking my settings I see that it shouldn't be. I'll look into the matter later on, for now, I'm out the door to teach French. Anyone else having this issue?